Middle school students in China burned textbooks to vent pressure

Alia | April 4th, 2012 - 3:14 am

Where there is oppression, there is resistance – Mao used to say. Nothing better summarizes what happened at Xiangji Middle School, Tanxiang, Hunan Province, on Friday, March 9th. During an unexpected power outrage, students at the school burned their textbooks to vent out long-held anger caused by tight class schedules.

It was Friday. Regular classes ended at 6 pm that evening, and very unfortunately so did power supply. At 7 pm, the starting time of a 3-hour long daily self-study session, there was still no power. The school asked the students to start anyway in dark. So what did the students end up studying during the power outrage? How to burn….textbooks.

“All of us, all students participated. The whole building was mobilized.” said one student in memory of the night’s “evolution”.

“It was like snowing,” another one added, “The playground was completely covered by debris of books. Some were burning books, some tearing, and some pouring water from above directly using water dispensers.”

But self-study sessions every day until 10 pm weren’t what the students protested against. What they hated was the school’s tight class schedule. These poor students only have Sunday mornings off – a time most use to sleep. The rest of the entire week, including Saturdays and the rest of Sundays, is crammed with classes.

In a country where test scores are the only gauge of academic success and where academic success is the only gauge of a youth’s worth, it is no surprise that both schools and parents are trying to cram in more classes in students’ off-school time.

But as one participating student said, “The power outrage was just an excuse for us to vent out long bridled anger. We simply wanted the school to know that we hate cramming classes and we are tired.”

In fact, Chinese government issued ban on cramming classes during weekends and public holidays a long time ago. But schools do what they do anyway.

According to the headmaster of Xiangji Middle School, “Every school does it. That is not a secret. If we don’t do cramming classes, parents would come and complain.”

Sadly, the headmaster was telling the truth. In the minds of many Chinese parents, such cramming classes are the little extra boost that could lead their children one step ahead of competition. And they are more than willing to pay some extra for such classes, too. Yes, these off-regular-school-time classes are not free. Self-study sessions usually charge 40 yuan per session. Weekend classes are 2 yuan per class plus 300 yuan for reading materials. Winter and summer holiday classes are 70 yuan per class. To add them all, that is over 100o yuan per student per semester, a considerable stream of revenue for the school and yet affordable expenses for the parents. [ Click here to read original news in Chinese]

The news definitely reminded many of their own bitter experiences as a student. The news stayed on Top Trending Topics on Sina Weibo for days; and the majority of netiznes expressed support for the students.


Read more on how  two daughters made a song titled “Mom, I have too much pressure” for Tiger moms.


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4 Responses to “Middle school students in China burned textbooks to vent pressure”

  1. Shuanger lian says:

    Let’s revolution!!!
    ——Gong’an Number 1 middle school s’student

  2. Someone thinks this story is fantastic…

    This story was submitted to Hao Hao Report – a collection of China’s best stories and blog posts. If you like this story, be sure to go vote for it….

  3. [...] Offbeat China translated some of the students’ comments: “All of us, all students participated. The whole building was mobilized.” said one student in memory of the night’s ‘revolution’. [...]

  4. Young says:

    Should “power outrage” be “power outage”?
    As a Chinese college student who have ever passed the hardest time in life(high school life), i should say cramming class is the common phenomenon in China that most people ignore what we students feel actually under such heavy pressure.But if the traditional Chinese opinion on success doesnot change, the suitation of the poor stduents in China won’t have any change. Under the influence of the whole society, students are nearly persuaded that cramming class education is only right way to get a better life.

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