Extreme Chinese Parenting: A Cautionary Tale for Muslim Parents

Rural Quran school in Somalia (source: Wikimedia Commons, Courtesy: Hiram A. Ruiz )

What is the correct balance between pushing children to pursue education and allowing them to enjoy childhood?

Observing the extremes in Chinese society can make us aware of certain harms.

The Insider reports:

Many of these Haidian preschool kids, growing up in what is essentially China’s Silicon Valley, are given a head start into the world of tech as early as possible.

Parents are tricked into thinking that they are overloading the schedules of their children for their benefit.

The Haidian mom Lily Zhao, who has an 8-year-old named Alice Xi, told Insider, “there’s absolutely no shame in injecting our kids with chicken blood” which means putting children in after-school extracurricular and tutoring classes and pushing them to achieve high grades in school.

Oftentimes, we are so focused on achieving structured future goals that we forget to intuitively capitalize on present situations.

“We allowed her to explore her interests when she was young, but now that she’s in school, every activity she participates in needs to account for something that’ll help her future,” Zhao said.

The Chinese government has intervened with a top-down decision to halt the spiraling expectations from youngsters.

In August, China issued a ban on after-school tutoring in an attempt to level the playing field for students.

However, an incentive-based approach would have probably been more effective. Changing the admittance policies of top universities or fostering a job market that is independent of formal education could have been more convincing to Chinese parents. Since this is not the strategy, parents are considering ways to circumvent the ban.

Some wealthy families are even hiring live-in tutors disguised as nannies.

The tutoring ban throws a wrench into the daily schedules of jiwas, but as tutoring centers and parents adapt to the new regulations, it’s becoming clear that parents will do anything to make sure their kids stay ahead, like forming small groups of kids for private tutors to teach, as CNBC reported.

Is Full-Time Education the Only Way?

I’ve often found it interesting to observe children packed in school buses. The commute to and from school is a long journey in the expanding metropolis. Whether it’s in the morning or the afternoon, a significant number of the kids usually look lifeless. What I find most disturbing is the idea of leaving the school at 2–4 pm and still being expected to study and do homework upon arrival at home. Where is the free time?

We need to realize which arenas are just not worth competing in particularly because those are arenas based on beliefs that don’t align with Islam.

For instance, we believe in the concept of Rizq (sustenance) and that Allah has promised to provide for all His creation. Education is a means to Rizq, but it is not the only means. Waking up early, going out into the world, and accepting whichever hustles Allah has chosen for us can oftentimes guarantee Rizq more than adhering to whatever model of success modern capitalist corporate culture has decided for us.

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As Muslim adults, who decide on behalf of our children, we need to review our motives behind fully immersing them in this capitalistic system. Are we driven by mere competition with other parents?

Taking a look at our Islamic traditions regarding children’s education can set our compass. In his book Al-Tartib Al Idariya, Shaykh Abdul Hayy al Kettany documents the origins of the weekly rest days for the students of the Makatib (Quran schools). Umar ibn al Khattab was the first to impose Sunnat al Istiraha (rest), which included Wednesday afternoon, Thursday, and Friday according to one report.

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Bukhari and Muslim also narrated the response of the Prophet’s companion, Ibn Mas`ud, to requests for daily sermons. He preferred to educate once a week in fear of the weariness of the learners, following the practice of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

If this is how concerned the Companions were about education versus free time with regards to Islamic knowledge, I believe we should be more lenient when it comes to the knowledge that is less critical to our afterlife. This is a partial view of Islamic guidance on life-education balance. For educators and parents, a more comprehensive educational reform has to be considered on an Islamic basis, with a critical view on what can be successfully imported from other systems.

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