Illustration: Chen Xia/GT
Twenty-year-old Li Jingci attended school for only three years, as a child, before her father decided to pull her out of China's public educational system. Claiming "my kid learns nothing at school," 62-year-old now 74 Li Tiejun has kept his daughter at home for the past 11 years.
The girl's mother sued her own husband for violating the Compulsory Schooling Law and actually won the case, but Li continued to keep his daughter isolated without any legal penalization.
Over a decade later, the results of his experiment are in: Li Jingci recently publicly admitted that she can't even sit a simple middle school-level exam. Her father also admitted to media that his daughter lacks a command of basic subjects.
According to a report released by the 21st Century Education Research Institute, there are currently 18,000 other children (60 percent between the ages of 4 and 10) across China also receiving home schooling. The report listed the key reasons given by parents for keeping their children out of school: 9.5 percent believe that the public school system is too slow, 7 percent feel that children are not respected at school and 6 percent say their kids are tired of school life.
It is understandable that Chinese parents and students have become weary and wary of our nation's notoriously competitive public school system, and I can even sympathize with those who benefit more from the one-on-one attention of home schooling, as the average size of a Chinese classroom is around 50 students. However, I strongly believe that home schooling still should not be encouraged in China.
The primary reason is that home schooling requires parents to shoulder pretty much all of the responsibilities of an entire teaching staff. That means having deep knowledge of at least 12 different subjects. Even the best-educated parent who attended a top-level university, obtained the highest scores and became an expert in a particular field is unlikely to be familiar with subjects other than their own.
Secondly, even if a parent did happen to know everything about all of the key subjects of a primary or secondary education, the chances that they also know how to teach them properly are slim to none. Teaching is its own discipline, necessitating years of training along with years of experience before a person can develop the skills and patience of a true educator.
Thirdly, socialization is one of the most important byproducts of a public education. Being able to properly interact with other people, learning how to respect and obey authority figures and developing a unique personality and good habits are all integral to childhood development.
Prominent Chinese writer Zheng Yuanjie, author of a series of best-selling fairy tale books, pulled his 13-year-old son out of school in the 1990s. As a professional writer, Zheng actually had the talent and ability to create his own learning materials in subjects.
Today, Zheng's son, in his 30s, manages a company that oversees the branding and licensing of his father's works. By all accounts, the elder Zheng's experiment was a success, and many other Chinese home-schoolers use this as a model example.
However it is important to note that the junior Zheng's prosperity was practically a birthright due to his father's established success (ranked as one of China's richest authors). The average Chinese family doesn't have that level of talent or wealth.
Which begs the question: how can ordinary home schooling households with limited income and academic resources guarantee their children a proper education? Yes, our public schools have their shortcomings, especially those that place more emphasis on preparing for the gaokao (national college entrance exams).
But compared with the even bigger scholastic and social disadvantages of staying at home, it's clear that home schooling is not a wise alternative.
Rather than turning to home schooling, dissatisfied parents should regard it as a type of supplementary education. Let their children attend public school by day, then spend evenings and weekend teaching them additional subjects and skills that will help make them more well-rounded individuals.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.