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By Yaxue Cao Earlier last week, I was on the phone with an artist friend of mine in Beijing. We talked about the documentary he was making, my ideas about a story, and we chitchatted a little about our children. He too has two children and the older girl was a fourth grader, a couple of years younger than my daughter. The next day I received the following email from W: “I attended the Reading Festival performance of my daughter’s school this morning. I sat through the hour-long event horrified. The entire show had nothing to do with kids or reading, nor did the children look innocent and lovely. Instead, I watched Party’s propaganda, shrill patriotism, and twisted rendition of history. The fawning on teachers gave me goose […]


By Yaxue Cao, published: November 12, 2011   To say life didn’t start promisingly for him is a vast understatement. He was born on November 12, 1971, in the impoverished village Dong Shi Gu (东师古) in Yinan County, Shandong province, the youngest of five boys. He lost his vision to high fever when he was around one year old. He didn’t go to school until 18 years old. In the Chinese countryside, where living is at its barest, expectations are a rare commodity to begin with, and for the disabled, there are none. For most of the part, they are seen and treated as a family scourge that must be borne. A Naughty Boy Despite blindness, he told friends he had a happy childhood. His […]


There are two major stories that have been grabbing headlines over the summer: the rising cost of everything, and a growing number of food safety concerns. As the school year begins, it seems these two issues have converged in a way that could have deadly effects. In many parts of China school lunch prices are not actually set by the schools themselves, but by local gov’t mandates. This means that when the cost of pork, or other ingredients, increases for the school, the price to the students has to remain the same. Since actions to raise the price would not be welcomed (there have been mini-riots in schools that tried this, even when inflation was much lower), cafeterias are left with two options: one being to decrease […]


I have been teaching in Chinese universities and middle schools for almost 4 years now as well as having observed classes at all levels in China’s educational system. So forget what you’ve read lately about China’s schools rating number one in the world, the educational system here is full of problems. Over these next few days I’ll be outlining some of the major problems with the system as well as presenting a shocking exposé of what may be the worst school in China. I can already hear angry readers scrolling down to leave a nasty comment, so I think we should start by looking at a few things that they do very well before we look at the limits of such a system. There are […]


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