China has announced a ban on written exams for six and seven-year-olds. It’s the latest effort to try and relieve pressure on parents and students in a highly competitive education system.
Students used to be required to take exams from the first year of primary school, up until a university entrance exam at the age of 18.
But the education ministry said the pressure is harming the “physical and mental health” of pupils.
In a statement, the ministry said: “Exams are a necessary part of school education…. [but] some schools have problems like excessive exams, that cause excessive burden on students…this must be corrected.”
The rules also limit the number of test and exams a school can set per term.
“First and second grades of elementary school will not need to take paper-based exams. For other grades, the school can organise a final exam every semester. Mid-term exams are allowed for junior high. Localities are not allowed to organise regional or inter-school exams for all grades of primary school,” the Ministry of Education (MOE) added.
“Non-graduating junior high students are also not allowed to organise weekly tests, unit exams, monthly exams etc. Examinations disguised under various names like academic research is also not allowed.”
Reaction on China’s social media platform Weibo was mixed with some saying it was a step in the right direction to relieve pressure on children. Others questioned how schools will test and measure abilities without exams.
The announcement is part of wider reforms in China’s education sector.In July, Beijing stripped online tutoring firms operating in the country of the ability to make a profit from teaching core subjects.
The new guidelines also restricted foreign investment in the industry and disrupted the private tutoring sector which was worth around $120bn (£87bn) before the overhaul.
At the time, the move was seen as authorities trying to ease the financial pressures of raising children, after China posted a record low birth rate.
Education inequality is also a problem – more affluent parents are willing to spend thousands to get their children into top schools.
The country’s obsession with education also affects property prices, with wealthier parents snapping up property in school catchment areas.
China’s Ministry of Education has also banned homework for first graders this year, and limited homework for junior high school students to 1.5 hours a night, according to an AFP report.