Exam-Obsessed Chinese Parents Send Kids to Sports Schools Now That Tutoring Is Banned

  • China wants kids to stop obsessing over exams and instead try out sports and art.
  • It seems to be working — 33,000 sport and art facilities have opened a month after China’s new education regulations.
  • In July, the ruling party banned for-profit tutoring, erasing a $100 billion industry.

As China’s Communist Party clamps down on academic tutoring and orders schools to lighten assignment loads, Chinese parents are now turning to sports and art schools to keep their children busy.

Nearly 33,000 new sports and art facilities sprang up in China in the month after President Xi Jinping’s administration declared the “Double Reduction” policy in July, Bloomberg reported citing a state media report.

The July mandate came as a shock announcement that banned for-profit tutoring nationwide and curbed homework pressure, wiping out a $100 billion industry overnight. Schools had already been instructed to cap the time needed to complete assignments — no homework for first- and second-graders, one hour a day for older grade-schoolers, and one and a half hours daily for middle-school-aged kids.

Now, local sports centers say they’re being flooded with calls from interested parents, per Bloomberg, as tuition centers around China shut. One parent told the outlet that she’s been sending her seven-year-old son to a martial arts class three times a week after his math tuition center closed.

It’s all in line with the government’s shift from academics to a new focus on fitness and the arts. Nine of China’s 23 provinces have included arts and music tests in their high school entrance exams, with one province — Yunnan — adding physical education to the criteria, The Economist reported.

Elsewhere, students from the province of Hainan can get additional credits for their entrance exams if they take part in swimming, volleyball, soccer, or basketball, according to Bloomberg.

This year, the ruling party stressed the need for kids to adopt healthier lifestyles, especially when one in five Chinese children is either


or overweight, per national data published in 2020. Xi himself said he wants China’s youth to “civilize the spirit and toughen the body,” per Bloomberg.

Engaging in sports heralds a dramatic pivot in priorities for China, where students and parents alike are known to obsess over the infamous “Gao Kao,” or the university entrance exams that can effectively make or break one’s future. Pressure from these exams is so tremendous that reports of students committing suicide because of their results have surfaced.

China passed a law in late October that puts the responsibility of reducing that pressure on local authorities’ shoulders. Parents were told to ensure their children get ample time for rest and exercise, and advised to monitor their children’s time online.

Not all of them were thrilled. “I work 996, and when I come home at night I still need to carry out family education?” said one person on social media, referring to a grueling practice of working six days a week from 9 am to 9 pm, The South China Morning Post newspaper reported.

“You can’t exploit the workers and still ask them to have children,” they said.

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