Primary and middle schools in Beijing should carry out thorough inspections of all apps, WeChat groups and QQ groups that students use, as well as the WeChat and Weibo public accounts they follow to ensure the mobile tools will not harm students’ physical or psychological health.
Education authorities in Beijing should submit a report on their progress to the Beijing Municipal Education Commission by March 1, the commission said on Jan 29 in an online statement.
Apps that contain pornography, violence, online games, commercial advertisements or that increase students’ academic burdens are to be banned, it said.
The content, links, functions and information security of apps should be strictly reviewed and sent for approval to higher education authorities, and unapproved apps are forbidden from use by schools.
Homework and students’ scores and rankings should not be shared in chat groups, and teachers should refrain from praising students or criticizing them in the groups, the statement said.
Parents should not post sycophantic replies or advertisements or curry votes if their child is in the running for a prize or title, it said.
Schools and education authorities should also strengthen their supervision of content and the comments on their own social media accounts. They should not post anything that is forbidden by laws or regulations, it said.
On Jan 2, the Ministry of Education asked education authorities at all levels, along with middle and primary schools, to establish daily supervision to ensure that mobile apps used by the schools meet the standards set by the ministry.
Schools should avoid using apps to increase the academic load for students, and educational apps used on campus are not allowed to charge money. Information should be protected and privacy leaks should be prevented, the ministry said.
Xiong Bingqi, deputy head of the 21st Century Education Research Institute in Beijing, said the chat groups were originally designed as conduits of informative and harmonious dialogue between families and schools. Instead, the sheer convenience of the instant-messaging platform is becoming a cause of stress for teachers and parents alike.
“The chat groups no longer play their original role, but have instead devolved into a free-for-all in which parents argue, show off and bootlick to curry favor with teachers, while the teachers feel obliged to answer questions and requests from parents 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” he said.
Chu Zhaohui, a senior researcher at the National Institute of Education Sciences, said that although the Beijing regulation intends to protect students from harmful content, the education authorities should refrain from going to the extreme and regulating every aspect of students’ lives.
“The part about teachers not recommending any social media account not managed by the school is a bit over the top, as students should have the freedom to follow any legal account they want,” he said.