Smart and Healthy Living Hits China’s Schools

 

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Pupils at a primary school in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, use tablet computers in class.

 

By Wang Jiping

In the eyes of most Chinese parents and teachers, a healthy, orderly and balanced school life is crucial for students. But pollution, triggered by excessive smog in large cities and chemicals used in building materials, as well as inefficient teaching methods, have become great concerns of parents. In response to these issues, some schools and businesses are now trying to create smart and healthy campuses that provide a better environment for China’s young people.

Smart Campuses

With the rapid development of the internet of things, the concept of “smart campus” is being highly advocated in China.

By the end of 2016, internet usage will be fully integrated into 95 percent of primary and middle schools in China, and there will be more than 65 million online classrooms available, according to the Chinese Ministry of Education. Moreover, by using online public service platforms, more than 5 million digital education products such as 3D projectors will be shared among more than 60 million students and teachers in cities and even in remote areas that have lacked proper educational resources in the past.

At the same time, different forms of smart learning platforms and devices for enhancing students’ learning efficiency while reducing teachers’ workloads are being promoted.

A staff member at Lejiaolexue.com, a business offering cloud platforms for smart education, told China Report ASEAN that by the end of September 2016, their educational platform had been implemented in more than 50 domestic cities including Tianjin and even Ordos, a remote city in Inner Mongolia. The platform now has more than 13 million active users. Through the platform, students can interact with their teachers at any time, attend study groups from home and even make friends with students from other schools.

“Though teachers can organize class group chats by using WeChat and QQ [two instant messaging services popular in China], we have discovered that some parents and students sometimes send inappropriate content to such group chats, which upsets other users,” the staff member explained, adding that through this platform, teachers can delete inappropriate messages and even send warnings to group chat members.

Additionally, since more parents are eager to learn about their child’s education, teachers can produce videos using software installed on the platform, publishing school activities online.

Moreover, the platform will help teachers better organize their students and keep them focused on study even if classes are canceled. Such cancelations are typically caused by bad weather.

Even traditional printed books are making a comeback as China implements new education technology. In conjunction with a movement called “Nationwide Reading” pushed forward in the country, an automatic library machine named Easy Lib has been installed in a number of schools, including Cuiwei Primary School and National Day School, both in Beijing. Such libraries will provide more convenience for students who want to borrow or return books when librarians are not at work.

At the same time, librarians can more accurately track the location of each book and curtail the risk of losing books. By using data recorded in a monitoring system inside Easy Lib, librarians can also track which kinds of books are most popular, said Zhang Hongyu, sales director of Beijing Zhongzhi Internet Technology Co., Ltd, Easy Lib’s producer.

However, schools that pursue smart development are not fully satisfied with these early initiatives. A teacher at the Beijing National Day School told China Report ASEAN that his school is considering purchasing Virtual Reality devices for use in arts and natural science courses. Such devices could provide a multi-dimensional and lively learning environment for students, the teacher said.

Healthy and Safe Campuses

Pollution is a growing concern among people in China, and therefore, citizens across the country are prioritizing green and healthy campus environments by every possible means.

Chang Yutang, deputy general manager of the Beijing Waypoints Environmental Research Institution, told China Report ASEAN that more and more schools in Beijing are taking part in a project called “Planning and Construction of Ecological Campuses”. Some schools have already asked Chang’s company to help them install special high-tech gadgets such as air purifiers to treat smog, water purification equipment that keeps drinking water at a suitable temperature and even school mini-gardens to allow students to learn more about ecology.

Shan Sisi, a teacher at Beijing 101 Middle School told China Report ASEAN that students in her class find such mini-gardens extremely interesting. Her students enthusiastically nurture plants and carefully record their growth, Shan said.

“I feel proud and happy as I work on the garden at school, and I have learned more about plants and their habits,” one of Shan’s students once wrote as part of a weekly essay assignment. “This makes me feel proud as the plants are growing healthily.”

In addition, environmentally-friendly materials including nontoxic synthetic resin and more durable wooden beams are being used in construction on campuses, said Hu Weimin, vice president of Green World Sports Industry Incorporated. All issues related to children’s health should be treated seriously, Hu said.

At the same time, smart security systems are being widely implemented at schools, too. Xu Fangming, a manager at the technology licensing department of Hanvon Technology Co., Ltd, said that his firm now works with schools to apply facial recognition software into campus life for daily security issues. Moreover, it will help to eliminate cheating during important examinations such as Gaokao, China’s university entrance examination.

The detailed camera used by Xu’s company can accurately identify children even if their faces change as they grow up.

“With the device’s help, I believe schools will become better organized,” Xu said.

Xu added that such technology can help schools secure their campuses. For example, if an unregistered person enters campus, facial recognition software can record the person’s face and send an early warning to campus security. If the unregistered person is eventually proven to be dangerous, his or her facial features will be recorded, allowing security officials to restrict his or her access to the campus permanently.

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