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Although autumn is fast approaching Beijing, the noon heat still burns Chu Jinjing’s skin and about other 3,300 freshmen on Tsinghua University’s campus.
Military training has long been considered a ritual that freshmen must go through in order to officially kick off their college lives. While some question the necessity of such training, many students see military training as a campus tradition that should be maintained.
Early in February, the Ministry of Education issued a new regulation that colleges and universities should carry out a minimum of 14 days compulsory military training for freshmen.
In a report by Beijing Evening News, Hou Zhengfang, a Beijing-based education PhD, questioned the benefits of military training.
“The training routine does little to improve students’ physical fitness over only two weeks time,” said Hou. “Maybe some disaster prevention training, such as earthquake survival or escaping from fires would be of greater benefit.”
Meng Yang, a freshman majoring in management at Guangxi University, fainted during training. She said that many students, especially girls, are reluctant to train under direct sunshine.
“For me, military training is physically challenging and even damages my health,” said the 19-year-old.
According to Li Jian from the student affairs office of Guangzhou University, blackouts happen frequently during military training and the school has received a lot of complaints from both students and parents.
“But I still think military training is a good thing,” said Li. “Students are easier to manage after the military training.”
Li also noted that “students became more positive about their new environment after the training”.
Although Chu Jinjing, a Tsinghua University freshman majoring in medicine, did feel some discomfort while training in sweaty clothes in the glaring heat, the 18-year-old still enjoyed being part of a group going through rigorous exercises.
“By going through this tough training, students bond faster and a sense of belonging to the school can be cultivated,” said Chu. “I made a lot of friends already.”
According to the Ministry of Education, the purpose of military training is to teach students discipline, the spirit of teamwork and endurance. But in reality, according to Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, the effect is not satisfying.
“Such goals require long-term cultivation,” said Xiong. “It is unrealistic to expect military training to make a difference in only 14 days.”
Xiong thus suggests that it should be up to schools to conduct military training in a way that best suits their students.
However, Wang Wenhui, a freshman majoring in automation at Xi’an Jiaotong University, sees military training as a tradition that reaches beyond character building.
“From junior and senior high school to college, we join military training to start a new journey,” said 18-year-old Wang. “I would feel a bit incomplete without it.”