A boy competes in a golf match for children in Zhengzhou, Henan province, on April 19, 2014. [Photo/CFP]
"Hand us a kid, we give you back a future leader," said a poster outside an education training agency in Guangzhou, Guangdong province.
According to a staff member of the agency, it offers classes that develop "CEO characteristics" in children aged 3 to 12 years old. The cost is staggeringly high at 50,000 yuan ($7,500) a year for one or two sessions weekly.
In a golf training club in the city's Tianhe district, a five-day training course for children is recruiting students during the summer vacation. A coach surnamed Deng told a Xinhua reporter that the course teaches basic knowledge and movements, as well as the etiquette of golf, "aiming to cultivate the physical and mental endurance of children."
Such high-end training classes are popular among rich parents in the city. A man surnamed Liao enrolled his two-year-old daughter in a private English class. The 8,800-yuan course has around 15 students and provides two classes each week. "A lot of parents enroll their children and in less than an hour, the class was filled."
As "CEO classes" spring up in China in recent years, complaints about misleading advertisements for such courses have grown rapidly. In the first half of 2016, more than 2,600 such complaints have been filed with China's Consumers Association.
The effects of these extracurricular classes are dubious with some parents claiming the classes were not worth the high fees.
In one of the "CEO training" classes, infants can be seen playing in the room during weekends. A staff member of the training organization said that they provide thinking training - filling in the blanks in quizzes, and hands-on skills - such as model assembling.
"In fact, the class provides a place for the children to play together. It is actually a baby-sitting organization," said Liao. "Some parents enrolled their kids because they did not want to see their children left behind by their peers."
A staff member at a jockey club in Shenzhen said that a lot of parents followed their friends to sign their kids up. "They are all from rich families," he said.
Safety problems have also emerged. In one jockey club in Shenzhen where a class was opened for children aged three years or older earlier this year, the coaches and facilities were not tailor-made for children, posing a threat to the safety of the minors.
Experts warn these training classes meant to groom future elites may backfire.
Young kids are not yet able to evaluate information and communicate like adults, so it is questionable whether they can develop leadership skills, said Fang Haiguang, a professor of education in Capital Normal University. Moreover, summer vacation is designed for children to relax, but training courses put too much pressure on the kids, he said.
Li Ran, a primary school teacher from Beijing, said that parents sent their children to training classes in the hope of making them more competitive in exams or purely out of vanity, but that may stifle the children's own interests and make them averse to such training sessions.
He advised parents to choose training courses based on their kids' interests and encouraged kids to do some chores around the house to improve their life skills.
By Ma Chi (chinadaily.com.cn)
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