Over this year’s summer vacation, many Chinese pupils are ditching app-based homework and picking up pens and paper to preserve their eyesight.

Ms Zhu Ting, a resident of Hefei, capital of eastern China’s Anhui Province, supervised her nine-year-old son while he completed his homework including writing and maths by hand.

Her son’s teachers were banned from assigning summer homework to be completed on mobile apps.

“But it was not always like this,” Ms Zhu said.

When her son was in first grade, she installed various apps on her phone, such as English dubbing, maths operation and essay writing.

“However, my kid was addicted to the screen, which affected his eyesight,” she said.

Educational apps have caught on among Chinese schools and families in recent years.

In April 2018, the number of monthly active users of educational apps in China exceeded 220 million. Among them, users aged between six and 18 reached 146 million, up 41 per cent year on year, according to a report published by QuestMobile, a leading big data service provider.

However, app-based homework is a double-edged sword, which can assist students in learning, but excessive screen time and a lack of outdoor activities can cause myopia.

China is combating myopia among children and teenagers as the disease has become severe in recent years. More than half of Chinese children and teenagers suffered from myopia in 2018, figures from the National Health Commission show.

In February, eastern China’s Zhejiang province issued a draft regulation to ban app-based homework assignments, limit the use of electronic devices to 30 per cent of total teaching time and encourage the issuing of paper homework to be completed by hand.

Zhejiang is among a bevy of Chinese provinces taking measures to help students reduce reliance on app-based homework to tackle vision problems.

In eastern China’s Fujian Province, the local government requires schools to strictly control the assignment of homework through educational apps. The daily time of doing electronic homework for junior and senior middle school students should be no more than 20 minutes.

Mr Xiong Bingqi, vice-president of 21st Century Education Research Institute, a leading educational think-tank in China, said limiting the amount and time of app-based homework assignments is of great significance to alleviating teenagers’ myopia.

He also noted that schools and teachers should be given more liberty to guide students to use apps and online resources based on different needs of disciplines and students’ ages.

Family education counsellor Wang Yi said: “We need to update our knowledge on online education and evaluate its actual effect in a professional way to help teachers and parents make choices.”

“The quality of online education should be improved. Simply putting the contents of textbooks and teaching materials on the screen is not appropriate,” Ms Wang said.

Ms Wang said that where she lives in Xi’an, primary schools also required the reduction or elimination of Web-based homework for the summer holiday and encouraged more sports activities and parent-children interaction.

“The homework goes offline, aiming to train children’s problem-solving abilities and help them cultivate good habits. It is undoubtedly more popular,” she said.

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