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Homeschooling now a growing trend in mainland China

BEIJING -- Back in her hometown in northern Shanxi province, little Liu Yanxiu used to struggle to finish her school homework, staying up till 11pm on some nights. But that heavy workload is now lifted off her little frame, with her days a lot less stressful.

After seeing her struggle for two years in the public education system, which is free up to junior high school, her parents enrolled her in a private “homeschool” earlier this year in Beijing opened by homeschooling dad Zhang Qiaofeng. This is despite the yearly fee of around 80,000 yuan (US$13,000).

At the Beijing Dragon Academy, which is actually the living room of Zhang's apartment, converted into a school and a reading corner, Yanxiu, eight, takes lessons such as English language and reading with her sole classmate, Zhang's son.

Zhang decided to share his teaching method with other parents last year after he started homeschooling his son, now eight, two years ago.

“I like going to school at home because there isn't that much homework. It's fun because we also get to go to the nearby parks to play,” said Yanxiu who lives with Zhang's family.

Yanxiu is among an increasing number of children in China whose parents are eschewing public schools in favor of smaller-scale alternatives.

Frustrated with the rigid teaching methods, the slow pace of learning and a spate of student abuse scandals in the public schools, more Chinese parents are rethinking their children's education.

About 2,000 children are being homeschooled in areas such as Beijing, Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces, where mothers have largely taken on the role of educator, according to a report last month by non-governmental organisation 21st Century Education Research Institute. There are no comparable figures from previous years.

Though Illegal, Not Banned

Homeschooling is illegal in China under the 1986 compulsory education law. But the authorities seem to be going easy on the practice, with even the state media reporting on the rising trend as far back as 2005.

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