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Need to ensure youths grow up to be dedicated, healthy persons

By Kang Bing | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-26 07:33
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A view of Beijing's CBD area. [Photo/VCG]

According to a recent survey conducted by China Youth Daily, about 53.3 percent of the young respondents said their language and communication abilities have declined over the past few years. Given that the surveyors interviewed only 1,333 young adults and did not provide much information on the respondents' background, the survey, as one of many of its kind, should not have been taken seriously. But the result led to hot discussions by both the mainstream and social media in China largely because it echoed the public's feelings.

Reporters of some newspapers have been interviewing experts to find the reasons for the unwelcoming phenomenon. Some youngsters are arguing the survey results fail to reflect the fact, while some are blaming China's examination-oriented education system, which deprives students of the time for after-school reading, for the decline in young adults' language skills. Others have blamed smartphones for the sorry state of affairs.

I tend to agree somewhat with the criticism. I won't hesitate to point out the bad effects of smartphones. I have written a number of columns, expressing concern over youngsters spending less time reading non-school books to lighten their academic burden. Once when I saw 99 percent of the commuters in a crowded subway car — I was perhaps the only exception — glued to their smartphones, I murmured to myself: "A whole generation will be ruined by the devil device."

Our educators have taken a series of measures, including giving students less homework and requiring students to hand in their phones immediately after entering campus, so they can read more books and improve (or develop) their language skills, assuming that the use of smartphones by young adults was a main reason for the decline in their language skills.

To change the so-called examination-oriented educational system is impossible, especially because not all those taking the college entrance exam each year are accepted for the four-year undergraduate courses. We know the system is not perfect but have to acknowledge that nothing is more perfect.

Since we cannot reverse the trends, we should try to co-exist with them. I suggest that unhappy souls like me adopt a wait-and-see attitude toward the declining language skills of young adults even if smartphones are to primarily blame for it. By wait and see, I don't mean doing nothing but wait.

After the students' academic burden was reduced following years of efforts, the rate of myopia among school children declined and their physical fitness improved, said a recent survey. But we don't need a survey to believe that students today are spending more time reading books after school.

Reading less? No, say many youngsters. They argue that, in fact, they are reading more, though not books printed on paper but on the screens of the electronic devices. As for communication ability, they argue they just feel more at home when communicating with friends using "internet language" and emojis which elder generations may not understand. I believe they are not lying.

The problem is online information is usually fragmented, not authoritative or well-edited, in some cases not edited at all. This means much or a big percentage of what they are reading on social media platforms might be rumors, unhealthy contents, false information and poorly written pieces. What we can do is to require the internet tycoons and app platforms to invest more on improving their contents and conduct stricter monitoring by deleting rumors and all the unhealthy stuff and editing out poorly-written pieces.

Science and technology can change life. At a time when we are promoting artificial intelligence and seeing robots taking care of us as nurses, we know we may have to be more tolerant to youngsters and their changing reading habits. What we can do at the moment is to ensure whatever the young adults read on their screens can help them truly grow up.


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