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China Focus: Student's speech against education system causes sensation

After making an impassioned speech attacking China's exam-oriented education system, a teenager from east China's Jiangsu province has found himself in the national spotlight.

The speech, which has fuelled debate across the country last week, took place on April 9, when students and teachers at Qidong city's Huilong High School had gathered for a weekly flag-raising ceremony. One youngster had been selected to speak in front of the 3,000-strong audience.

The speaker, senior two student Jiang Chengbo, stepped up to the microphone and began, "Investigation has shown Chinese students rank at the bottom of the world in terms of calculation ability and creativity."

"Some of us live in jealousy, " he went on. "They are jealous of those who score higher in exams... Some of us live in loneliness. They bury themselves in doing exercises so that they don't have any good friends.

"We cannot feel the love of parents, for they are either at work or pushing us to prepare for exams... We cannot feel the respect of teachers, for they are always forcing us to study for their enrolment rates..."

Jiang's act came as a big surprise for the faculty, as he had boldly replaced an original speech approved by his teacher with one that was rebellious, potentially irritating to school authorities.

On the other hand, the speech has drawn plaudits from students and internet users, hitting a nerve on the controversial topic of whether Chinese students spend too long on an examination treadmill.

A fellow student of Jiang said on condition of anonymity that their life is colorless and they do not have an all-round development, for "scores are everything."

Yu Han, a senior three student from Nanjing said, "Although Jiang's words are a little exaggerating, the examination-oriented education has greatly oppressed the nature of the students."

"It is not strange to hear those words from the mouth of a high school student, and Jiang's courage to speak up is admirable. However, I am not so confident on education, and its reform has a long way to go," "Benliuweizhi" posted on popular micro-blogging site Sina Weibo.

Most Chinese students are burdened with an excessive workload. They study for long hours on school days and continue to have classes on weekends and holidays.

A survey by China's Youth and Children Research Center shows that in 2010, about 80 percent of the country's primary and middle school students were not resting enough, getting an average of less than eight hours of sleep, even on weekends.

Reacting to criticism of the education system, China formulated a 10-year national education plan (from 2010 to 2020) in July 2010, pledging to build a system to monitor workloads and lessen the pressure on primary and secondary school students.

Yin Fei, a professor with Nanjing Normal University said, Jiang's speech, to some extent, reflected improvement on that front already.

Chinese students have largely been silent on the pressure they shouldered, but now more of them are daring to voice dissatisfaction, which shows they are being given more freedom in an educational environment that is increasingly tolerant, Yin said.

To ease the burden on students, China has to change the current education appraisal system from its current basis on enrolment rates, the professor added, however. 

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