Two teenage boys in eastern China killed themselves on May 2 for “failing to complete homework assignments,” according to state-run media. They were due back at school that day, following the three-day Labor Day holiday.
Both incidents took place in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu Province. A 13 year-old boy from Lishui County got up at 4 a.m. Thursday to finish homework, but hanged himself on the staircase shortly after.
Then at around 11 a.m., a 15-year-old student from Najiang Middle School jumped from the sixth floor of the building where his family lives. He was the only boy in the family.
A schoolmate using the handle “Zimo Hongchen” commented about the tragedy on Weibo: “The time we had everyday to finish homework cannot match the homework amount. This is the first time I have felt so close to death. He was my school mate. I still can’t believe this has happened.”
The younger teen left a note for his parents, saying he loved and felt sorry for them, and hoped they would take lilies to his grave, the state mouthpiece People’s Daily reported.
The boys were both preparing to graduate to the next level of schooling, suggesting they were under a lot of pressure to make the grade.
Many other Internet users commented on the matter, pointing to the competitive education system as the cause of the problem, with its emphasis on exams.
A netizen from Nanjing said: “Have you ever seen kids taller than 1.35 meters in parks or other interesting places during short holidays? They are all doing homework at home or after school classes for the entrance exam to middle school, senior school or college… So what’s wrong here–the kids, parents, schools, or the education system?”
Another commented: “The Chinese education system, which is just about passing tests, is the reason.”
A November 2012 report by Caixin reported results from a survey of nearly 3,000 students, showing that 71.5 percent of children needed over two hours to finish each assignment, 76.3 percent spent time studying on weekends, and 27.2 percent slept for less than 8 hours per night.
Speaking with China Daily, deputy director Xiong Bingqi at Beijing’s 21st Century Education Research Institute noted the difficulties faced by young Chinese at school.
“Though China has put forward the concepts of ‘quality education’ and ‘reduction of students’ burdens’ since the 1980s, primary and high school students still face heavy homework burdens.”
He added that test scores are what matter for students trying to get into college. “Therefore, it’s natural for teachers to leave heavy homework assignments.”
Research by Ariel Tian.