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Opinion
What Kind of First Class of the New Term Do Students Need?
 NO. 37 SEPTEMBER 13, 2018

For many years, The First Class of the New Term has been shown before the opening of the new school year on the evening of September 1 on China Central Television (CCTV). The Ministry of Education requires that all primary and middle schools around the country inform students of the broadcast time and ask students to watch the program with their parents. As a large-scale public welfare program, which is designed to provide positive and uplifting content to the young, it has been embraced by students and their parents for many years.

The twist came with this year's broadcast. The advertisement period lasted for more than 10 minutes at the beginning of the broadcast at eight o'clock, the time students were advised to tune in. In addition, the ads promoted afterschool classes, which is something the Ministry of Education is trying to curb.

People from all walks of life expressed their views on this year's program.

Education not ads

Wei Yingjie (Qiangjiang Evening News): This year's The First Class of the New Term was laden with advertisements. Most parents expressed their dissatisfaction. Since it's supposed to be a program for public benefit, and the Ministry of Education demands primary and middle school students across the country watch it, the program should be focusing on education, rather than commercial and business matters. By no means should an administrative power be involved to enhance audience ratings. Students were told that the program would start at eight o'clock, but what appeared on the screen at that time was not the program itself, but one ad after another.

According to technical procedures, these commercials were scheduled ahead of time and must have been on the list long ago. If you watched carefully, it was easy to notice that the camera was repeatedly directed to smart watches on the wrists of the children. Is this intentional or accidental? Worse still, not only were online training agency ads broadcast, but the founder of an education training agency at a certain university also appeared on screen. Is this what the program really needs? At some point, we can't help but suspect that even the formal program was just part of the many advertisements.

Now, the students and their parents are giving the program creators a lesson, educating them on what punctuality and credibility means. Even if the ads were arranged so that the program could be better funded, there are still some things that should not be done. If it loses the trust of the students and their parents, the program will also gradually lose its reason to exist.

Zhang Limei (www.eastday.com): Today, TV stations depend on advertisements to make profits. It is very common to see quite a number of long commercials inserted before and during TV series or variety shows.

However, The First Class of the New Term, a program co-created by China's Ministry of Education and China Media Group, is quite different from other variety shows and educational programs in that it is a public welfare program. But this year, before the program even started, more than 10 minutes of afterschool tutorial advertisements were broadcast. Many accused it of deviating from its original purpose of impacting a positive message to the students for their own good.

This program is designed not for entertainment but for education. It aims to educate primary and middle school students nationwide about what is important. This requires that the guests invited to this program and content arrangement meet public expectations. However, what we saw on the screen was misleading students into bad habits of not keeping time and behaving irresponsibly.

Moreover, the reason why this program has a very high audience rating is that schools, at the behest of the Ministry of Education, demand parents watch the program with their children, who are also required to write down their impressions about the program. However, when students and their parents across the country sat down in front of their screens on the evening of September 1, the formal program was put off by prolonged commercial ad time. No wonder the parents were enraged, demanding an explanation from CCTV. It's important to bring this program back to its original course to educate and benefit the public, or it may soon be dismissed altogether by the public.

Wrong message

Zhu Qingjian (baijiahao.baidu.com): The First Class of the New Term has been an important program presented by CCTV as a kind of guide for primary and middle school students, who are required to write down their thoughts about the program after watching it. Thus, as a program offered by a high-profile platform such as CCTV, expectations are high. We don't deny the many merits of this year's program, such as the attention to the rural areas and education there, the publicity of traditional Chinese culture and the introduction of some scientists, among other things. However, the many problems can't be overlooked.

First, the program did not keep time. Students are told to be punctual in terms of going to school and handing in homework. However, the program itself was not punctual at all.

Second, the class was not so much a normal class as an advertisement class. After the trailer at eight o'clock, advertisements began non-stop, lasting for about 15 minutes, occupying the audience's private time.

Third, the content of these advertisements was mostly contradicting Ministry of Education regulations and orders to ban extramural classes. Do these ads mean to persuade students to go to their tutorial classes?

It's hoped that these flaws will no longer be there next year, we don't like to be treated in such an irresponsible way.

Zhao Qingyuan (The Beijing News): Let's take a look at what the advertisements consisted of during The First Class of the New Term. There were ads for mattresses, soybean milk machines, liquor, tiles, gelatin, electric machines, automobiles, cooker hoods, electric cars and children's toothpaste, among others. What is even more unacceptable is that at a time when the Ministry of Education is making efforts to relieve students of heavy school burdens by cutting off-campus training agencies, to the public's surprise, online tutoring ads were repeatedly broadcast before the program.

These ads were bound with the formal program as if they were inseparable parts. I don't know how students felt after watching the whole show. If this program were a common show, it would be understandable that there would be some commercials and if you didn't like it, you could just skip it.

But this is a program created by the Ministry of Education for all primary and middle school students, who also have to write something about the program afterward. It is in reality a national TV lesson. Putting advertisements before the formal program is actually transforming educational classes into a commercial market and doing damage to children's growth.

In recent years, investors have been trying hard to extract profits from children's education, which is seen as a big prize all the way from kindergarten to university. As a result, more and more schools and educational institutions give in to commercial profits, and in some extreme cases, schools even begin to act like commercial organizations by providing all kinds of training programs. It's a pity that today we witnessed this even on a formal educational program offered by CCTV.

Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo

Comments to dingying@bjreview.com

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