Chinese education authorities back lessons in love for students
The Chinese education ministry has expressed support for classes to teach students the “correct view of love” and “vast and enthusiastic” activities on campus to promote the correct view of family life.
The ministry made the comments in August in response to a National People Congress deputy’s recommendation that family education should be made a compulsory course in universities and colleges.
It said it would encourage “vast and enthusiastic cultural activities on campus” and guide students in establishing “the correct view of love, marriage and family”, which includes the awareness of the family as “an important basis for national development, national progress, and social harmony”.
The proposal only attracted widespread public attention on Thursday (Oct 6) after it featured in a newspaper article, gathering more than 140 million views and 6,500 posts on the social media platform Weibo.
The response online was mixed, with supporters including the high-profile Sichuanese entrepreneur Geng Xiangshun, who told his four million followers the classes “should provide positive guidance on sexual health [and] love psychology … rather than be teaching about the skills of being in a marriage”.
But another popular Weibo user known as Mr Mingde questioned whether university staff are the right people to teach about healthy relationships, given a series of scandals involving lecturers and their students.
“First of all, we should strengthen the psychological education of college teachers. Teachers’ morality comes first … It won’t be too late to educate the students after educating the teachers,” he wrote.
Others have praised the measure as a correct step to normalise conversations about love and sex, and hoped that the classes would serve to counter sexual violence and promote safe and healthy sex.
“Love is not a taboo topic. When children have curiosity and needs, discuss this topic with them naturally with a positive and open attitude,” sex education specialist Liu Wenli said.
The response may also have been prompted by a “psychology of love” lecture at Wuhan University last year by the head of the psychology department, Professor Yu Feng, which became a sensation online after videos showed a packed classroom with students who could not enter listening outside by the window.
“Young students will have expectations and desires for an intimate relationship, but they are yet to be clear about its significance on a personal level.
“If there is a course that gives them some guidance, many dilemmas and obstacles can be avoided,” Yu, who was educated at Tsinghua University in Beijing and the University of California, Berkeley, told Changjiang Daily, a newspaper from Hubei province.
The provincial newspaper also published the results of a survey, showing that nearly nine in 10 university students support a class about romantic love.
Most of those surveyed said they wanted to learn about resolving differences with their partner and handling the end of a relationship.
The most usual problems they identified were about confessing their love, getting along with their partner and maintaining long-distance relationships.
The motion put forward by National People’s Congress (NPC) deputy Huang Xihua in March suggested professionalising the field of family education, and teaching tertiary students the skills needed to maintain family relationships, including between married couples and parents and children.
The country is currently facing a widening gender imbalance, with nearly 40 million more males than females – a legacy of the one-child policy – and the authorities have been examining ways to increase the birth rate.
According to the latest figures from the National Bureau of Statistics, the Chinese population grew by only 480,000 last year, whereas a decade ago annual growth was commonly around eight million.