that a good home
education will produce
happier children who
enjoy learning . . . .
A;er he le; school, Han Han began
writing with a fury. His ;rst novel, Triple
Door, sold over two million copies and
is China’s best-selling literary work in the
last twenty years. Another novel has been
made into a Hollywood ;lm. With his
newfound freedom, Han became a race
car driver, started a blog that has the largest online following in China (more than
300 million viewers), and released an
album of self-composed songs.
Han Han is thriving without a traditional
Chinese education, which has people
talking. And wondering.
In China, the One-Child Policy ensures that almost all couples have just one
5 ;at precious child becomes the focus of his parents’ and grandparents’ ambition and dreams. In a country with such
a large population, competition for college
entrance is very sti;, and no parent wants
to take risks that may result in lost opportunities for her child. And yet, the success
of China’s well-known homeschoolers is
Obstacles to Homeschooling
Article 11 of China’s Compulsory Education Law states: “When children have
reached school age, their parents or
guardians shall send them to school to receive compulsory education for the prescribed number of years. If, on account
of illness or other special circumstances,
school-age children or adolescents need
to postpone or be exempted from schooling, their parents or guardians shall submit an application to that e;ect to the
local people’s government for approval.”
;is law has been tested in Chinese
courts of law several times, with diverse
results. In one case, a father who home-schooled his daughter was sued by his
ex-girlfriend, the girl’s mother. ;e court
ruled against the homeschooling father.
He replied by saying he would never send
the girl to school, and authorities have
not pursued the case further or forced
the girl to attend public school.
Cases such as this test the waters in
China, and parents are feeling bolder
since authorities rarely force homeschoolers to return to school. For instance, in 2006, a 7-year-old boy was ordered by the court to go back to school,
but an o;cial involved with the case
stated: “A punishment . . . wasn’t written
in because the punishment may be di;cult to implement. But home education
is absolutely not advocated.”
8 Perhaps the
larger obstacle is the risk involved.
In China, entrance to a good university
is considered the pinnacle of a successful childhood. Since competition is so
steep, a college education all but ensures
a good career and stable future. Unlike in
the United States, children are expected to
help support their aging parents, so taking
a risk that may a;ect a child’s future career has implications for the whole family.
Homeschoolers may not have an opportunity to take standard high school examinations, and without compulsory exams,
university admissions crews don’t know
how to evaluate a student’s potential.
Also, unlike in the United States, where
people can go back to college at any age,
it’s unheard of in China for older students
to be admitted to traditional universities.
During our visit in China, when the talk
show producers found out that my husband was working on a graduate degree
in his late 30s, they scheduled another
talk show with us because they found his
situation so unusual. New technological
advancements have led to online courses
and evening adult education classes in
China, but these adult education courses
don’t hold the same prestige as university
Cracks in Educational Traditions
Despite these obstacles, homeschooling in China is gaining momentum.
With over a billion people in China who
have mostly all received the same rigid,
memorization-based education, there is
great opportunity for young people who
have creative skills and freedom to pursue their interests, students like Han Han
and Zheng Qiya. ;ese young men have
found that their creativity has boosted
them to the forefront of their cultures.
;eir free-thinking and analytic skills
have allowed them to be cultural leaders
in a place where many traditional ways
are being questioned by the youth.
Perhaps homeschooling is not as big a
gamble as many Chinese parents think.
When they look at the success of home-schooled students who are now adults,
they see that in many ways, homeschooling gives children an edge.
While our family visited with university students in China, we o;en heard
statements like “I joined the Communist
party, even though I didn’t want to” or “I
would never join the Communist party.”
Young people seem more and more willing to assert their individuality and express
their personal opinions. Maybe they’re taking their cues from the government.
;e Chinese government seems to be
vacillating about how much personal
freedom to give its people. For instance,
although the government requires that
churches follow certain guidelines and
o;cially register, state leaders rarely interfere with unregistered churches and
congregations. Human rights group
China Aid estimates that there are currently
80 million to 130 active Christians in