Tucked away in the mountains of China’s Anhui province, in the sleepy little town of Mao Tan Chang, is one of the world’s most intense educational institutions. Over 20,000 students (that’s four times the local population) at Mao Tan Chang High School study day and night with very little rest to prepare for the gaokao, a highly competitive national college entrance exam.
Most of these students come from rural areas as their parents know that acing the dreaded gaokao could open up a host of opportunities, allowing them to escape a farmer’s life. Mao Tan Chang helps them achieve their goals by creating an environment that encourages serious study, and little else. The school’s strategy is simple – everything that isn’t related to academics is banned.