Summer School Is Cool: Do Chinese Kids Study During the Summer?

"Summer was supposed to be about freedom and youth and no school and possibilities and adventure and exploration.” -- Benjamin Alire Sáenz, American Author

 

What were your childhood Summers like? Did you go to camp ? or explore the countryside (乡村, xiāngcūn) ? Were you stuck in Summer school? For me, as an American, these were the typical responses for the "What I Did This Summer" assignment when we returned to school each Fall. But what do children in China do during the Summer? I asked some teachers at GoEast:

"There was no WiFi or Internet (互联网, hùliánwǎng) so we just played outside. We fished for crayfish in the lake and then ate them." -- Lynn

"I played with my friends, caught butterflies (蝴蝶, húdié) , played with ants. Sometimes we went to a theme park so we could play together, have fun, take pictures and also eat ice cream." -- Clytie

"All of my friends used water guns (水枪, shuǐqiāng)  to fight, like two armies, 10 versus 10. There was no winner, we just had fun." -- Rex

From these quotes, you can't tell that they're describing a childhood in China (these teachers were children in 1990-2005). In fact, many of my American friends did the same things during the Summer when they were young.

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More recently, Summer activities for children in China sound even more like American Summers. Since families in China have more money to spend on their children and the industry (行业, hángyè) of kid-focused activities is growing, the options are endless. Here are some of the Summer activity options from 2016 (The Washington Post):

  • academic classes
  • test prep courses
  • college prep courses (for international schools)
  • painting
  • sports
  • military camp
  • weight loss camp
  • nature camp
  • calligraphy courses
  • traditional culture courses
  • parent/child communication courses
 

"I was on the track and field team so we had to train every day. I took a bus to my school at Noon and came back home around dinner time. After that I was, like, dead." --Eva

"The second year of high school, you begin to study for the [gaokao] test. At that time I was addicted to online games like World of Warcraft (魔兽世界, móshòushìjiè). If I used that time to study, maybe I'd get a better score on the test." --Rex

"We would do homework at the end of vacation. My classmates and I went to KFC (肯德基, kěndéjī) to do the homework together in a hurry and copy each other." --Lynn

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Going to Summer school and taking academic courses during school vacation no longer have the stigma they once did of failing a subject and being stuck catching up while your friends went out and played. Summer school is now the realm of over achievers, children whose parents want them to get the best academic opportunities and the best possible future.

The idea of Summer as a time of "freedom and youth" is gone. Summer is now a time for camps, classes, and activities that aren't available during the school year. It's time that is wasted if children aren't learning and preparing for their future.