Yu Jianwei, an official with the National People's Congress Internal and Judicial Affairs Department, said that according to a survey, at least 30 million students under the age of 17 have suffered from a variety of emotional and behavioral problems. The number of people under the age of 18 in China is more than 300 million.
On April 6, 2007, the Education Bureau of Shenyang City, capital of north China's Liaoning Province, issued a document, stating that primary and middle school student should not arrive at school before 7:40 a.m. The document was based on a proposal put forward by Zhang Guiping, a delegate to the National People's Congress.
Since then, more than 200,000 parents of primary and middle students have bid farewell to 7 a.m. starts.
"I also have a child who always complains about feeling sleepy and is woken up by an alarm clock. I feel distressed when I see my child's sleepy eyes every day," said Zhang.
As a delegate to the National People's Congress, Zhang began to research the sleep problems of students. "Children want to sleep, but they have no time for that due to homework and other study assignments. They cannot go to bed before 11 p.m. and have to get up at 5 or 6 a.m. Few of them can sleep for seven hours. Sleep deficiency has long been a headache for students, parents and teachers," said Zhang, following his investigation.
Liaoning launched an inspection of the enforcement of the Compulsory Education Law on April 2-11, 2007, commissioned by the National People's Congress. On April 3, at a symposium held in Shenyang, with participants including provincial leaders, headmasters, teachers and parents, Zhang suggested local government act to make sure students sleep longer.
Zhang's proposal gained the attention of local government. On the third day after the proposal, Shenyang Education Bureau issued an official document, asking students to arrive at school no earlier than 7:40 a.m.
"Ensuring the health of students is always the first concern for us. Letting students come to school after 7:40 a.m. has changed the management ideas of the school. Now, teachers never scold late students. We have four classes every morning with a 40-minute break for students to enjoy a rest," said Zhang Yan, Headmaster of No.2 Primary School in the Shenhe District of Shenyang City.
In addition to Shenyang, many other provinces and cities have introduced measures to ensure primary and secondary school students get more sleep.
Most of Shanghai's primary and secondary schools previously asked students to arrive before 7:30 a.m. Starting from the new semester in 2008, schools in three districts in Shanghai began asking students to arrive half an hour later, and replaced the original morning reading time with physical activity.
"Compared with before, I can sleep half an hour more this semester," said Feng Shun, a student from a primary school in Luwan District of Shanghai. "I had to get up before 7 a.m. before, and couldn't even have breakfast. Now I can set the alarm at 7:30, which gives me enough time to have breakfast."
Shanghai Municipal Education Commis-sion's Director Shen Xiaoming said many factors affect students' sleep length including their family and social environment, the present educational system and social customs. It will take the joint effort of families, schools and the government to improve the situation.
According to Peng Yongjin, Headmaster of Xiaobeilu Primary School in Guangzhou, schools can do their part by assigning less homework, but families must also create a comfortable environment at home.