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Why Chinese Parents Spend Huge Amounts of Money on Children’s Summer Programs

An essay titled “A Monthly Salary of 30,000 RMB [±4490$] Is Not Enough for a Child’s Summer Holiday” has recently gone viral on Chinese social media, triggering hot debates on how more and more Chinese parents spend huge amounts of money to educate their children during school holidays. Are they simply showing off their money, or is there more behind this trend?

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An essay titled “A Monthly Salary of 30,000 RMB Is Not Enough for a Child’s Summer Holiday” has recently gone viral on Chinese social media, triggering hot debates on how more and more Chinese parents spend huge amounts of money to educate their children during school holidays. Are they simply concerned about their child’s education, or is there more behind this trend?

An article titled “A Monthly Salary of 30,000 RMB [±4490$] Is Not Enough for a Child’s Summer Vacation” (“月薪三万,还是撑不起孩子的一个暑假”), which recently went viral on WeChat, describes how a woman with a well-paid job hardly earns enough money to pay for her daughter’s summer schedule during her school vacation.

The mother, who works as a senior executive in Guangzhou, earns nearly $4500 per month. Although this is 13 times higher than the minimum monthly wage in China, the woman still said she was afraid to buy new clothes due to the costs of the busy summer program of her daughter, a 5th grader at a well-known Guangzhou school.

 

“If you spend this money, it makes you feel bad. But if you don’t spend this money, it makes you feel bad for your child.”

 

The extravagant summer program highlighted in the article includes a ten-day study tour through the USA, a daytime nanny, piano lessons, swimming classes, and summer classes in English language, Olympic maths, and Writing. In total, the mother spent at least 35,000 RMB (±5240$) on her daughter’s summer ‘vacation.’

“The most torturous is that if you spend this money, it makes you feel bad. But if you don’t spend this money, it makes you feel bad for your child,” the mother said.

It’s not uncommon to see competition between Chinese parents over who are investing the most in their child’s education. The idea of never letting children “lose at the starting line” has become a common belief.

During school holidays, China’s wealthy families often send their children abroad for high-profile education. Middle-class parents struggle to compete with them, filling up their children’s holidays with English classes and overseas summer camps. Also at the lower-class levels, parents aim to educate their children during summer to become the next top scorers at the Gaokao (the national college entrance examination).

In the online essay, the daughter’s study trip to America is the most expensive activity of her summer program. Besides special classes and language training, the popularity of these types of expensive overseas summer camps is growing. According to a survey conducted by China Daily on these summer camps abroad, its participants are mainly middle-school and high-school students.

The most popular destinations are mainly English-speaking countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia or the UK, but Germany and Japan also have a high ranking. Although the prices vary, these trips never come cheap. Most of these programs cost around 20,000 to 30,000 RMB (3000$-4500$).

 

“They compare it like they compare luxury clothes or cars.”

 

Through overseas summer programs, parents hope that their children will practice their English, learn to be more independent, and experience “Western education” – and they are more than willing to pay for it, even if it costs them thousands of dollars.

But there is more to this than the mere hope that busy summer programs will contribute to a child’s personal development. As recently reported by Chinese newspaper Global Times, Chinese parents in the urban middle class are increasingly suffering from peer pressure when it comes to investing in their child’s education.

Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, told Global Times: “(..) if a monthly salary of 30,000 yuan could not support a holiday, there must be irrational comparisons going on,” adding: “They compare it [overseas study trips] like they compare luxury clothes or cars.”

 

“If a monthly salary of 30,000 RMB is not enough for a kid’s summer holiday, parents should do some self-reflection.”

 

Meanwhile, many educational companies and institutions smell the business opportunities and are out to make a quick buck. Some of them charge huge amounts of money for low-quality accommodations or cheap food – sometimes even causing a safety hazard for children. This trendy summer activity has become a lucrative but under-regulated phenomenon, forming a potential risk to children.

After the aforementioned article went viral, several state-run Chinese media such as the People’s Daily and Beijing Youth Daily immediately posted articles denouncing parents’ decisions to enroll their children in overseas study trips. They mentioned another reason for the extravagant study trips, saying it is a way for parents to “show off their money” through their children’s education.

The Beijing Youth Daily wrote: “If a monthly salary of 30,000 RMB is not enough for a kid’s summer holiday, parents should do some self-reflection to ask themselves if this is reasonable.”

The People’s Daily also criticized the current pressure on children in their education, appealing to “lighten the burden on children” and to “diminish the tendency of comparison among parents.”

 

“Only ridiculous people will object to this mother’s decisions. She merely wants to create better education opportunities for her daughter.”

 

The debate on children’s expensive summer program also unfolded among Chinese Weibo users, who are mainly divided into three groups.

One group firmly supports the mother’s decision on investing in her child’s education. They think it’s important and worthwhile. As one commenter wrote:

“Only ridiculous people will object to this mother’s decisions. She merely wants to create better education opportunities for her daughter to expand her horizons and make her more knowledge. Is this called ‘showing off money'(..)? Now that we have these bettered conditions for our younger generations, there’s nothing wrong with using them to help them become all-round individuals. Do you want them to be like you in the future, so poor and useless?”

The second group of people firmly rejects how parents are overspending on education: “What do you want me to say if you earn 30,000 RMB per month but live the life of someone who makes 50,000 RMB?” They also condemn how the mother burdens her child with a busy schedule, ruining her holiday.

The third group of commenters blames China’s education system for the extravagant summer study trips. The Chinese school system heavily relies on comparing children through their grades.

“No amount of money is when it comes to comparison and vanity. It is this comparison that makes children and parents feel inferior and unsatisfied. What if we cancel the system of Gaokao and encourage a system that celebrates diversity?”

Besides all this critique on children’s summer trips, there are also people who bring the discussion to a next level and question China’s class division and unbalanced education resources.

As reported by China Daily, Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou are the top three cities where students participate in overseas summer programs.

Uncoincidentally, these are also cities that are top-ranking when it comes to the highest salaries in China. For parents from less developed cities with less income, the chances of being able to afford a proper education for their children are much smaller. For them, it is simply impossible to send their children on extravagant study trips to America or Europe.

– By Yue Xin
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Additional editing by Manya Koetse
©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Yue Xin is a bilingual freelance journalist currently based in the Netherlands with a focus on gender issues and literature in China. As a long-time frequent Weibo user, she is specialized in the buzzwords and hot topics on Chinese social media.

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China Memes & Viral

Prohibited to Promote Top Students, Chinese Schools Are Praising their Excellent ‘Fruit’ Instead

Who knew Chinese schools were so good at harvesting fruit?

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It is that time of the year again: China’s gaokao results are in. Chinese schools that are proud of their top-scoring students would like to scream it from the rooftops, but they are banned from doing so. So they are now posting about their very successful fruit production instead.

This week, the scores came out for China’s gaokao (高考), the National Higher Education Entrance Examinations that took place earlier this months.

The exams are a prerequisite for entering China’s higher education institutions and are taken by students in their last year of senior high school. Scoring high grades for this exam can give high school students access to a better college, which enlarges their chances of obtaining a good job after graduation.

Those who succeed in becoming top scorers in their field and area are known as the gāokǎo zhuàngyuán (高考状元, ‘gaokao champions’). Gaokao champions are usually widely praised, not just by families and friends, but also by their hometowns and schools for which the top-scoring students are their pride and unique selling point.

But since 2018, as explained in this article, it is prohibited for Chinese media and schools to give publicity to gaokao top scorers. The Chinese Ministry of Education banned the promotion of top achievers in line with Xi Jinping Thought, emphasizing the value of equality and sociability instead.

This year, local authorities again reiterated the message that in order to set the right example and “establish the correct orientation of education,” the hyping up of school exam results and publishing top score rankings are strictly prohibited.

Because of the Ministry of Education guidelines, schools can not openly flaunt the successes of their top scorers, but some have found creative ways to do so anyway.

“Of a batch of 1320 ripe mango’s, there are over hundred weighing more than 600 grams,” one school in Guangxi’s Nanning wrote. The ‘weight’ refers to the score, with 600 being a very high score (the maximum score is usually 750, depending on the field and area). “”[We] picked a mango weighing as much as 696 grams, the king of Qinzhou fruit. Two fruit dealers in the capital have already heard of it and are eager to take it.”

Besides mango’s, there were also other schools mentioning their successful production of ‘plums or peaches.’

One blog by Jiangchacha (姜茶茶) listed various examples of schools boasting about their ‘fruit harvest’ in social media posts.

The blog explained that some schools in Guangxi used the mango metaphor because Guangxi has some of the country’s largest mango-producing regions. Meanwhile, the word for ‘peaches and plums’ in Chinese (桃李) also refers to one’s pupils or disciples.

Another school’s post said: “It is harvest season (..), and the campus is fragrant with peaches and plums, and fruitful results!”, adding that “a total of 2400 high quality peaches and plums have been harvested, and over 93% are of high quality!”

There was also one school that mentioned other schools were below them in scores, writing that its “excellence rate” was “clearly ahead of the three other big gardens on the east coast.”

“Our king peach weighs no less than 689 grams,” another school announced. There were also schools that did not discuss fruit but were making references to fish, trees, and high-speed trains instead.

The issue of schools reporting their ‘harvest’ became a trending topic on Weibo, where some found it very funny. But others also voiced criticism that schools cannot publish about some of their students being gāokǎo zhuàngyuán, top scorers.

“There is nothing to hide, the exam scores are the result of hard work by both the teachers and students,” one popular comment said, with others replying: “Why wouldn’t you announce the scores? It might inspire other students!”

“This entire guideline is just nonsense,” another typical comment said.

Meanwhile, some netizens suggested that Sichuan schools could use pandas as a metaphor for their top scorers, while Chongqing could use chili peppers next year, with others suggesting other types of fruit that could be used in these ‘covered-up’ gaokao score publications. It’s bound to be another fruitful year in 2023.

Want to read more about gaokao? Check out more related articles here.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

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Photo by Bangyu Wang on Unsplash

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China and Covid19

Confusion over Official Media Report on China’s “Next Five Years” of Zero Covid Policy

Netizens interpreted this as a sign that China’s current Covid strategy would continue at least five more years.

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‘The next five years’: four words that flooded Chinese social media today and caused commotion among netizens who interpreted this as written proof that China’s current Covid strategy would continue for at least five more years. But the Beijing Daily editor-in-chief has since responded to the issue, blaming reporters for getting it all mixed up.

On June 27th, after the start of the 13th Beijing Municipal Party Congress, Chinese state media outlet Beijing Daily (北京日报) published an online news article about a report delivered by Beijing’s Party chief Cai Qi (蔡奇).

The article zoomed in on what the report said about Beijing’s ongoing efforts in light of China’s zero-Covid policy, and introduced Beijing’s epidemic prevention strategy as relating to “the coming five years” (“未来五年”).

Those four words then flooded social media and caused commotion among netizens who interpreted this as a sign that China’s current Covid strategy would continue at least five more years. Many people wrote that the idea of living with the current measures for so many years shocked and scared them.

Soon after, the article suddenly changed, and the controversial “coming five years” was left out, which also led to speculation.

Beijing Times editor-in-chief Zhao Jingyun (赵靖云) then clarified the situation in a social media post, claiming that it was basically an error made due to the carelessness of reporters who already filled in information before actually receiving the report:

I can explain this with some authority: the four-word phrase “the next five years” was indeed not included in the report, but was added by our reporter[s] by mistake. Why did they add this by mistake? It’s funny, because in order to win some time, they dismantled the report’s key points and made a template in advance that “in the next five years” such and such will be done, putting it in paragraph by paragraph, and also putting in “insist on normalized epidemic prevention and control” without even thinking about it. This is indeed an operational error at the media level, and if you say that our people lack professionalism, I get it, but I just hope that people will stop magnifying this mistake by passing on the wrong information.”

Global Times commentator Hu Xijin (@胡锡进), who used to be the editor-in-chief and party secretary of the state media outlet, also weighed in on the incident in a social media post on Monday. He started his post by saying that the reporter who initially made the phrase ‘next five year’ go viral had a “lack of professionalism” which caused the overall misunderstanding.

Hu also added a photo of the relevant page within the original report that was delivered at the Congress, showing that the phrase ‘the coming five years’ was indeed not written before the segment on China’s battle against Covid, which detailed Beijing’s commitment to its strict epidemic prevention and control measures.

But Hu also added some nuance to the confusion and how it came about. The original report indeed generally focuses on Beijing developments of the past five years and the next five years, but adding the “in the next five years” phrase right before the segment was a confusing emphasis only added by the reporter, changing the meaning of the text.

Hu noted that the right way to interpret the report’s segment about China’s Covid battle is that it clarifies that the battle against the virus is not over and that China will continue to fight Covid – but that does not mean that Beijing will stick to its current zero Covid policy for the next five years to come, including its local lockdowns and restrictions on movement.

Hu Xijin wrote:

I really do not believe that the city of Beijing would allow the situation as it has been for the past two months or so go on for another five years. That would be unbearable for the people of Beijing, it would be too much for the city’s economy, and it would have a negative impact on the whole country. So it’s unlikely that Beijing would come up with such a negative plan now, and I’m convinced that those in charge of managing the city will plan and strive to achieve a more morale-boosting five years ahead.”

After the apparent error was set straight, netizens reflected on the online panic and confusion that had erupted over just four words. Some said that the general panic showed how sensitive and nervous people had become in times of Covid. Others were certain that the term “next five years” would be banned from Weibo. Many just said that they still needed time to recover from the shock they felt.

“The peoples’ reactions today really show how fed up everyone is with the ‘disease prevention’ – if you want to know what the people think, this is what they think,” one Weibo user from Beijing wrote.

To read more about Covid-19 in China, check our articles here.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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