Homeschool’s New Day in China
By Rachel Terry
Last summer our family stayed on a university campus in Xi’an, China, for three weeks.Everywhere we went, people wanted to touch our children’s blonde hair and pinch their
cheeks. When people found out we homeschooled, their jaws dropped, and we soon foundourselves on a television talk show.
From our visit to a Montessori kindergarten on the campus of
, we understood that education is paramount in China. Very young childrenspend long hours perfecting their handwriting, and teachers and administrators arerightfully proud of the beautiful educational environments present in their schools. And yet,everyone we spoke with about education had one name on their lips: Zheng Yuanjie.Well-
known children’s author Zheng Yuanjie homeschooled his now
-grown son, Zheng Qiya,
and the son’s success has validated the father’s efforts. Parents all over China look at ZhengYaqi’s success—he’s opened bookstores, started magazines, and set
and wonder if maybe homeschooling has contributed to his successful creativeendeavors.
Growing Interest in Homeschooling
Zheng Qiya has succeeded in areas that many Chinese students find mystifying: the artsand entrepreneurship. Traditional Chinese education has been based on rote memory andrepetition, and while this method has produced many students who calculate andregurgitate facts at the speed of light, some parents are beginning to question its wisdom.In 2005,
published an interview with a teacher at
who was teaching his 9-year-old daughter at home. The father, Wei Yuan, said
that he decided to homeschool because the school’s teaching methods were “stultifying.
Kids have to do sums again and again and they are not allowed to openly express
themselves in compositions.”
famous Han Han can relate. His parents allowed him to “quit” senior middle school,
which in China is much more rigorous than American high school. Schools weren
’t sure whatto do with Han. During his first year of senior middle school he won first prize in China’s
nationwide New Concept Writing Competition, but he failed seven subjects in his finalexaminations that year.
After he left school, Han Han began writing with a fury. His first novel,
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 film. With his newfound freedom, Hanbecame a race car driver, started a blog that has the largest online following in China (morethan 300 million viewers), and released an album of self-composed songs.
Clearly, HanHan is thriving without a traditional Chinese education, which has people talking. Andwondering.
In China, the One-Child Policy ensures that almost all couples have just one child.
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 stiff, and no