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The 2011 bestseller Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Chinese-American Amy Chua has successfully convinced most Westerners that Chinese mothers are a fierce, restless species that spur their kids to success at any cost. But recent reports suggest that many Chinese moms didn’t become ‘Tiger Mothers’ voluntarily – it seems they are as frustrated at the mountains of homework as their kids are.
“10-minute oral calculation homework, another 20-minute written mathematics homework; transcription and dictation of Chinese vocabulary in which each word takes up 1 minute, because kids would be asked to redo the homework if the transcription is not clean or pretty enough; English homework that requires the recording of the children’s pronunciation to be sent to a WeChat group to be tested by the teacher, plus making vocabulary cards; preview of the next day’s courses; sports homework of skipping rope, sit-ups and sit-and-reach; and reading extracurricular books for half an hour.”
This extensive list is the homework that Ms. Yu’s eight-year-old son, an ordinary third grade primary school pupil, has to do in one day. The homework takes at least three hours to finish, which means that her son barely has time to play with other kids (as if other children had the time to play), not to mention that the time can be even longer without the parents’ help.
“My son was reciting the textbook while sleeping, and he told me last year that he ‘was pretty lonely,’” complained Ms. Yu. And it’s not just the children who are suffering. One-third of Ms. Yu’s fellow parents in the same class were forced to become full-time mothers, while a few of them were seeing doctors for anxiety disorder.
In a more serious case, there was a viral report in October that a father of a fifth-grader had a heart attack and will have to live with two coronary stents in the future because of needing to spend hours on homework with his son after finishing his own toilsome work for years. Such reports soon triggered waves of complaints by parents, who seemed to have been suppressing their discontent for too long.
“I’ve long been buried in my two primary school children’s homework. Don’t try to look for me if I disappear one day, because that only means I can’t sustain anymore!” remarked Weibo user @Dandingzhuzhu.
“I didn’t expect doing so much homework with my child. Why, after graduating for years, do I still have to do homework? Is it me or my kid that’s going to school?” questioned @Qiuqiuheamei.
Some other parents, however, suggest that these complaining parents should feel lucky as long as their children’s homework is “normal”. Their kids’ homework involved digging up pumpkins and picking up garbage in the city.
But as much as these parents wish to reduce the burden of homework on their children and themselves, if they refuse to help they could be letting down their kids. Many parents still see school as their kids’ only hope for the future. Millions of parents are trapped in this vicious loop – when everybody else’s kids are working so hard, what other choice do they have to secure a good future for their kids?