HEARING that this year's Hua Luogeng Golden Cup Mathematics Competition would be delayed in response to a recent statement by the Ministry of Education (MOE) that aimed at relieving burdens on students, some Shenzhen parents appeared to be anxious that their children would not be able to distinguish themselves enough to get into the top middle schools.
The national math competition, which was started in 1986, has been regarded as a test that selects the best student cohorts for the top schools. However, the organizing committee of the competition announced Feb. 28 that it would postpone this year's competition, which was originally scheduled for Saturday.
In a statement, the organizing committee said that the decision was in response to the MOE's decision to get tough on competitions and exams that put excessive pressure on students, and that the committee would wait for further approval from the MOE.
A Shenzhen parent surnamed Wang said her son, a Grade-6 student, has been attending out-of-school training agencies to prepare for the math competition for two years. She hoped this would help her son achieve better scores and win more certificates to earn a valuable place at a top secondary school.
Another mother echoed Wang's concerns. "The exams that students take at their schools can hardly differentiate their abilities, especially in math, so competitions like the Hua Luogeng Golden Cup is a way to select the best," said the mother.
Besides the national competition, a provincial-level competition, the Guangdong Elementary School Mathematics League, is also in limbo.
Xue'ersi, one of the most popular out-of-school training agencies in China, has told parents that it would cancel its service that helps eligible students register for the provincial math league.
The MOE said that it would work with the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce to carry out a series of campaigns, targeting private educational agencies and training institutions that create excessive workload and pressure for both teenagers and their parents.
China has seen a boom in the out-of-school training market over the past years, as parents want their children to get high marks and pay for extra classes accordingly.
A report by the Chinese Society of Education showed that China had about 180 million school-aged children in 2016. More than 137 million students took part in extracurricular classes or off-campus training.
Revenue from training primary and middle school students exceeded 800 billion yuan (US$126 billion) in 2016, according to the Chinese Society of Education.
A parent going by the online alias Karen said she agreed with the MOE's bans. "Students will have more time and energy to focus on the things they are really interested in, instead of staying at schools and agencies all day for lessons and tutoring," the netizen commented.
However, not all parents are satisfied with the new rules. Some said that parents would carry too much of the burden if their children spend less time at school and the off-campus training agencies are closed down while the parents need to work.
In Shenzhen, some public schools and communities offer "4:30 p.m. Classrooms" service so students can stay on campus and participate in extracurricular activities, such as sports and art, while waiting for their parents to pick them up after work.