Should Children Be Encouraged to Go to College at an Early Age?
Whether children should be encouraged to enter college stirs up debates
  ·  2017-10-16  ·   Source: NO. 42 OCTOBER 19, 2017

Ten-year-old Zhang Yiwen from Shangqiu in central China's Henan Province has stirred up debate for passing this year's college entrance examination (Gaokao) and enrolling at the Shangqiu Institute of Technology. She is expected to receive a junior college degree in electronic information and engineering in three years' time, which is different from a regular four-year degree.

Normally, Chinese students graduate from high school at 18. Unlike her peers in primary school, Zhang was home-schooled from kindergarten through high school by her parents. Should children be encouraged to go to college at such a young age?

Natural development better

Ma Jing (tl.wenming.cn): Teaching students based on their aptitude for learning is a principle that the Chinese education system has long cherished. It indicates the importance of respecting each student's personality. If we don't follow this rule, students' enthusiasm for learning will wane. Pushing children to achieve too hard can turn them into underachievers who eventually lose their love of learning.

According to the Compulsory Education Law, children must attend school. However, recent years have seen more and more cases in which parents force their children to quit school and educate them on their own.

Many of these parents who dragged their children do not practice appropriate education methods, or rather, they are conducting experiments on their children. Some children later find themselves unable to mingle with society as a result of such actions.

Sending a child to college at an early age is not necessarily a good education standard. The most important point is whether it suits the child and in particular, if it benefits his or her long-term development. If parents ignore education rules and focus on sending their children to college as early as possible, their children may have a huge price to pay in the end.

Yang Yuze (Changjiang Daily): Zhang Yiwen also took part in the college entrance examination last year. At that time, many people commented that during their growth period, children must develop social skills in addition to academic aptitude. Many people believe that allowing the child to finish school at a more natural pace will do more to help Zhang than sending her directly to college at such a young age.

A 10-year-old is immature in terms of her intelligence, psychology and many other aspects. Zhang is undoubtedly smart. Therefore, if she were to continue down a normal educational path, a lot of possibilities will be waiting for her in the future. Moreover, if she had more time to prepare for the examination, there would be a greater chance that she'd end up in a better university. In this sense, entering college at such an early age is not a good thing, but is instead hurting her future.

If a child has really outperformed his or her peers academically, then it is necessary to tailor their education. Zhang is a smart girl for sure, but not so much as to skip elementary education altogether.

Nowadays, young children going to college is not news anymore. In some cases, they are prodigies while in other cases, they do not actually belong in college. Prodigies and geniuses are those who present astonishing abilities in certain areas, but those who pass the college entrance examination at a young age should not be identified as such.

Some colleges might want to show off that they have recruited prodigies, but in most cases, they actually don't care so much about the future development of those children.

While we must admit that a child who manages to be admitted into a college at a young age must be unique and have excellent learning abilities, it's also possible that they will not develop properly.

Education systems are not only designed to impart knowledge, but more importantly, to give students the chance to develop their values and outlooks on life. Some say that China's current nine-year compulsory education is not enough, and that it should be extended to cover college education. This opinion is incorrect. Entering university is not and should not be the sole goal of going to school.

This doesn't mean that we repudiate the existence of prodigies, but the most important thing should be their future prospects, rather than showing off their talent. Children should have a relaxing and playful childhood.

Rong Lijuan (Guangming Daily): When someone enrolls at a university, it means that this person already possesses the ability to handle his or her life on campus independently. This student knows how to communicate with others and also overcome various difficulties and setbacks encountered on campus. This student must also get ready to enter society soon. Is a 10-year-old girl prepared to handle these challenges? Is it possible for her to make friends with her new classmates who are older and more experienced?

Even if this girl is a prodigy, or has been trained into a prodigy, all the above-mentioned concerns still exist and should not be neglected. China's nine-year compulsory education system is designed to provide enough time for students to grow up and mature over time.

In the 1980s and 1990s, there was once a trend of opening special classes for gifted children in colleges and universities. As China was seriously short of scientific talents at that time, these classes were expected to provide urgently needed scientific researchers for the country's development. These students entered university at 14 or 15, but not all of them have become leading figures in their research areas, despite being labeled as prodigies at that time.

Today, only three universities still run such classes. For years, there have been debates on whether such classes destroy these prodigies' future and long-term development.

Life is a long journey, not a sprint. Winning at the starting line will not necessarily ensure a successful life. Parents should spend more time nurturing their children's personalities by encouraging them to deal with problems by themselves. More importantly, children should be given the right and ability to choose their own path in life.

Open attitude needed

Wang Junrong (www.scol.com.cn): Although most people have average intelligence, we can't deny that there are some "geniuses" that don't need to go through the normal education process before entering universities.

In Heze, east China's Shandong Province, a 14-year-old boy passed last year's college entrance examination with a score of 699 out of 750, and was recruited by the prestigious University of Science and Technology of China. There have been numerous similar cases throughout the country.

Zhang Yiwen is still a unique example. This year was the second time that she had participated in the college entrance examination. In 2016, her exam result was 172 and she failed to be admitted by any college. Besides, she was home-schooled by her parents. She has no regular educational background. However, still she managed to get into college. This should be praised.

There should be various sorts of educational routes that one can follow. Nonetheless, how can we help this 10-year-old college student to take the most advantage of college life? First of all, both her family and school should give her the encouragement she needs to continue developing.

Meanwhile, it's also important to treat her as a normal college student. Like her classmates, she needs to finish all the same courses that are required by the college. Zhang's father hopes that his daughter can pursue advanced studies after graduation and even get a doctorate degree. Still, everyone should be patient with her. Even if she does not fulfill the expectations of her parents, school, or even society, she should be treated with kindness.

People can also achieve success later in life, and that should be respected and tolerated. Students need a relaxing and tolerant environment to develop adequately.

Copyedited by Bryan Michael Galvan

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