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At China’s Most Hardcore High-School Teachers Employ Army-Style Tactics to Best Educate Students

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.

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So students aren’t allowed to watch TV, or use the internet and cell phones. Dating, of course, is strictly prohibited. The school’s dorm rooms don’t even have power sockets in them, to stop the kids from secretly using electronic devices. Security guards and cameras carefully watch over the campus 24 x 7.

The school employs only male teachers, who adopt ‘army-style’ tactics and wouldn’t hesitate to punish students if they didn’t perform. The teachers’ jobs and bonuses are dependent on their ability to improve students’ scores, so their salaries are actually two to three times more than other teachers in regular public schools across the nation.

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Interestingly, the local government is so supportive of the school’s exacting regimen that they’ve closed down all entertainment facilities in the area, including the local internet café and pool room. Even the students who live at home with their parents aren’t permitted to watch TV, or indulge in any kind of activity that doesn’t involve academics.

School authorities have stated that all their efforts have paid off. In 1998, only 98 Mao Tan Chang students were accepted by universities in China. But fast forward to 2014, and that number has risen to a whopping 9,132.

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In 2014, Xu Peng was the only student from Mao Tan Chang to get admitted to Tsinghua University, China’s most elite college. He’s actually enjoys celebrity status back home, for his highly coveted achievement. And now that he’s out of the grind, he says that adjusting to normal life hasn’t been easy.

When he first arrived at university, Xu Peng found that most of his classmates were from China’s major cities – they were rich, used iPhones, and watched American sitcoms. “I was pretty confused about my life during the first semester because no one ever told me what to do,” he said. Compared to the old days at Mao Tan Chang, his new life at Tsinghua came as a relief.

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But Xu Peng still hasn’t quit his hardworking ways – he sometimes studies 48 hours in a row, with only short bathroom and food breaks. He is currently majoring in engineering, and plans to move to the US for his master’s degree.

Although success stories like Xu Peng justify Mao Tan Chang’s methods, the intense pressure does affect some students quite adversely. Beijing is currently carrying out an educational reform to lighten the burden on Chinese students. But for most rural students, the gaokao exam still continues to be the only hope for a better life.

Source: Shanghaiist

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