“Everyone is moving forward, we can’t stand still,” Ms. Xie from Zhejiang, East China said. Like other “Tiger Mothers” who swear by the “never-lose-at-the-starting-line” theory, stay-at-home mom Ms. Xie spends about 20000RMB each semester on private tutorials and extracurricular classes for her seven-year-old son Chengcheng.
The recent years in China have witnessed an incongruous course in education: cities continue to expand, yet only a handful of schools are capable of offering the best education resources, which has triggered a “collective anxiety” among middle-class parents who vie for a place in these schools for their children. Getting their young kids into as many extracurricular classes and tutorials as possible is the first step.
Chengcheng’s timetable for private tutorials a
Chengcheng is now a first-grade student. Different from many of his peers who are spending a carefree childhood, Chengcheng leads an unduly busy life. Besides having classes at school five days a week, Chengcheng is enrolled in five two-hour Chinese and Maths private tutorials and seven extracurricular activities designed by Ms. Xie: Go class (the traditional Chinese board game) on Monday and Friday, drawing class on Friday evening, aerobic exercise on Saturday morning, Carl Orff music class and vocal class on Saturday afternoon, literacy class on Saturday evening, and finally, calligraphy class on Sunday afternoon after the tutorial section in the morning. These extracurricular activities in total take about 14 hours per week.
There is no doubt that the stay-at-home mom plans all of these with good intentions. “I want my kid to have a wide range of interests and skills,” which, according to Ms. Xie, is of great consequence to build up a positive life path for Chengcheng. “He’ll be versatile enough to cope with different opportunities in the future. Even though he might not live on the skills that he acquires from these activities (like drawing and singing), he will definitely have more fun,” Ms. Xie said.
the Reward Board in Chengcheng’s room
In Chengcheng’s room, there is a “Reward Board” where he places star and smily-face stickers given by teachers. It is a “performance-driven system” tailored by Chengcheng’s mom. The better his performance is in class, the more stickers he can get; and Ms. Xie would buy toys for Chengcheng as a reward according to the indicators on the reward board.
“I understand that he would surely be tired, that’s why I tried my best to achieve a balance between different activities every day. For example, if he has class that requires him to sit, read and write indoors, the activity in the afternoon would allow him to do some physical exercises,” Ms. Xie aims to schedule all the activities in a scientific way. When asked if Chengcheng is willing to take all of these classes, Ms Xie told that the boy holds interest for some of the class, but she insists him on taking the others. Overall, he does not resist any of his classes.
On Friday afternoon, the primary school that Chengcheng attends has a section of physical education for first-grade students, during which Chengcheng enjoys football training the best. “I want to take football training after class, but mom said we don’t have time for that now.”
Chengcheng playing football at school
Go Class, 15:00-17:00, Friday. Go class is one of Chengcheng’s favourite classes. “We have an exam on the 26th this month. I want to be the best and win.” This is the goal set by no one but Chengcheng himself.
It is five in the afternoon after the Go class, and the drawing class starts one hour later. Usually there is not enough time for Chengcheng to have dinner at home, so he has to eat it in the car or at a friend’s house nearby the institute.
Chengcheng understands how to make the best of his time. When having dinner, he would steal some time for playing his favourite video game as well. “At first we didn’t allow him to play games when having dinner, but considering that he really doesn’t have time for playing or watching his favourite cartoon, we decided to show some leniency.”
Drawing class, 18:00-20:00, Friday. Chengcheng has been taking drawing class since kindergarten. Ms. Xie said the little boy enjoys it very much, “it’s not a burden to him. He finds it so much fun.”
Aerobic exercise, 9:20-11:00 Saturday. It was due to the influence of his elder sister that he decided to take the aerobic exercise, Ms. Xie said. The elder sister she refers to is her 18-year-old daughter. “He saw his sister do the handstands and splits, he wanted to accomplish that too.”
Carl Orff music class, 14:40-15:35, Saturday. Chengcheng shows great interest in the music class as well, in particular he enjoys the interaction between the teacher and students. The Carl Orff education system combines music, painting, drama and other art forms to unleash the creative energy of the children. It is very popular in the early education in China.
Vocal class, 15:40-16:40, Saturday. Right after Carl Orff music class is the vocal class. The teacher said that Chengcheng was very shy to sing in front of others at first, but now he has made much progress.
Literacy class, 18:20-20:20, Sunday. It might be the class that Chengcheng has the least liking for, maybe because it is a bit difficult for his age. The class takes place in a recording studio where students have to finish reading behind a microphone. Ms. Xie insists on this training, for she believes that it can improve his public speaking skills. “It lays the foundations for his future learning. He couldn’t do a tongue-twister before, and now he is able to read it, and even recite it. I think he’s shown remarkable progress.”