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Chinese province bans app-based homework to save pupils’ eyesight

Zhejiang issues draft regulation to combat soaring rates of nearsightedness

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Students line up to get their eyes tested at a primary school in Huzhou City, Zhejiang province. Photograph: AP

A Chinese province plans to ban teachers from assigning homework to be completed on mobile phone apps as part of efforts to preserve students’ eyesight, AP reports.

Zhejiang, in the east of the country, issued a draft regulation last week and sought public comment. It is one of several provinces considering such measures.

Along with barring app-based homework assignments, the regulation would limit the use of electronic devices to 30% of total teaching time and encourage the issuing of paper homework to be completed by hand.

Soaring rates of nearsightedness have been blamed partly on screen usage. While China’s overall rate of myopia is 31%, among high school students it is 77% and 80% among college students.

The regulation aims to lower the proportion to 70% among senior high school students, with rates among primary school students targeted at 38% and junior high school students at 60%.

The regulation would prevent primary and middle school students from bringing electronic devices into classrooms without permission, restrict amounts of homework assigned and increase the time for breaks, sports and extracurricular activities.

It says no written homework should be assigned to first and second graders.

National education authorities have issued a proposal to prevent teachers from using the popular WeChat or QQ messaging apps for assigning homework and banned them from asking parents to mark their children’s work.

The education ministry also called for only paper homework assignments for primary and middle school students “in principle”.

Mobile devices are unlikely to be abandoned entirely as a means of supplementing classwork. Language apps, especially those for learning English pronunciation, are popular with students, many of whom are more likely to own smartphones than home computers.

Limiting screen time is of particular concern in Asia, where rates of myopia are higher than in Europe and north America. Singapore is believed have the highest proportion of nearsighted people, with a myopia level of about 80%.

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