Chinese Children Under Pressure

Chinese Children Under Pressure

Children in China are under immense pressure to succeed today. When examining the pressure placed on this generation of youngsters we discover the adverse effects which take place later in life. This raises the question of what kind of pressure should be exerted on children. Most kids take the least path of resistance, be it video games or watching TV, but parents have a base level of expectations for what children should achieve upon reaching adulthood. However, Chinese parents hoist far more pressure and higher expectations onto their kids than their American counterparts. Does this amount to too much pressure, which could inhibit the development of a well-rounded, and moral society; something that the Chinese government wants by 2049?

Chinese high school freshmen start class at 7.30am, have a three to four hour long break from 3pm, and then are back at school until 10pm for extra tuition, with every other Sunday off.

Although Chinese students on average also enjoy extracurricular activities such as music and sports, they spend the vast majority of their time on studies. According to a 2011 report by the Wall Street Journal, the average Chinese student spend more than five hours in school – per day – than their American counterparts. The results of more time spent in school are telling. In the 2013 PISA international basic subject proficiency exams, Shanghai China outstripped every school – ranking 1st in the tables whereas the USA finished in a paltry 22nd place. Additionally, around 40% of STEM graduates at American graduate schools hail from nations with a Chinese style of study habits. Pessimists in the United States often cite this lack of academic achievement on behalf of American students as a dire of “imperial decline”, stating that more standardized tests and classroom hours are needed to close the “achievement gap”. But is the difference in the achievement gap just a reflection of poor teaching and not enough schooling? Or is it merely a reflection of what we as a society are training our children to become: creative thinkers for a service economy instead of technicians for a manufacturing economy?

In addition to educational pressure, Chinese parents also expect their sons to find a wife and start having children before age 30. Parents expect daughters to be married earlier than that, and most favorably to a wealthy man, regardless of occupation, who will look after the parents financially post-retirement. Additionally, women expect a man to already have a house and a car before she will begin dating him, further busting the societal pressure valve.

China is still a developing country where most of the nation’s under 30’s are the first generation not to grow up in relative poverty. Secondly, the sheer size of China’s population means competition for a place at a top university is less than half the single digit acceptance rate of Harvard for 2012. Finally, parental pressure is geared so that their family line is continued through their sons, and that their sons one day become rich. The United States developed a prosperous middle class in the 1950’s, whereas China’s middle class has yet to truly emerge.


  1. The BBC has a related article about how this ‘education obsession’ also creates huge pressures for parents. This is perhaps the other side of the coin:

  2. yeah,it seems that A or A+ is very normal in exam of the students in Chnia.If you couldnt get A which means that you fail.
    Tom you are really good writter.

  3. I am a Chinese and I have to say there’s something wrong with the school hours. All high school students start class at 7:30am and have a 2 hours break from 12 to 2pm. Then we have class from 2pm to 6pm and we finish all classes. Sometimes there are extra classes and I leave school at 10pm or 11pm.


  1. Chinese youth suffering from achievement stress | A. Mathura - […] all heard of the amount of stress that Chinese children in China have to endure from their parents to …

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