In the 1980s movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the eponymous hero takes skipping school to extraordinary levels. Played by Matthew Broderick, the young student fakes an illness to have fun in Chicago, taking in a baseball game, eating with friends at a fancy French restaurant and driving around in a 1961 Ferrari 250 California GT Spyder. Bueller then caps his awayday by singing the Beatles classic Twist and Shout at the city’s annual Von Steuben Day Parade.
Now, 27 years later, Chinese students are seeking to follow in Bueller’s footsteps by cutting classes. But in this case they’re not high school seniors but university students. And in typical Chinese fashion, skivving off has been turned into a moneymaking exercise.
The Beijing Youth Daily said the trend came to light ahead of the recent ‘Golden Week’, the holiday period following China’s National Day celebration on October 1. The internet was flooded by requests from students offering to pay others to attend class for them – answering their name at the roll call so they would not be penalised for truancy.
A typical example on a message board of internet giant Tencent went: “I want to go home before National Day but for fear of missing the roll call I’m looking for someone to help. Tell me your price. My requirements are girls who can attend classes for me on the 29th and 30th.”
Beijing Youth Daily says that particular student was able to find substitutes for all 16 of her classes in less than a day. The going rate per class was between Rmb20 ($3.28) and Rmb30.
The newspaper even discovered there’s a mobile phone app that can be used to arrange substitutes. Named the Super-Skipping Assistant, the service covers almost all universities in China, with students clicking on the courses they’d prefer not to attend.
A reporter tried it out and soon found a substitute willing to go to a class named ‘Introduction to Mao Zedong Thought and Theories of the System of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’. The Beijing woman who offered her services told the journalist that she’s been doing it for a couple of months – “In two days I can make a month’s worth of pocket money,” she said.
The creator of the app is Pu Bing, a sports major at a university in Sichuan province. He says hundreds of people arrange to skip classes using his software every day. But Pu also argues that he didn’t intend to encourage truancy, but rather to help students ditch more boring courses (clearly not Mao Zedong Thought, of course) in favour of classes they prefer. He launched the app in August, thinking it would be used by a few of his classmates. “I did not expect it would become so hot,” Pu admits.
Currently available only on Android, Pu is planning to release an iPhone-compatible version soon. Presumably he is using his own product to buy time to get the new version onto the market…
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