Taipei Times: Cram schools contribute to onset of myopia: study
COOPED UP:Children are required to take breaks between classes at school, but at cram schools they attend classes for long periods of time without breaks, a researcher said
By Chang Tsung-chiu / Staff reporter Wed, Jun 27, 2018
Looking at objects from a close distance for long periods is a major cause of myopia in children and those who attend cram schools or after-school daycare centers are more likely to have worse eyesight, a study has found.
The study, published in the journal Ophthalmology, was jointly conducted by researchers from National Changhua University of Education, University College London, Taipei City Hospital, National Taiwan Normal University and National Taiwan University of Sports and other institutes, using statistics provided in the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s reports released once every four years.
One of the researchers, Ku Po-wen (古博文), a distinguished professor at National Changhua University of Education’s Graduate Institute of Sports and Health, on Monday said the study tracked changes in the eyesight of nearly 2,000 elementary-school children nationwide and found that the number of students with myopia increased by almost 30 percent over four years.
Most children who developed myopia attended a daycare center or cram school nearly everyday after school, where they attended more classes, did homework or took written tests, Ku said.
Each child on average spent 2.78 hours per day at a daycare center or cram school, he said, adding that the average time spent by a first and second-grade student at such an institute was 2.29 hours, while third and four-grade students spent 2.84 hours and fifth and sixth-grade students spent 3.1 hours.
The average time a child spent on the Internet or reading was estimated at 40 minutes per day, but the time they spent at daycare centers or cram schools was 4.5 times more than that, he said.
At school, children are required to take a 10-minute break following every 40-minute class and many would leave the classroom during those breaks, Ku said.
In contrast, at daycare centers or cram schools, children often have to read or look at objects from a close distance without taking any breaks for long periods of time, which significantly raises their risk of developing myopia, he said.
According to the ministry’s statistics, while less than 10 percent of kindergarten children have myopia, the percentage reaches 20 percent by the time they reach first grade and exceeds 70 percent by sixth grade, he said, adding that many children’s vision begin to significantly worsen in elementary school.
Looking at objects from a close distance for long periods of time — whether reading, drawing, playing with building blocks or using a smartphone — can cause myopia, Changhua’s Show Chwan Memorial Hospital ophtalmologist Kuan Pei-tzu (官珮慈) said.
Children’s eyeballs grow at a natural pace, but looking at objects from a close distance for long periods of time causes the eyeball’s axial length to grow too fast and give the eyeball an oblong shape, resulting in myopia, she said.