The Chinese test-based system previously required students to take exams from first grade, ending at the age of 18 in a scary university entrance exam, known as Gaokao, where a single score can determine a child’s life path.
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According to the new guidelines published on Monday, “very frequent exams … which puts students under extra stress and huge exam stress”. The ministry said the pressure on students from an early age “harms their mental and physical health.”
The regulations limit examinations in other years of compulsory education to a one-time term, allowing mid-term and mock examinations in junior high schools.
The measures are part of a broader government reform of China’s education sector, including crackdowns on KRAM schools – seen by parents as a way to improve their children’s education.
In late July, China ordered all private tutoring companies to be non-profit and barred tutoring agencies from teaching key topics on weekends and holidays, effectively crippling the 100 100 billion sector.
The goal is to reduce education inequality in China, where some middle-class parents voluntarily give 100,000 yuan ($ 15,400) or more per year in private tuition to enroll their children in top schools.
Many snatch property in school catchment areas, raising house prices.
“There is no other country that has such a strong education culture (like China),” said Claudia Wang, a partner at Shanghai-based consulting firm Oliver Weiman and Asia Education Lead.
With population growth slowing over the decades, Chinese authorities lifted the birth limit of two children earlier this year and want to encourage parents to have more children.
Beijing city authorities announced last week that teachers would have to visit schools every six consecutive years to prevent a concentration of top talent in some schools. Education officials on Monday reiterated a ban on schools setting up “priority” classes for gifted students.
The Ministry of Education earlier this year banned written homework for first and second graders and a limited homework of more than 1.5 hours per night for junior high school students.
However, many Chinese parents still consider education as a path to social mobility.
Gaokao is one of the few ways that poor, rural students can access advanced education opportunities and job opportunities at higher universities.
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