CHINA: School children made to wear green scarf 'brandished as underachievers'

Summary: While elementary students in Chinese public schools with high academic merit are required to wear a red scarf, those 'underachieving' are forced to wear green scarves.

[30 October 2011] - Humiliating less 'able' children by making them sit in the corner with a dunce hat on is surely antiquated and about as politically incorrect as believing that all Muslims are terrorists. At the First Primary Experimental School in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, however, student discrimination and humiliation [are] well and truly back on the agenda.

While all elementary students in Chinese public schools are required to wear a red scarf to symbolise the national flag and the national 'Pioneer Movement', in order to distinguish the academic achievements of it students, those 'achieving' students are permitted to continue wearing a red scarf, whilst those 'underachieving' are forced to wear green scarves.

The discriminatory tactic, which, according to the school, aims to motivate underachieving children to study harder, gain better results, and 'upgrade' to a red scarf, has naturally been met with disdain by parents. One such parent is Ms. Su, who was shocked when her daughter, a first grade student, came home wearing a green scarf.

"They [the kids] know what the green scarf means even if nobody says anything. We are always told that the red scarf is a corner of our red flag, a symbol of a young pioneer, now what role does this green scarf play?" Ms. Su said.

Instead of motivating students to achieve better grades, the green scarves visibly brandish them as underachievers. Such a humiliating tactic could damage a child's self-esteem, especially since primary school-age children are especially prone to feeling embarrassed and not wanting to be the "odd one out".

TV presenter Bai Yansong voiced his contention towards the green scarves, whilst wearing a green tie himself on the programme, to show his 'solidarity' towards the 'branded' children. The topic has also evoked intensely debated discussions on Chinese micro-blogging sites.

In the wake of the controversy, widespread publicity and condemnation that First Experimental Primary School triggered, the school has halted the use of green scarves.

There is a sense of relief Chinese students will no longer have to go through the fear and misery of being branded as 'green scarf underachievers'. Forcing a child to wear a symbol that reflects his or her academic underachievement is a tragic humiliation someone so young should not be forced to endure.

Further Information:

Owner: Gabrielle Pickardpdf:


Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.