Out of school but still in class
Updated: 2012-03-12 13:29
By Zhang Yue (China Daily)
Ma Yunping isn't at all alone in sending her son to extracurricular classes since the boy started primary school in 2007.
As the 39-year-old from Anhui's provincial capital Hefei puts it: "Chinese parents know there's so much children can learn after school, and it's hard to choose which subjects they should take as extracurriculars. But learning English is most important to us."
Ma's 11-year-old boy has been taking after-school English since he was 6 and has changed training centers three times.
"The first school makes the children recite words and read texts, which my son thought was boring," Ma says.
"He studied there every weekend, but he didn't develop an interest in English after two years."
But she insists he study the language outside school.
"We live in a competitive global society, and every parent wants to prepare their children for it," she says.
"I want my son to develop an interest in English through outside classes from an early age so he can adapt to the international society of the future."
Almost all the boy's classmates also take extracurricular classes, and more than 80 percent of them take after-school English.
Arts and English are respectively the most popular such classes, a recent survey of parents of primary and middle school students finds.
The survey conducted by global teaching institute EF Education First of China and major Web portal Tencent.com reports 63.8 percent of parents put their kids in after-school art classes, and 56.4 percent opt for English.
A total of 14,206 parents with children from 3-14 years old participated in the nationwide survey, which started in October 2011.
It also found 34.7 percent of parents have scheduled one extra training course for their children.
"We noticed from the survey that most children start learning music at a young age," EF's Anders Hammarback, who led the survey, says.
"The piano and the violin attract the most attention."
More than 40 percent of children started taking extra English training between ages 3 and 6. Only 1 percent started after age 15.
The survey also found parents pay most attention to the diversity, vividness and fun factor of outside English courses, and try to avoid classes that use schools' traditional exam-oriented approaches.
Ma says the third after-school training center she has enrolled her son in teaches English in a variety of ways, such as incorporating songs and games.
"My son loves such classes," she says.
His classes cost 60 ($9.50) an hour, which Ma says is standard in Hefei.
Half the parents surveyed say they wish their children would spend more time learning English outside class than they do now.
And 82.3 percent of the parents say they believe improving spoken English - as opposed to focusing on reading and writing - is most important in these extra courses.
EF's Kids & Teens Products in Beijing, for children ages 10-13, is one of the global private education organization's best sellers, EF says. Such success might be because the classes are designed to be interesting.
"Though primary education is still exam-oriented, today's kids seek applied skills in learning English, and our courses are increasingly updated to meet such demand," says Adele Bai, general manager and vice-president of EF English First Kids & Teens China.