China passes new law ordering parents to ease pressure on children

China passes new law ordering parents to ease pressure on children

Parents look through a fence at a school on the first day of the new school year in Shanghai on Sept 1, 2021. (Reuters photo)
Parents look through a fence at a school on the first day of the new school year in Shanghai on Sept 1, 2021. (Reuters photo)

HONG KONG: China has passed a family education law that requires parents and guardians to reduce the "twin pressures" of homework and private tutoring on children.

They will also have to prevent their children from becoming addicted to video games, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

The legislation, passed by the National People's Congress Standing Committee on Saturday, follows a series of measures banning private tutoring and restricting the number of hours children can spend playing video games online.

The full text had not been published as of Saturday, but previous Standing Committee discussions have indicated the law is designed to ensure children's healthy development by encouraging parents and guardians to nurture and guide their morals, intellectual development and social habits.

News on the passing of the law has been viewed more than 33 million times within three hours on the Chinese social media platform Weibo.

It divided users, with some applauding the move for encouraging good parenting while others questioned whether it could achieve its intended goals.

"The crisis facing the current state of family education is affecting the healthy mental and physical development of children," commentator Deng Boyun wrote on Weibo on Saturday.

"But urban residents find it difficult to provide their children the socialisation with peers needed for them to be part of society. This is not something that can be solved by a family education law."

Deng said a high schoolteacher in Beijing had complained to him that while a new local policy suggested filling up the time freed from the reduction in homework and tutoring with "enriching after-school activities", the city authorities may not be able to provide enough funding.

Social media users also worried the legislation was an overreach into families' private lives, and could have the unintended effect of putting people off from having children, at a time when Beijing was trying to lift falling birth rates.

"I work 996 [from 9am to 9pm, six days a week], and when I come home at night I still need to carry out family education?" one Weibo user asked in the comments on a People's Daily report about the law.

"You can't exploit the workers and still ask them to have children."

Beijing unveiled rules that banned for-profit tutoring in July, which caused some education companies to collapse and wiped out hundreds of billions of stock market value.

China has also been successively curtailing minors' access to online gaming in recent years. In August the National Press and Publication Administration restricted gaming companies to providing services to children for one hour between 8 and 9pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

The law will also include measures to help the millions of "left-behind children" in rural areas, whose parents have to leave them with grandparents or other carers when they go work in the cities.

Under China's hukou registration system, migrant workers are denied access to social welfare services outside their registered hometown, meaning they cannot enrol their children in schools if they move to other cities for work.

Some Standing Committee members had called for these families to be given more targeted support and the law was amended after its third reading to ask local governments to register left-behind children and provide living and employment assistance, according to a report by the People's Daily on Wednesday.

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