China’s ‘wonder kids’ are literally too good to be true

China/ 23 July 2020/ Source/

By Kristin Huang

A group of overly pushy Chinese parents have triggered a public backlash after it emerged they had helped their children win national science prizes.

The news that the so-called “wonder kids” were, in fact, the children of scientists who had provided a little too much help with their studies has prompted calls for society to take a more balanced approach to child-rearing and education.

On Thursday, the China Adolescents Science and Technology Innovation Contest (CASTIC) committee revoked a third prize obtained by a primary school pupil in Yunnan province.

The boy originally won the prize for genetic research into colorectal cancer but it later emerged he could not have carried out the research on his own due to his limited understanding of genetics.

His father, a specialist in tumours and stem cells at the Kunming Institute of Zoology, later admitted he had helped his son and issued a public letter apologising for his actions.

“I did not fully grasp the key competition guideline that the research report should be written by the author alone, and became over-involved into the study’s compilation process,” said the letter.

He also pleaded for tolerance and understanding, saying his son had suffered from “extreme mental pressure”, the open letter said.

Questions also surround two primary schoolchildren whose father is a professor at the University of Wuhan, specialising in liver disease. The pair took third prize in the same awards two years ago for a study on how tea-leaf extracts could help fight liver tumours.

Their father has denied helping them with the research, according to the news portal, and the Wuhan Municipal Science and Technology Association has said the pair came up with the idea themselves and carried out the research under the guidance of a teacher.

Though the statement said the two students received the necessary training before conducting the experiment, medical professionals said they would have had to carry out dissections for the experiment and questioned how such young children were able to get the credentials to do this.

Questions also surround a boy from Sichuan, who has won three CASTIC awards for research into physics, computer science and artificial intelligence.

His latest paper into how driverless cars identify traffic signs had apparently achieved a higher accuracy rate than the best technology on the market,

One unnamed algorithm engineer from a Shanghai-based self-driving company told the news portal that if the boy’s research was genuine it should be published in a top-ranked journal.

The reports have raised public debate about the problems with helping children cheat the system.

“If the scientific research opportunities brought about by family relationships help students generate interest and inspire scientific thinking, can such channels be opened up to others who don’t have this kind of family ties? Because the funding and research facilities you use were provided by the country, not your family,” read a piece on a WeChat account called The Intellectual.

And China’s state news agency Xinhua said in a commentary on Thursday that a child should be properly guided and say no to academic fraud, otherwise it would be counterproductive.

Amid complaints about the education system being too stressful for schoolchildren, China has been issuing new rules to reduce the academic burden on students, with a recent ruling in May that banned classes from teaching beyond the syllabus.


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