Many ESL teachers have had to straddle the fine line of work and enjoying their time off with family this summer holiday. While the kids may be out of school and diving into pools in the West, in China, many parents are looking for the perfect person to teach English to Chinese students and get a leg up on their studies. Children across China are enjoying a wide variety of summer plans, but some may look a little unfamiliar to many Americans.
Alo7’s Academic team member Zing Ren remembers going to her grandparents’ house in the countryside during her summer holiday. She caught fish in the river, picked fruit from the trees and played with her friends. This sounds reminiscent of summer memories many of us may have when we think back to our childhood–months of getting dirty in the yard while collecting bugs, arguing with siblings in the backseat during road trips and playing outside past bedtime because the sun stayed out so much longer. So what makes summer in China different than other countries?
Typically, American summer school breaks last between 10 to 12 weeks. This stands in stark contrast to the average Chinese student who is likely to have less than six weeks off. And, while many Western students spend their summers relaxing, going on family trips, and attending summer camps, many Chinese students spend a portion of their day studying academics like English, Chinese and math.1 “According to a survey released by the Guangdong educational authority, more than 80 percent of students and their parents said they want the extra classes, despite it not being a school requirement.”2 In 2017, PsyLife, an educational firm in China, surveyed 6,376 local families and found that “only 26 percent of the students spent the vacation without undergoing any cramming classes or study-oriented travel programs. About 62 percent of the children have attended cramming schools — spending seven hours a week at them on average. And about 4 percent spent more than 16 hours a week at cramming schools. Foreign language, arts and math were the top three subjects.”3
For some students, these extra classes come in the form of attending summer camp. Summer camps are a recent phenomenon in China. “China has 180 million students from kindergarten to high school, and about 5 percent of them are expected to take part in summer camps, both domestically and internationally,” according to a recent Ctrip survey.4 The variety of summer camp options offered to Chinese families run the gamut. Students may take a small journey to a nearby city or province to attend camps with a focus on anything from music to robotics. More and more, parents are able to afford to send their children abroad to take part in a western-style camp. These camps are enticing to Chinese parents because they are focused on English language immersion and provide students with the opportunity to acquire first-hand experience with Western culture.5 The programs often include a field trip to campuses of well-known universities such as Harvard, MIT, or Oxford.
Not all families can afford expensive summer camps. But, even for those who don’t send their child off to England or the U.S.A, getting ahead with education is at the forefront of summertime priorities. Summer schools across China are full of children taking lessons to strengthen their academics in math, Chinese and English, or practicing extracurriculars such as singing, dancing or playing instruments. There are different summer courses to fit students’ needs, whether that is improving grades or gaining new knowledge or skills, says Zing. Even at home, taking weekly English classes via a tablet or PC is becoming common. The students in China remain very busy with school work even during the summer months.
It isn’t all work with no time to play, though. Most cities in China are replete with amazing destinations for children of all ages. On any given day you will see the locals opting for nearby activities like science museums, amusement parks, movie theaters, and the zoo. There are simple pleasures that are enjoyed everywhere. And of course, there is no summer without taking some time to cool off at the beach. And while children who live near the beach may enjoy some fun in the sun (but not too much sun), the majority of urbanites will opt for a local community center swimming pool or take up swimming lessons while they are young. Sports minded children are often spotted back at school, utilizing the basketball courts or football fields to let loose some of their energy. Digital bleeps and blips from video games will undoubtedly fill many rooms on rainy summer days. Some things are simply universal.
Also similar to many Americans, Chinese families have planned family trips. It’s common these days for parents to take some days off from work to spend time with their children. Some may take trips out to the rural areas to get away from the craziness of urban life, while others opt for a big city destination such as Beijing, where they might go to a theme park or take in a theatrical show. If a family travels internationally for summer, they typically set their sights on nearby Asian destinations like Thailand’s beautiful beaches or Japan’s cities and countryside.
Summertime in China is more than just lazy days and lounging by the pool. It is about having fun, being with family, and keeping their studying skills sharp. With just a couple of months to pack it all in, one might not be surprised that many students are glad to see school start once again at the end of it all.
Citations for “How Do Chinese Students Spend Their Summer Holiday?”
1 Mack, Lauren. “China’s Education Methods and How to Enroll in School.” ThoughtCo. May 27, 2019. Accessed August 02, 2019. https://www.thoughtco.com/school-and-education-in-china-688243.
2 Zhou, Su. “Should Students Study during Vacation?” China Daily. August 29, 2016. Accessed August 02, 2019. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2016-08/29/content_26625344.htm.
3 “Summer Vacation Blues for Many Students.” China News – SINA English. August 31, 2017. Accessed August 02, 2019. http://english.sina.com/china/s/2017-08-31/detail-ifykpysa2250261.shtml.
4 “Chinese Students Summer Holiday Expense Overview.” China Marketing Corp. July 13, 2018. Accessed August 02, 2019. https://www.chinamarketingcorp.com/blog/2018/07/12/chinese-students-summer-holiday-expense-overview/?fbclid=IwAR1I1SYgvl_PqAeItEv5BE9y7y6g6XaEfUkU0GuenWsGayM-p9MysAc3wto.
5 Liu, Cicely. “Summer Camp Proves a Hot Ticket among Young Students.” Summer Camp Proves a Hot Ticket among Young Students – Chinadaily.com.cn. July 02, 2018. Accessed August 02, 2019. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201807/02/WS5b39f528a3103349141e036a_5.html.
I started teaching English abroad after graduating from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts with a degree in English Literature. Although I originally planned to teach in Cambodia for a year, I discovered I had a passion for helping students around the world achieve their academic, professional and personal goals through language learning. I’ve been an Alo7 tutor since April 2017 and am currently living in South America.
I am Chinese-Japanese American, but sadly, I’m not trilingual. I grew up in a relatively “Western” household–no Tiger Moms but plenty of fried rice and a healthy dose of Asian guilt. My favorite part of English teaching is getting the opportunity to learn about my students’ daily lives, traditions and customs, so I’m very excited to be writing about Chinese culture on the Alo7 blog!