‘Back to School’ in China: What to expect?

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In our last week’s blog, we learned some useful lingo in Chinese that you can use in school settings. Can you still recall some memories from your first days back to school when you were a child? For me, there are still many fresh memories from those days. This is because the first day back to school is always so much fun! After a long summer holiday, children are often looking forward to sitting in the classroom and playing on the playground, again, with their friends.

An elementary school classroom in China
Chengdu, Sichuan province, China ; teacher giving a lesson to children in a Chinese classroom

Kids in China share the same excitement. But what will actually happen on the first day of school in Chinese elementary schools?

This will be our topic for today. I hope that this short piece will introduce you to some special moments in Chinese elementary school children create on their first day back to school.

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A Typical First school day in China

As far as I can recall, every time when school begins, a few things will definitely be on the schedule: a flag-raising ceremony and several speeches.

Normally, all the students and teachers will gather on the playground, and the day starts with a flag-raising section. After that, the head teacher, teacher representative, student representative and sometimes a parent will give speeches.

Flag of the china (isolated); From Assets Delivery
Flag of the china; From Assets Delivery

This will usually last for about 2 hours, and as you can imagine it’s not fun for the children. But since it’s the first day and they are there with their friends and classmates, with their excitement the two hours pass quickly.

The core theme of this ceremony is to encourage students to begin the new semester of learning with enthusiasm and to get themselves actively involved in the school life. It also creates a sense of togetherness and prepares the student for the upcoming year.

After this, the students will go back to their own classrooms and their teachers will handout the new books. Many teacher will have a set classroom seating plan already laid out, so that kids can seat with different classmates and make new friends each semester (many will adjust monthly or biweekly).

Then there will be a time for students to exchange their holiday stories with each other. After all, they haven’t seen each other for quite sometime and each has a lot share!

Summer holidays, entertainment, childhood, leisure and people concept - group of happy pre-teen kids playing rock-paper-scissors game in park
From Assets Delivery

There won’t be any formal class on the first day. Teachers of different subjects will chat a bit with the kids and let them share what they want to. This is a very relaxed first day in comparison to how difficult classes can be. Since this may be the first time that these teachers are meeting the students it also allows them to introduce themselves.

What’s new?

The above is what will typically happen on the first day of the semester every year. It can be a little boring as it’s always the same.

However, in recent years some schools have come up with some new ideas to liven up the students first day. Among this, is there any other ways that are more novel than a traditional worship ceremony of Confucius? In the time of the emperors, scholars, high-level students and officials did this to pay tribute to the Grand teacher, Confucius.

A Confucius Ceremony in Guiyang, CHina; From Chinanews.com
A Confucius Ceremony in Guiyang, CHina; From Chinanews.com

Participants all have to dress in Hanfu, the traditional Chinese cloth and conduct a very formal worship dance following along to traditional music. This ceremony is not only about Confucius, but also the god of literacy, and other related gods in the Chinese culture.

To maintain this cultural tradition and to enrich children’s school life, recently many elementary schools in China begin have begun to hold this activity. So kids get the chance to experience what their ancestor have done and to learn about their cultural heritage.

Compared to a relatively dull speech assembly, this is more fun for children. Through the use of the clothes and dance equipment the children are able to experience and appreciate traditional culture first hand.

Of course, there are many other ways that schools try to make this first day special, but no matter what happens the students feel lucky and excited to reunite with their friends!

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