Yong Zhao: China Enters “Testing-Free” Zone: The New Ten Commandments of Education Reform
No standardized tests, no written homework, no tracking. These are some of the new actions China is taking to lessen student academic burden. The Chinese Ministry of Education released Ten Regulations to Lessen Academic Burden for Primary School Students this week for public commentary. The Ten Regulations are introduced as one more significant measure to reform China’s education, in addition to further reduction of academic content, lowering the academic rigor of textbooks, expanding criteria for education quality, and improving teacher capacity.
The regulations included in the published draft are:
- Transparent admissions. Admission to a school cannot take into account any achievement certificates or examination results. Schools must admit all students based on their residency without considering any other factors.
- Balanced Grouping. Schools must place students into classes and assign teachers randomly. Schools are strictly forbidden to use any excuse to establish “fast-track” and “slow-track” classes.
- “Zero-starting point” Teaching. All teaching should assume all first graders students begin at zero proficiency. Schools should not artificially impose higher academic expectations and expedite the pace of teaching.
- No Homework. No written homework is allowed in primary schools. Schools can however assign appropriate experiential homework by working with parents and community resources to arrange field trips, library visits, and craft activities.
- Reducing Testing. No standardized testing is allowed for grades 1 through 3; For 4th grade and up, standardized testing is only allowed once per semester for Chinese language, math, and foreign language. Other types of tests cannot be given more than twice per semester.
- Categorical Evaluation. Schools can only assess students using the categories of “Exceptional, Excellent, Adequate, and Inadequate,” replacing the traditional 100-point system.
- Minimizing Supplemental Materials. Schools can use at most one type of materials to supplement the textbook, with parental consent. Schools and teachers are forbidden to recommend, suggest, or promote any supplemental materials to students.
- Strictly Forbidding Extra Class. Schools and teachers cannot organize or offer extra instruction after regular schools hours, during winter and summer breaks and other holidays. Public schools and their teachers cannot organize or participate in extra instructional activities.
- Minimum of One Hour of Physical Exercise. Schools are to guarantee the offering of physical education classes in accordance with the national curriculum, physical activities and eye exercise during recess.
- Strengthening Enforcement. Education authorities at all levels of government shall conduct regular inspection and monitoring of actions to lessen student academic burden and publish findings. Individuals responsible for academic burden reduction are held accountable by the government.
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