Students across nine colleges in China are being given extra vacation time this spring to “fall in love”.
China celebrates a one-day national holiday on 5 April, known as tomb-sweeping day, or the Qingming Festival. But the Fan Mei Education Group is extending the break to seven days and has a specific idea of how students should spend the time.
Walk out of campus, get in touch with nature, and with your heart feel the beauty of spring.Mianyang Flying Vocational College
“Walk out of campus, get in touch with nature, and with your heart feel the beauty of spring,” the school said in a statement. “The school implements the spring break system in the hope that students can learn to love nature, love life, and enjoy love.”
The colleges all offer vocational education for entry into the aviation sector. Liu Ping, deputy dean of Sichuan Southwest College, told China News Network that the school had made the change in response to student feedback requesting time to learn outside of campus, make new friends, and “experience the beauty of love.”
The emphasis on romance may seem a strange focus for an educational establishment, but it comes as part of China’s fight against demographic decline.
In 2022, China experienced a declining birth rate for the first time in 60 years and is set to be overtaken by India in population. Coupled with an aging workforce, the drop in births poses economic risks for the country. To address the situation, authorities dropped the nation’s one-child policy in 2016 and this year allowed families to expand to three children. But allowing more children is not the answer, when young people are unable to find a partner with whom they can even begin to try for a family.
In response, employers, regions and towns have invented rafts of incentives for people to wed. Marriage holiday allowances have been increased ten-fold in some areas. In Xiangyin county, a controversial campaign dubbed ‘warm older men’s beds’, attempted to encourage women to choose to live in rural areas and marry older local bachelors. The strategy included a matchmaking service, reduced bureaucracy when starting a family in a village, higher quality jobs, and propaganda to promote marriage and childbearing.
While the Fan Mei Education Group is not taking things quite that far, they are setting spring break assignments asking students to keep travel journals, make films and handicrafts and write reports on their personal growth.
Nearly 130 million views in two days were racked up on the Sichuan college website after it made the spring break exhortation to “enjoy the blossoms, go fall in love.”
One Weibo user seemed keen to join in, writing, “Can this not be popularized for the rest of the country?” “Sichuan is really strong at boosting the fertility rate!” replied another.
It’s not all romantic fun and games for the students though. As is customary in Chinese workplaces, they will be obliged to work at weekends taking catch-up classes to offset their extra time off.