# The horrors of homework

Odd one out: The picture that shows how miscommunication can happen in schools when a boy brought in a huge river fish instead of a pet fish as requested by the teacher.

THE summer holiday has ended and the new school year in China begins now. Parents can relax a bit and not worry for at least half a day about keeping their children occupied.

But this is also the beginning of a nightmare. Helping the kids with homework given by “creative” teachers can drive mothers and fathers crazy.

Recently, many people were shocked by an online post titled “100 million grains of rice”. It was written by parents of fourth grade students who had been asked to count that many grains of rice.

The unusual assignment was from a mathematics teacher in Foshan city of China’s southeastern Guangdong province. The students were given two days to complete the task and parents complained that it was impossible.

“I don’t have that much rice at home,” says one netizen in response to the post.

Some parents have calculated that it would take a year to count 100 million grains, based on a rate of three grains per second.

The teacher, known only as Su, explained that she was hoping the pupils would “think critically, analyse the problem and work smart” instead of actually counting the rice grain by grain.

“I have never expected my students to count the grains one by one. I hope they will count the first 100 grains and then multiply the figure by 10 or 100 until it reaches 100 million,” she said. Ten of her 40 students completed the assignment.

In another episode, a kindergarten teacher asked children to draw the shape of the moon each night for 30 consecutive days. One mother complained that due to lack of sleep, she has lost 4kg since her child was handed that assignment.

“My child has chosen the midnight moon, so I have to stay awake, take a photo and show her in the morning,” she wrote.

“I cannot see the moon everyday at my area,” grumbled another parent.

“Homework is created to torture parents,” a netizen complained.

Many people defended the teacher, saying such kind of homework helped to hone the children’s observation skills.

“Why can’t the mother ask her kid to draw at an earlier hour instead of at midnight?” asked one of them.

Apart from accounts of odd homework, stories on the Internet about miscommunication between teachers and students (or the students’ parents) also make for interesting reading.

One post that has been making the rounds is a picture of a group of children sitting at a table and looking at the fish they have brought to school. In front of one boy was a steel basin containing a large dead river fish.

Apparently, the teacher wanted them to bring a pet fish.

The rest showed up with small tanks with ornamental fish swimming in them.

The odd one out must have misheard the instructions.

There is another picture gone viral that shows a plate of raw pork among pots of plants with fleshy stems and leaves.

The students were required to bring duo rou (succulent plants like aloe and cactus) to school but one inattentive kid told his parents that he needed to bring rou, which means meat.

A netizen wrote that the incident reminded him of his most embarrassing moment as a schoolkid. Asked to bring a rectangular object to school, he came the next day with a carton of cigarettes.

The students’ heavy homework has been a much-debated issue in China, with the government working hard to find a balance and to regularly reform the education system.

In its report on the quality of the country’s nine-year compulsory education, the Education Ministry said primary and middle school students were under great academic pressure, with many spending hours each day on homework.

Released in July, the report is based on a survey of 572,314 fourth and eighth grade students between 2015 and 2017 by the ministry’s National Assessment Centre for Education Quality.

Over 30% of fourth graders and 50.2% of eighth graders said they spent more than 30 minutes doing mathematics homework each day, reported China Daily.

The survey also revealed that 8.7% of fourth graders spend over two hours a day on Chinese language homework.

“More than 30% of students said they felt great academic pressure, and almost half of eighth grade students found mathematics difficult to learn, prompting many children to attend after school training classes,” the report added.

Last year, the ministry released guidelines that urge families and schools to cooperate to guarantee 10 hours of sleep for primary students and nine hours of sleep for middle school students.

However, the report found that only 30% of fourth graders and 16.6% of eighth graders get the recommended amount of sleep.

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Opinion , Beh Yuen Hui , Colours of China