Authorities in several cities have announced plans to provide day care services for primary school students during the upcoming summer vacation to alleviate the pressure on working parents to take care of their children.
The Beijing Municipal Education Commission announced on Friday that education authorities in each district should designate schools to take part in the service based on the needs of students.
The services will not be mandatory and students should go to the school nearest to their homes, the commission said.
Participating schools are required to make their libraries and other learning facilities accessible to students over the summer vacation. While schools are allowed to schedule sports activities for the students, no academic training or group tutoring is permitted, the commission said.
The schools will be allowed to charge fees for the service, but should offer fee exemptions to students in financial difficulty, it added.
Tens of thousands of primary school students in Shanghai began attending summer day care classes on Monday, Xinhua News Agency reported.
The day care service will last till Aug 13, with the city hiring more than 12,000 university student volunteers to take care of primary school students.
Started in 2014, the program has provided services to more than 180,000 students.
Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, and Zhumadian and Luohe in Henan province have also announced similar services for primary school students.
Wei Baixing, father of a first grade student in Beijing's Chaoyang district, said he is thrilled with the education authorities' initiative to offer day care during the summer vacation.
He and his wife have to work, and taking care of their son during vacations has always been a headache for the family, he said.
Although his son's school has not published the details of the service, one of his colleagues, whose son attends school in Dongcheng district, said it only charges 360 yuan ($56) for a 12-day session plus 264 yuan for lunches, which was much cheaper than tutoring classes offered by private institutions, he said.
"I hope he can do some reading and play sports and games during the vacation, so he can form better relationships with his classmates and teachers," Wei said.
To alleviate the pressure on working parents when picking up children on school days, the Ministry of Education has asked all primary and middle schools in urban areas to offer after-school programs that should run until half an hour after the usual time that office work ends.
Xiong Bingqi, director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute in Beijing, said schools should not force all teachers to take part in the day care service as they are also entitled to rest during the vacation.