China to ease burden for stressed school children

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BEIJING, Oct 22 (Reuters) China is to reform school curriculum to ease the burden put on children by pushy teachers and parents eager to see them succeed in an increasingly competitive society, a vice education minister said.

Chinese pupils were suffering from poor eyesight in increasing numbers and at a younger age, Vice Education Minister Yuan Guiren told reporters on the sidelines of the ruling Communist Party's 17th National Congress, which closed yesterday.

Tiring homework and mounting exam pressure were to blame, Yuan said.

''The primary reason is the traditional East Asian culture in which all parents want their kids to become dragons and phoenixes,'' Yuan said. ''Too much emphasis is placed on diplomas and exam scores.'' That was exacerbated by the fact China was a developing nation with 1.3 billion people and its one-child policy, Yuan added.

''The competition in employment is fierce and that pressure has been cascaded back to schools ... every parent expects his child to outperform peers,'' Yuan said.

The Education Ministry would cut the difficulty of the textbooks, slash homework, make classes more interesting and limit the number of tests, Yuan said.

Another problem the government had to tackle was the education of 13 million rural children who swarmed into the cities with their parents working as migrant workers, Yuan said.

More than 100 million peasants across the country migrate to the booming cities every year for manual labour and small-time businesses.

But policy hurdles for them to settle in the cities abound, including those that prevent their children from receiving a good education. An estimated 23 million ''left-behind children'' of migrant workers stay in the countryside.

The government has ordered urban public schools to open up to the 7.88 million ''migrant children'' of school age, Yuan said, adding private schools were also allowed to accommodate some of them.

Reuters RKM VP0525

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