PROBLEMS AT CHINESE SCHOOLS: CHEATING, CLIFFS, EXPLOSIONS AND MYOPIA

PROBLEMS IN CHINESE SCHOOLS

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student essays
There is a lot of pressure on students especially when it comes to exams. Authorities reroute traffic and halt construction so students are not disturbed when taking the exams. In Shanghai, there is a city ordinance that bans honking or construction work near a testing site when university exams are given.

Many Chinese parents and students complain that there is too much homework. Sile jiù bùyòng xie zuòyè (“I don’t have to do homework if I’m dead”) was popular meme in 2011. In September of that year, three 10-year-old girls in Jiangxi Province skipped school one day because they hadn’t completed their homework. When after a whole day of work they still hadn’t finished their assignments, one of the girls had the drastic idea to commit suicide. The three girls climbed up to the top of a house and, holding hands, leapt off. The girls survived the fall, and the incident attracted national attention for their alarming response to a universal student chore. “I was scared to jump,” one of the girls recalled, “but I was also scared of being punished for not finishing my homework — I don’t have to do homework if I’m dead.” It was this last sentence that became famous, ranking number six on the year’s list of terms.

See Separate Articles:CHINESE SCHOOLS Factsanddetails.com/China CHILD REARING IN CHINA factsanddetails.com ; LITTLE EMPERORS AND MIDDLE CLASS KIDS IN CHINA factsanddetails.com ; SCHOOL LIFE IN CHINA: RULES, REPORT CARDS, FILES, CLASSES Factsanddetails.com/China ; VILLAGE SCHOOLS IN 19TH CENTURY CHINA factsanddetails.com ; SCHOOL CURRICULUM IN CHINA factsanddetails.com ; TEACHERS IN CHINA factsanddetails.com ; PRIMARY SCHOOLS IN CHINA factsanddetails.com ; SECONDARY SCHOOLS IN CHINA factsanddetails.com THE GAOKAO: THE CHINESE UNIVERSITY ENTRANCE EXAM factsanddetails.com

Chinese Parents Send Their Kids Overseas to Study

More and more school-age Chinese are studying abroad, in many cases because they or their parents are fed up with the Chinese education system. “In the U.S. alone, Chinese students make up about half of the 60,815 foreign pupils in high schools and 6,074 in primary schools. [Source: Liyan Qi, China Real Time, Wall Street Journal, August 25, 2016]

According to the Wall Street Journal: “Frustrated with a rigid education system and a growing list of grievances, more and more well-off Chinese parents send their children away when the children are increasingly young. More than 520,000 people left China to study abroad last year, up nearly 14 percent from 2014, according to China’s education ministry. In a survey of 458 Chinese millionaires by China Citic Bank and Hurun Report, 30 percent of them said they plan to send their children to attend senior high schools overseas, while 14 percent of them said their children should leave at a younger age, for junior high school.

Test Stress Linked Student Suicides in China

The gaokao, studying and stress associated with exams have contributed to a wave of student suicides, according to a study by the Beijing-based nonprofit 21st Century Education Research Institute. The Annual Report on China’s Education (2014), also known as the Blue Book of Education, looked at the apparent causes of 79 suicides by elementary and high school students in 2013. 14. It found that just under 93 percent happened after arguments with teachers or were attributed to the intense pressure to study put on young people.[Source: Dexter Roberts, Bloomberg, May 15, 2014]

““The pursuit of high test scores not only brings pressure to students, but also to teachers, making the relationship between teachers and students worse, especially when students perform poorly in exams, which finally leads to some students’ suicides,” concluded Cheng Pingyuan, a professor of Nanjing Normal University and the main author of the study.

According to Bloomberg: “The report cited suicides in 2013 by students dismayed by homework burdens and poor test scores, as well as those reacting to the realization that favored schools would not admit them. Most suicides happened in the second half of the school year, from February to July; that’s the period in which the dreaded zhongkao and gaokao are held, the exams that determine respectively which high schools and universities students can attend.

In 2015, a middle school in Hebei province fenced off its upper-floor dormitory balconies with grates, after two students jumped to their deaths in the months leading up to the gaokao. In July 2016, a 10-year-old boy tried to kill himself in oncoming traffic after fighting with his mother about homework. [Source: Alec Ash, The Guardian, October 12, 2016]

High Rates of Nearsightedness in China Linked to Studying All the Time

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Chinese English textbook
David Pierson wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “The children at the Bayi Xiwang elementary and middle school are doing something revolutionary by current Chinese standards: They're playing outside. Singing and skipping in the dizzying southern Chinese humidity, these students have been given 45 minutes a day to frolic under the sun while peers across the nation remain indoors, hunched over books or squinting at blackboards. By forcing youngsters to put down their pencils and expose their eyes to natural light, researchers think they can stem an explosion of nearsightedness in China. [Source: David Pierson, Los Angeles Times, July 5, 2012]

“By the time they complete high school, as many as 90 percent of urban Chinese youth are afflicted by the condition known as myopia, in which close objects can be seen clearly but things just a few feet or inches away start to blur. That's about three times the rate among U.S. children. Even more troubling is the severity of the Chinese cases. Between 10 percent and 20 percent of nearsighted Chinese children are expected to develop "high myopia," which is largely untreatable and may lead to blindness.

“The problem for China is really quite massive," said Ian Morgan, a visiting professor at the Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center at Sun Yat-sen University who helped organize the three-year clinical trial in Guangzhou. "Their best-educated kids — kids who are going to be the intellectuals or political leaders — are going to be progressively losing vision as they get older." Even China's authoritarian leaders have had to ask schools to ease off. In 2010, several provinces banned public preschools from instructing 3-year-olds to memorize 10 Chinese characters a day.

“Myopia has steadily increased in concert with China's urbanization and intensified academic competition. It's not uncommon for children in China to study four hours a day at home on top of a full day of school as well as attend several hours of tutoring on weekends. "Parents want their kids to get into the best primary school so they can have a better chance at the best high school that can help them get into Beida, Tsinghua and Fudan," Morgan said, referring to China's three elite universities. "Educational pressure and the disappearance of a strong preventive agent — time outdoors — is driving kids to myopia.”

China’s Solution to It Myopia Problem: Study Outside

David Pierson wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Beijing restaurateur Wang Jiali said she's convinced that too much studying ruined her eyesight. Growing up in Jianyang in western Sichuan province, she studied in a classroom from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., followed by four hours of homework under poor home lighting. [Source: David Pierson, Los Angeles Times, July 5, 2012]

“By age 11, Wang strained to read the blackboard. By age 12, she was wearing her first pair of glasses — a pair of cheap red frames whose lenses cracked twice in the first three months. She hated the glasses instantly and feared they would make her eyes bulge. "I worried I was going to get goldfish eyes," said Wang, now 32 and part-owner of an American-style grill in Beijing. She recently paid $2,134 to receive laser corrective surgery. "The first thing I did was watch 'American Idol,'" Wang said. "I was so excited I could see properly.”

“Despite a 2007 order by Chinese authorities to boost physical education in schools to combat obesity and deteriorating eyesight, many educators — and parents — have resisted. Morgan and fellow researchers at the Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center had to negotiate hard to persuade six schools to allow students a daily recess break. (Another six signed on as "control" groups, making no changes to their routines.)

Morgan wanted more than an hour of outdoor exercise a day. The schools agreed to 45 minutes and structured lessons in the open air, sometimes with singing, dancing and the occasional hula hoop. "We roll out a blackboard onto the playground and create situations where the students can practice English with each other or draw outside," said Wang Xiaojia, Bayi Xiwang's principal.

“The researchers acknowledge this may be as close as they get to giving young Chinese eyes a break. "If your prescription at the end of the day is making Chinese care less about education, then it's not going to happen," said Nathan Congdon, a professor at the Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center. "That's like telling Americans to like basketball or football less.”

Cheating in Chinese Schools

Cheating is common in secondary schools, universities and in society as a whole. Andrew Jacobs, wrote in the New York Times, “Many educators say the culture of cheating takes root in high school, where the competition for slots in the country’s best colleges is unrelenting and high marks on standardized tests are the most important criterion for admission. Ghost-written essays and test questions can be bought. So, too, can a hired gun test taker who will assume the student’s identity for the grueling two-day college entrance exam.” [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, October 6, 2010]

“Then there are the gadgets — wristwatches and pens embedded with tiny cameras — that transmit signals to collaborators on the outside who then relay back the correct answers. Even if such products are illegal, students spent $150 million last year on Internet essays and high-tech subterfuge, a fivefold increase over 2007, according to a Wuhan University study, which identified 800 Web sites offering such illicit services.”

Students in Guangdong Province were caught using two-way radios to communicate during the exams. A videotape of a school in Hunan in the 2000s showed students passing around answer sheets and discussing test questions. Teachers in the room did nothing to stop them. There have also been reports of students giving their exams to teachers who answered the questions on the test and then fed the answers into phones used by other students.

In the 2000s, some students used pagers and cell phones that had formulas and answers programmed in them. Some shops sold pagers and phones with answers for that year’s exam programmed in. In June 2004, at least seven high school teachers in Henan Province were arrested for selling exam answers to their students. The teachers used cell phone text message to send answers to students taking the university entrance exams. In the scam students and teacher used text messages and digital cameras to pass questions to other teachers outside the exam room. These teachers figured out the answers and text messaged the answers back to students who had paid them.

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a high school

Cracking Down on Cheating in China

In January 2008, China’s Education Ministry drafted legislation to fight widespread cheating “To curb the rampant cheating, Chinese lawmakers and scholars are calling for heavier penalties against the cheaters,” Stephen Wong wrote in the Asia Times. “In most cases, if they are unlucky enough to get caught, they simply get their scores canceled or certificates revoked. Lawmaker Zhang Zhao'an proposed an examination law at this year's national congress. In fact, Chinese lawmakers have been mulling an examination law since 2002 and even completed a draft in 2005, but so far the law is yet to come out.” [Source: Stephen Wong Asia Times, August 22, 2009]

But many people doubt whether a new law would deter the cheaters.. It is not uncommon in China that even where legislation is strong, the means of enforcement are helplessly weak.

Some places have resorted to using informers and fake test takers and even child monitors to crack down on cheating.Stephen Wong wrote in the Asia Times, “The government of a district of Wuwei, in northwestern Gansu province, hired 18 pupils to watch over a promotion examination for 265 police officers, judges and procurators. The pupils were sent to nine exam rooms, where they watched over the examinees together with adult invigilators. The result - nearly 10 percent of the exam participants were caught cheating red-handed.[Source: Stephen Wong Asia Times, August 22, 2009]

“The pupils, averaged 12 years old caught 18 cheaters, whilst their adult coworkers caught only seven. Each student was awarded with stationary worth 50 yuan (US$7.32). The authorities annulled the cheaters' scores but did not issue any further penalties. The government hired the pupils because “adult invigilators are often very careful and cautious” and sometimes “sympathize with the cheaters”, according to Huang Ni, human resources chief of the Liangzhou district of Wuwei city. Innocent pupils, however, are fearless.”

“The incident triggered nationwide discussions on moral bankruptcy in the adult world. Internet forums and newspapers are full of criticism against the cheaters - cops, judges and procurators - as they are professionals who are supposed to enforce law and justice. The Liangzhou district government is also being criticized for laying its responsibilities on minors.”

“A commentary of the national Guangming Daily newspaper stated that adults don't lack the eyes to see problems. They lack the courage to expose them. The Chengdu Commercial Daily criticized the adults for disrupting social morality while expecting children to help them restore it.”

“The Liangzhou government has good reason to distrust the adult invigilators, however. In a society that values guanxi, or interpersonal relationships, many are often reluctant to expose the cheaters. They have good reasons to fear. Zheng Hong, a female invigilator in Songyuan, Jilin province, was beaten up after expelling a cheater from the college entrance exam venue in June. Her shoulders were scratched and her legs kicked by the cheater's mother, who thought her son was “unfairly” treated...In Liangzhou's case, authorities turned to pupils because the adult invigilators are public servants who would be reluctant to offend their colleagues.”

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Hong Kong Primary Scholl Opening Day

Toxic School Uniforms and Playgrounds in China

School uniforms are worn by most students in China. In 2013, they became a hot topic of discussion in the Chinese media in 2013. China File reported: on a new satirical TV news talk show akin to the Colbert Report but with a pre-recorded laugh track instead of a live audience, host Jin Yan of Shanghai’s Dragon TV-produced Talk Tonight disclosed the result of a recent random audit of school uniform suppliers in Shanghai conducted by the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision. Of the twenty-two manufacturers selected, six of them failed to meet minimum quality standards. [Source: Sun Yunfan China File, February 26, 2013]

For the past three years, one of the six, the Ouxia Clothing Company, manufactured uniforms containing aromatic amines (which are used in dyes) believed to cause cancer, while continuing to fill orders for more than thirty schools in the Pudong district. In the 48 hours after the talk show aired, video clips of the school uniform episode generated more than 6 million tweets on China’s microblog site Sina Weibo. But the scandal itself is not why the video went viral. Most of the Weibo comments focused on one elementary schoolboy’s response to the Talk Tonight reporter’s questions. While it was his wiser-than-his-years answer that spawned the meme that went viral (more on this later), all of the interview responses in the Talk Tonight episode are noteworthy.

““Why is a company that has failed inspection three years in a row so popular, or should I say powerful, in the market?” host Jin Yan asked. Then he sent a reporter into the streets to investigate. Approaching 7 minutes in the video (6:46), a young woman answers: “The heart knows and the stomach understands,” or “xinzhi dumin” — a Chinese idiom that translates roughly to: “Needless to say, we all know what this is about.” Her implication is that everybody, including the reporter, knows that there must be some level of corruption involved without directly accusing the school system, which, in China, is essentially an extension of the government.

In 2016, Chinese authorities investigated playing fields at some of Beijing's top elementary schools after children reportedly fell sick from exposure to artificial turf. AFP reported: “Youngsters have suffered nose bleeds and allergic reactions after using running tracks. The news comes less than two months after reports that hundreds of students had been sickened elsewhere in China because of their school's proximity to shuttered chemical plants. The Beijing probe, which began last week, sparked a wave of anxiety online, with hundreds questioning the country's commitment to protecting one of its most valuable assets: its youth. The reports are a "nightmare", said one comment on China's popular social media platform Weibo. The Beijing cases are particularly unsettling because they have occurred at schools attended by children of the capital's well-to-do. "If Beijing is like this, it's even harder to imagine those campus fields in other cities," one commenter wrote.[Source: AFP, June 11, 2016]

Violence, Injuries and Death at Chinese Schools

The death of a nine-year old from injuries inflicted by a teacher in Heilonjiang province in 1995, focused attention on the use of corporal punishment — which is officially banned but still practiced — in Chinese schools. The child fell into a coma after being beaten on the head with a birch rod after failing to get 100 percent on a test. In an interview after the incident the teacher told a local television station, "There is no better method I have found to discipline kids."

In December 2008, 11 schoolgirls died from carbon monoxide poisoning from using a charcoal heater in their dormitory in a middle school in Yulin city in Shanxi Province. The sole survivor, an 11-year-old, was in coma. Three school officials were detained in connection with the accident. In February 2008, a school teacher in Chongqing accused of raping 23 schoolgirls between 2001 and 2004 was sentenced to death. He lured the girls by offering to help them with their studies,

Didi Kirsten Tatlow wrote in the New York Times: In November 2010 at Fangcaodi International School in Beijing, "a school driver had driven over what he apparently believed was just a pile of children’s coats. But 6-year-old Julien Glauser, a half-Chinese, half-Swiss student, was lying on the coats. Dragged along the ground for more than 8 meters, or nearly 28 feet, underneath the black Toyota Camry, Julien suffered severe spine, lung and head injuries. He is expected to make a good recovery — a miracle, doctors in Switzerland, where he was treated, later told the parents, Olivier Glauser and his wife, Hong Li. The car — whose driver was never identified to Julien’s or other parents, and who so far has not been charged or punished, the school said — had driven in a broad arc over the playground, with the driver unaware that he was dragging Julien underneath.” Glauser told the New York Times the Swiss doctors “told us they normally only see such injuries in autopsies,". [Source: Didi Kirsten Tatlow, New York Times, May 18, 2011]

Labor and Explosions at Chinese Schools

Many rural schools receive so little funding they resort to forced labor to make money. Work study programs in rural China often involve leasing students to factories to work, presumably to help the school earn some money and help the children pay their school fees. Children have been recruited to disassemble electronic trash and make little tinfoil papers used in honoring the dead. Children as young as seven have been recruited to make as many 800 tinfoil papers a day.

Attention was focused on this issue of children working in schools after 42 people — four teachers and 38 children — were killed in March, 2001 in an explosion in an elementary school in Jiangxi province where children were making fireworks. There were 190 people in the two-story school building — including children inserting fuses in fireworks — when the explosion took place. Most of the deaths were third and forth graders studying in four classrooms. The working students sat at desks and made 200 fireworks a day. Their teacher sold the fireworks to middlemen.

One parent of a dead child told the Los Angeles Times, "I send my children to school to receive an education. Who thought it would be for them to make firecrackers. We tried to protest to the county government, but the township officials blocked us. Once they see that you're just villagers and that you've come to complain, they pay you no heed.”

After the explosion police quickly cordoned off the village and bulldozed over the school to prevent reporters from snooping around. The incident caused great embarrassment to Prime Minister Zhu Rhogji who initially said the explosion was caused by a deranged local man named "Psycho." He said the bomber “had grievances and he had mental illness. He transported these fireworks to the ground floor. He lit them and blew himself up." Later Zhu Rongji made a nationally-televised apology.

Children Killed in Unsafe School Buses

In November 2011, a nine-seat van badly overloaded with 62 kindergartners, along with a teacher and the driver, careened down a foggy street and crashed head-on with a coal truck in Gansu Province in northwest China . The van was demolished, killing 23 passengers (21 children and two adults), and injuring everyone else on board. The China Daily reported: “The bus, with just nine seats, was crammed with 64 people, which obviously contributed to the number of fatalities and the seriousness of the injuries suffered by some of the children. Forty-four of those on board, mostly children, were hospitalized and 10 of them are seriously injured.

According to Xinhua the accident occurred in Yulinzi township of Zhengning County. Parents of students at the kindergarten said school bus overloading has been a problem for years, despite repeated complaints. An initial investigation showed that the school bus had its seats removed to make room for more passengers and was speeding in adverse weather conditions.

The government took swift action, the New York Times reported, as it often does in cases of public embarrassment. The Education Ministry ordered a national inspection of school buses, and four local officials were suspended pending an inquiry. [Source: Michael Wines and Ian Johnson, New York Times, November 18, 2011]

Children in Sichuan Descend Down an 800-Meter Cliff to Get to School

Children as young as six from a Yi minority village in Sichuan province had to scale a huge rockface using rickety ladders to get to school. The Guardian reported: Authorities in south-west China have vowed to come to the aid of an isolated mountain village after photographs emerged showing the petrifying journey its children are forced to make to get to school. To attend class, backpack-carrying pupils from Atuler village in Sichuan province must take on an 800-meter rock face, scrambling down rickety ladders and clawing their way over bare rocks as they go. [Source: Tom Phillips, The Guardian, May 27, 2016]

“Images of their terrifying and potentially deadly 90-minute descent went viral on the Chinese internet after they were published in a Beijing newspaper. There are 17 vine ladders on the 800-meter-high way home, but the most dangerous part is a path on the cliff without a vine ladder. The photographs were taken by Chen Jie, an award-winning Beijing News photographer. Chen used his WeChat account to describe the moment he first witnessed the village’s 15 school children, aged between six and 15, scaling the cliff. “There is no doubt I was shocked by the scene I saw in front of me,” he wrote, adding that he hoped his photographs could help change the village’s “painful reality”.

“Chen, who spent three days visiting the impoverished community, said the perilous trek, which he undertook three times, was not for the faint of heart. “It is very dangerous. You have to be 100 percent careful,” he told the Guardian. “If you have any kind of accident, you will fall straight into the abyss.” So steep was the climb that Zhang Li, a reporter from China’s state broadcaster CCTV who was also dispatched to the mountain, burst into tears as she attempted to reach Atuler village. “Do we have to go this way?” the journalist said as her team edged its way up the cliff face. “I don’t want to go.”

“In Atuler village, residents reportedly live on less than $1 a day. Api Jiti, the head of the 72-family farming community which produces peppers and walnuts, told Beijing News there had been insufficient room to build a school for local children on the mountaintop. The villager chief told the Beijing News that “seven or eight” villagers had plunged to their deaths after losing their grip during the climb while many more had been injured. He had once nearly fallen from the mountain himself.

“The trek to school is now considered so gruelling that the children have been forced to board, only returning to their mountaintop homes to see their families twice a month.Villager Chen Jigu told reporters the wooden ladders used to move up and down the mountain were, like the village, hundreds of years old. “We replace a ladder with a new one when we find one of them is rotten,” he said. There was a cable transportation service taking the children to the valley, but the villagers could not afford the electricity bills and the cable later got dismantled.

“Uproar over the students’ hair-raising commute brought promises of government action. The region’s Communist party secretary said a steel staircase would be built to connect the deprived hamlet with the outside world while a permanent solution was found. Jike Jinsong, another official, said authorities did not have sufficient money to build a road between Atuler and the outside world but warned it was also not feasible to relocate the community since its residents would lose their land. “A third local politician has suggested turning the area into a tourist attraction. Photographer Chen said action was needed to help the villagers. “They have a very limited income. Basically they eat whatever they grow ... They are very poor. They have nothing but bare walls around them. You can see two or three beds in each home, but no furniture,” he said, adding: “How is it possible that something like this exists in the modern world?”

Village with 800-Meter Cliff Descent to School Relocated

In the end China relocated many of the villagers living on 800-meter-high cliffs as part of an anti-poverty drive. The BBC reported: They used to call an 800m-high cliff home, but dozens of villagers in China's Sichuan province have now been relocated to an urban housing estate. Around 84 households have now been moved into newly built flats as part of a local poverty alleviation campaign. [Source: BBC, May 14, 2020]

Atulie'er village made headlines in 2016 when it was revealed that its villagers had to scale precarious ladders to get home, carrying babies and anything the village needed. Soon afterwards the government stepped in and replaced these with steel ladders. The households have now been moved to the county town of Zhaojue, around 70 kilometers away. They were be rehoused in furnished apartment blocks, which come in models of 50, 75 and 100 square meters — depending on the number of people in each household. “It'll be a big change for many of these villagers, who are from the Yi minority and have lived in Atulie'er for generations.

“Around 30 households will remain in the Atulie'er village — which is set to turn into a tourism spot. According to Chinese state media outlet China Daily, these households will effectively be in charge of local tourism, running inns and showing tourists around. The county government has ambitious plans — planning to install a cable car to transport tourists to the village and to develop some surrounding areas. An earlier report said there were plans to turn the village into a vacation resort, with state media saying the state would pump 630 million yuan into investment.

Protests at Chinese Schools

In September 2008, thousands of students attacked government offices in Shenqan County in Henan Province, breaking windows, setting fires and clashing with police over a plan by a developer to build apartments on the school’s sports ground. The students became enraged and attacked the government buildings after two girls were injured in scuffles.

In June 2017, about a hundred protesters clashed with police in downtown Beijing after authorities abruptly reassigned their children to a school in a rough neighborhood. Reuters reported: “Large protests are rare in heavily-guarded and affluent Beijing, but the reassignment plan comes at a time when educational resources have become increasingly stretched, while home prices have soared. During their hours-long standoff, protesting residents of the city's northwestern district of Changping skirmished several times with more than 20 unarmed police officers outside the office of the Beijing municipality."Our kids need to go to school! We demand a response!" shouted some of the gathered protesters. [Source: Yawen Chen and Thomas Peter, Reuters, US News and World Report, June 14, 2017]

“The protesters, who included many white-collar professionals in their 30s working at Chinese technology firms, said they were outraged after district authorities suddenly reassigned their children to a school in a decrepit neighborhood. About 3,000 families are estimated to be affected by the decision, protesters say. Photographs they showed Reuters depicted a single-storey brick building on a street littered with rubbish and advertising flyers offering forgery services. "How can we send our kids to this kind of school?" asked one upset mother, Wen, who works at tech giant Baidu and only gave her last name. "We fought and worked so hard, and put down millions to buy a house to earn a decent life in Beijing. And now our kids will have to go to this kind of school? "I used to think I have a nice life but now I think I'm just one of those at the bottom. We are really powerless and don't know what to do," Wen told Reuters.

After the six year old described above was run over and nearly killed, Didi Kirsten Tatlow wrote in the New York Times: “For several angry days in December 2010, one of China’s top state elementary schools, Fangcaodi International School, nearly became a statistic in the rising number of "mass incidents" here. At a stormy meeting on December 3, some parents threatened to demonstrate at the school gates unless the principal agreed to ban cars from driving throughout the campus, after a first grader was nearly killed in an accident involving a school car on the playground the month before. [Source: Didi Kirsten Tatlow, New York Times, May 18, 2011]

Six months later, Mr. Glauser and Ms. Li are accusing the school of a cover-up, lack of accountability, failing to voluntarily improve safety and refusing compensation for medical expenses,” they said. “Sue us,"Mr. Glauser said. Contacted by the New York Times the school said it would indeed compensate the victim’s family.” “In interviews, parents, who requested anonymity because they have children at the school, called the incident typical of the lack of transparency and responsiveness at many state-run institutions in China, which are unaccustomed to any form of public scrutiny. Speaking at a meeting with parents in March, Ms. Li said: "I’m fighting for school safety not just for my son, but for all children in China." For two weeks after the accident, "nothing changed at the school," said Mr. Glauser, a venture capitalist. "Cars were still coming in and out."

“That was when parents got involved. As word spread, slowly — the school informed parents about the incident, in sketchy terms, only on Nov. 30, after some of them had read a blog by Mr. Glauser and demanded answers — the principal, Liu Fei, agreed to the meeting on December 3. He defended the school’s policy of allowing cars on campus. "Please understand the problems teachers have finding places to park their cars," he said, according to several parents who attended.”

“According to a recording of the meeting, his words provoked fury and derision. "Your parking problem is nothing to do with us," parents are heard shouting. "What’s more important to you, cars or children?" "We will come out on Monday morning and demonstrate at the school gates and ask all Beijing media to join us," they threatened. Mr. Liu said that, immediately after the accident, the school started looking for additional parking in the neighborhood, including at a paramilitary barracks opposite the school. But the problem remained unresolved.

Image Sources: Landsberger Posters ; Columbia University University of Washington; Ohio State University, Wiki Commons, Asia Obscura ;

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated August 2022


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