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China’s Gen Z Is Dejected, Underemployed and Slowing the Economy

The most educated generation in China’s history was supposed to blaze a trail towards a more innovative and technologically advanced economy. Instead, about 15 million young people are estimated to be jobless, and many are lowering their ambitions.

A perfect storm of factors has propelled unemployment among 16- to 24-year-old urbanites to a record 19.3%, more than twice the comparable rate in the US. The government’s hardline coronavirus strategy has led to layoffs, while its regulatory crackdown on real estate and education companies has hit the private sector. At the same time, a record number of college and vocational school graduates—some 12 million—are entering the job market this summer. This highly educated cohort has intensified a mismatch between available roles and jobseekers’ expectations.

The result is an increasingly disillusioned young population losing faith in private companies and willing to accept lower pay in the state sector. If the trend continues, growth in the world’s second-largest economy stands to suffer. The sheer number of jobless under-25s amounts to a 2% to 3% reduction in China’s workforce, and fewer workers means lower gross domestic product. Unemployment and underemployment also continue to impact salaries for years—a 2020 review of studies reported a 3.5% reduction in wages among those who had experienced unemployment five years earlier.

More young people taking roles in government may leave fewer jumping into new sectors and fueling innovation.

“The structural adjustment faced by China’s economy right now actually needs more people to become entrepreneurs and strive,” said Zeng Xiangquan, head of the China Institute for Employment Research in Beijing. Lowered expectations have “damaged the utilization of the young labor force,” he added. “It’s not a good thing for the economy.”

Pre-pandemic, 22-year-old Xu Chaoqun was prepared for a career in China’s creative industries. But a fruitless four-month job hunt has left him setting his sights on the state sector. “Under the Covid outbreak, many private companies are very unstable,” said Xu, who majored in visual art at a mid-ranked university. “That’s why I want to be with a state-owned enterprise”.

Xu is not alone. Some 39% of graduates listed state-owned companies as their top choice of employer last year, according to recruitment company 51job Inc. That’s up from 25% in 2017. A further 28% chose government jobs as their first choice.

It’s a rational response in a pandemic-hit labor market. All workplaces have been hit hard by China’s snap lockdowns and strict quarantine measures, but private companies were more likely to lay off workers. Beijing’s main employment-boosting policy has been to order the state sector to increase hiring.

President Xi Jinping may be relieved that the country’s unemployed youth are trying to join the government rather than overthrow it. During a June visit to a university in the southwestern China’s Sichuan province, he advised graduates to “prevent the situation in which one is unfit for a higher position but unwilling to take a lower one.” He added that “to get rich and get fame overnight is not realistic.”

The message is getting through: Graduate expectations for starting salaries fell more than 6% from last year to 6,295 yuan ($932) per month, according to an April survey from recruitment firm Zhilian. State-owned enterprises grew in appeal over the same period, the recruiter said.

But lower income expectations and talent shunning the private sector are likely to lower growth in the long term, challenging the president’s plan to double the size of China’s economy from 2020 levels by 2035—by which point it would likely overtake the U.S. in size.

The phrase “tang ping”—“lying flat”—spread through China’s internet last year. The slogan invokes dropping out of the rat race and doing the bare minimum to get by, and reflected the desire for a better work-life balance in the face of China’s slowing growth. As the unemployment situation has continued to worsen, many young people have adopted an even more fatalistic catchphrase: “bailan,” or “let it rot.”

That concept is “a kind of mental relaxation,” said Hu Xiaoyue, a 24-year old with a psychology masters degree. “This way, even if you fail, you will feel better.” When Hu started looking for work last August, she found it easy to land interviews. “But when it came to spring, only one in 10 companies would offer an interview,” she said. “It fell off a cliff.”

China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs) aren’t all unproductive behemoths. But the weight of economic evidence suggests they are, on the whole, less efficient and less innovative than privately-owned companies. China’s economic boom has coincided with a falling share of SOE jobs in urban employment—from 40% in 1996 to less than 10% pre-pandemic. That trend could now go into reverse.

Last year, China launched a regulatory crackdown on formerly high-flying sectors dominated by private companies that previously attracted ambitious young people. Internet companies were hit with fines for monopolistic behavior, real estate businesses were starved of financing and the private tutoring sector was almost entirely shuttered.

Regulatory filings show that China’s top five listed education companies reduced their staffing by 135,000 in the last year after the crackdown. The largest tech companies have kept their headcounts stable, and Zhilian says that there were more tech jobs advertised in the first half of this year than the same period in 2021. Even so, the sector’s allure has faded.

A graduate of the highly ranked Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing, Hu was set for the tech sector—she interned at three internet companies including video-sharing giant Beijing Kuaishou Technology Co. But she has changed her mind. “People who are going to work for Internet companies are all worrying about themselves because they feel like they could be fired any time,” she said.

Instead, Hu landed a position at a research institute within state-owned China Telecom Corp. “The working hours of my future job will be 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and the workload will be quite light. Internet companies are too consuming,” she said.

As well as the movement of talent towards state-owned companies, there’s another mechanism at work that can damage long-term growth. Studies by from the US, Europe and Japan have shown that the longer young people are unemployed at the start of their careers, the worse their long-term incomes, an effect known as “scarring.”

That’s the risk facing Beiya, who was laid off from an e-commerce company this year. The 26-year-old, who gave only one name because she feared that talking about losing her job could hit her employment prospects, missed out on a role with TikTok parent company Bytedance Inc. because of her limited experience.

“I’m a good candidate with potential but they want to see me in two years,” she said. “But how can I get the experience if no one gives me a job now?”

The state sector already employs around 80 million people and the figure could grow by as much as 2 million on a net basis this year, according to Lu Feng, a labor economist at Peking University. “But compared with total demand for jobs, it’s still relatively small,” he said. “We still need private firms to hire.”

That will only happen if the economy grows. To meet its employment goals, economists say China needs GDP to increase between 3% and 5% this year. Economists are predicting growth closer to 4%—with the outlook highly uncertain due to the prospect of more lockdowns to contain the spread of the coronavirus. “Lack of clarity on an exit strategy from the Covid-Zero policy makes companies wary of hiring,” said Chang Shu, Bloomberg Economics’ chief Asia economist.

Beijing has launched a version of the job-support programs seen in Europe during the pandemic, offering tax rebates and direct subsidies to companies who promise to retain workers. But the amounts involved are small: The incentive for hiring a new worker is just 1,500 yuan. Provincial subsidies for graduates who start businesses are also small—just 10,000 yuan in the prosperous Guangdong region.

Even if China can return to strong growth in the second half of this year, the youth unemployment problem will persist—the rate has been rising since 2017, reaching 12% pre-pandemic. Economists attribute that to two factors: urbanization and a mismatch between the education system and employers’ needs.

The hundreds of millions of workers who moved from the countryside to cities used to return to their villages during labor market slumps, acting as an economic shock absorber. Now, younger migrants increasingly stay put when they lose their jobs, pushing up urban unemployment.

“A lot of them are not even raised in rural areas. So they regard themselves as urban people,” says Peking University’s Lu. “The constraints for the government have changed substantially, it’s tougher than in the past.”

Second, the annual number of graduates in China has increased tenfold over the last two decades—the fastest higher-education expansion anywhere in the world, at any time. The share of young Chinese people attending college is now almost 60%, similar to developed countries.

The number of vocational graduates lags far behind those receiving academic degrees. Such is the stigma around vocational education that students rioted last year when told their university was being rebranded as a vocational school. Highly educated young people are rejecting factory jobs. “That’s the basic matching problem. It is huge in this country,” said Lu.

That’s left manufacturers complaining about shortages of skilled technicians. “There are not a lot of people applying for those jobs, such as electrician or welder,” said Jiang Cheng, 28, an agent for electronics factories in central China.

Other sectors are oversubscribed. According to a 2021 study of 20,000 randomly selected jobseekers on Zhilian’s website, some 43% of the job applicants wanted to work in the IT industry, while the sector accounted for just 16% of recruitment posts.

Half of jobseekers had a bachelor degree, but only 20% of jobs required one. “There is now compelling evidence of over-education,” the study’s authors wrote, warning that the misalignment “could have profound influences on both individuals and the nation.”

In the longer term, it’s possible that government intervention may get the private sector hiring again, while education reforms and market forces can smooth the misalignment in the labor market.

China is easing its regulatory campaigns, and a vocational education law passed this year aims to improve standards. A study by Wang Zhe, an economist at Caixin Insight, found college majors that attracted a wage premium in 2020 became more popular in 2021. As applicants’ academic choices adapt to demand in the jobs market, mismatches stand to ease.

But the share of graduates from China’s nine top-ranked universities joining the private sector has fallen since the pandemic, according to research from Hong Kong’s Lingnan University. That suggests ideological shifts, and not just market forces, are at play. Some graduates at top universities are adopting “ cadre style,” according to online forums where they seek tips on where to buy the black zippered windbreakers favored by Xi.

Even in the current environment, Kay Lou, 25, would be a leading candidate for any number of private-sector jobs. She has a masters in law from top-ranked Tsinghua University and has interned for a legal firm, an Internet giant, a securities brokerage and a court.

In the end, she won a government position in Zhejiang province—where some roles attract as many as 200 applicants.

“I felt my work wasn’t meaningful,” she said. “I became increasingly opposed to the capitalists’ pursuit of wealth after I read Marx, so in the end I chose to become a civil servant.”


Source : BNN Bloomberg

University of Hong Kong Makes National Security Law Course a Mandatory Graduation Requirement

Candice Chau wrote . . . . . . . . .

Undergraduate students at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) will have to take an introductory course on the Beijing-imposed national security law in order to graduate.

According to an email sent to all HKU students on Monday seen by HKFP, pupils will have to enrol in a non-credit bearing course titled “Introduction to the Constitution, the Basic Law and the National Security Law.” The requirement will kick in from the 2022/23 school year.

The course will be conducted online, and will adopt “a self-directed learning approach,” according to the email. More details will be announced on September 1 when the new school year begins.

Including HKU, all eight University Grant Committee-funded (UGC) universities in the city have launched or will launch national security courses.

Ming Pao reported on Monday that national security courses at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University will begin next school year.

Hong Kong Baptist University, the Education University of Hong Kong, Lingnan University, and City University of Hong Kong have already incorporated national security content into their curriculum in forms of seminars and workshops, Ming Pao reported.


Source : HKFP

Infographic: 中國新时代基础教育强师计划

Source : 央视网

Infographic: 关于中國加强科技伦理治理的意见

Is Chinese Math Education as Good as It Seems?

Tang Lu wrote . . . . . . . . .

In 2015, Nature published a cover story about how the artificial intelligence firm DeepMind was training machine learning models to play old arcade games. Unlike dedicated chess supercomputers like IBM’s Deep Blue, DeepMind — a Google subsidiary and the developer of AlphaGo — wanted its algorithm to be able to master any game from scratch. Instead, the algorithm would explore each game’s world slowly, triggering rewards and punishments and gradually accumulating information about the game until it could compete against, and even beat, top human players, all without help from the company’s engineers.

DeepMind’s algorithm quickly mastered dozens of Atari classics — but a handful of titles withstood the onslaught of the machines. In Montezuma’s Revenge, for example, the algorithm failed to score a single point. The game, which requires players to navigate an Aztec temple filled with ropes, ladders, and other deadly traps, proved immune to DeepMind’s programming, in part because, unlike games such as Video Pinball, players in Montezuma’s Revenge do not score points until they collect the last item in a level. Left to its own devices, DeepMind’s machine learning algorithm, which was designed to jump from one point-scoring opportunity to the next, was stumped.

As an AI researcher, the Nature article had obvious appeal, but the story caught my attention for another reason as well. The story of DeepMind and Montezuma’s Revenge seemed a perfect metaphor for another field I care deeply about: education.

Since the advent of “reform and opening-up” in the late 1970s, China’s economic rise has been meteoric. At first, Chinese firms focussed on manufacturing, but over the past decade, much of the country’s GDP growth has been driven by the emergence of a vibrant tech start-up scene. Yet years of dazzling GDP figures have masked a fundamental problem: The lack of a solid basic research infrastructure means China’s tech industry is built on shaky foundations, with many of the country’s most innovative products involving the application of existing technologies, rather than the pioneering of new ones.

China’s poor track record in basic research is closely tied to long-term problems with the country’s basic education system, especially in fields like science and math, where an entrenched belief in the power of tests and scores to determine and reward performance continues to get in the way of key national goals like fostering innovation and creativity.

In 2000, a total of 3.75 million students signed up to take the gaokao — China’s national college entrance examination and by far the most important factor in university admissions decisions. By 2007, amid a rapid expansion of the country’s higher education sector, this figure topped 10 million. It has remained at that level ever since.

But as college enrollment and acceptance rates rose, educational resources failed to keep up. Now, as with the economy finally showing signs of slowing down, the chasm between the educational haves and have-nots is widening, and competition for admittance into a handful of top schools has become fierce.

This battle is primarily waged through the gaokao, with a secondary student’s test scores potentially determining their entire future.

This points-oriented teaching model shares a lot in common with the DeepMind algorithm that struggled to beat Montezuma’s Revenge. Both are based on well-known learning patterns. As early as the 1940s, psychologist B.F. Skinner proved that a wide variety of animals could be trained to perform seemingly complex tasks by rewarding them for simple actions that were either right or nearly right. To translate this into the educational context, the rewards are points on tests and exams.

Such rewards-based training methods exploit extrinsic motivation to incentivize learning. They may look complex, but they ultimately boil down into the process of shaping children into adults capable of performing complex tasks by stimulating dopamine secretion.

Needless to say, there are obvious problems with this approach. The more psychologists explore the mechanisms behind learning, the clearer it becomes that intrinsic motivators play an important role in the learning process. To give just one example, hungry rats will forgo food or even put up with electric shocks for the opportunity to explore new spaces.

Intrinsic motivation is innate, guided by novelty and wonder, and directed toward free exploration and creativity. And indeed, as researchers at OpenAI and elsewhere have gradually puzzled out how to reward “curiosity” in their models, machine learning programs are increasingly able to handle challenges like those posed by Montezuma’s Revenge.

Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, has always been easier to game. To borrow an example from my own field, researchers once tried training a robot to ride a bicycle by rewarding it for moving closer to its intended destination. However, they neglected to institute punishments for moving away from the destination. The robot started biking in circles to rack up points as quickly as possible. Clearly, it was focused on the reward rather than the researchers’ desired outcome.

The potential lessons of AI for education aren’t limited to how schools reward students. Another common machine learning problem, “overfitting,” is also applicable to China’s current education system. In the context of machine learning, overfitting refers to the common mistake of training an AI model on data sets so precisely that it loses track of the underlying structures it is meant to learn, meaning it can no longer analyze new or emerging datasets.

For a real-world example of this problem, we need to look no further than the way schools prepare students for the gaokao. Rather than teach fundamentals that can be used to solve a wide array of problems, teachers emphasize rote memorization of practice exams. This improves students’ scores, but it doesn’t teach them how to apply the underlying theorems or basic mathematical principles to new problems.

The system of rewards and training that produces such fearsome mathletes at the primary and secondary levels quickly breaks down when students reach university. There are no quick rewards in advanced mathematics; all math students must begin by slowly grasping basic axioms and definitions, then using them to logically deduce various theorems, before slowly constructing stable theoretical systems.

That’s very different from the formulaic, step-by-step process used to drill students for the gaokao. As in Montezuma’s Revenge, the prize is only reached at the end of a long journey, if ever, and many students raised on external motivation and rote memorization feel lost in their studies. This, in turn, results in frustration and self-doubt, and ultimately to them abandoning mathematics.

Until recently, the apotheosis of these two problems — the overreliance on extrinsic rewards and tendency toward overfitting — could be found in the countrywide craze for math Olympiads. The popularity of these contests was not grounded in any particular desire to see children become mathematicians; rather, for years, success at an Olympiad was a potential shortcut to a spot at an elite university. An entire industry of cram schools and tutoring classes soon sprung up to drill students for success in the competition, and China’s dominance at the international level — the country has taken home 22 team titles at the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) since 1989 — became a source of public pride. Proud Chinese parents like to joke that 10 days of math tutoring in China is equivalent to a year’s worth of math classes in the United States.

That may be the case, but China’s success at the IMO over the past three decades has not translated into theoretical breakthroughs. Many participants are more focused on the external motivation of winning the prize — admission into a top school — than the joy of mathematics, and only a fraction have any interest in building a career in the field.

That is not to say the situation is hopeless. The government has cracked down on for-profit tutoring over the past year, and some provinces are trying to ease the pressure of competition that defines the gaokao. Exam designers, for their part, are working to produce more novel question topics to discourage rote memorization of practice exams and give students more room for experimentation.

It’s still too early to tell whether these measures will have their intended effect. In the meantime, China’s deficiencies in basic research loom as a crisis. If there’s an irony here, it’s that, as AI researchers become increasingly adept at finding ways to mimic intrinsic motivation in their algorithms, our schools seem content to turn students into machines.


Source : Sixth Tone

Why Are Certain School Books Being Banned in U.S.?

Anthony Zurcher wrote . . . . . . . . .

A growing number of US parents are alleging that school books are obscene or otherwise harmful to children. It’s creating an increasingly divisive political battle that could spill over into upcoming national elections.

Yael Levin-Sheldon, a mother of two who lives near Richmond, Virginia, recently heard about a book that a teacher in an area school brought into the classroom. She made a note of the title, The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person.

The title alone, Levin says, is racist – and it’s not the kind of book that should be available to children in public schools.

“Now think of it saying, ‘on being a better black person’,” she said. “Would that be ok?

Levin-Sheldon is the Virginia chapter president of the conservative parents-rights group No Left Turn in Education. Her organisation compiles a list of books it says are “used to spread radical and racist ideologies to students” and “divide us as a people for the purpose of indoctrinating kids to a dangerous ideology”.

The list includes Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale and White Fragility by Robin Diangelo. The Black Friend, a New York Times best-selling memoir by Frederick Joseph recounting his challenges as a black student in a predominantly white high school, isn’t on the list. At least, not yet.

Books such as Joseph’s – offering critical views on topics like US history or race – gained new prominence in school curricula and library collections as a response to the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 and educational efforts to address concerns about persistent racism in the US. No Left Turn contends that the works should be taught in context, along with other texts that provide a different (and assumedly more positive) view of America’s past. And parents, Levin-Sheldon adds, should have the choice of opting out of those lessons.

Other works, however, particularly ones that touch on human sexuality in explicit detail, should be outright prohibited, the group argues.

“When it comes to pornography and paedophilia,” Levin-Sheldon says, “that’s when we want those books removed.”

This, she adds, is all her group is seeking. It’s not too different from what free-speech advocates and educators say they would like, as well – a conversation between parents, teachers and school librarians, balancing moral and educational interests and conducted with the best interests of the children in mind.

In practice, however, it hasn’t always worked out that way.

A rising tide of complaints

A state legislator in Texas produced a list of more than 850 books that he contended may cause students to feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress” because of their race or sex. A Dallas Morning News review found 97 of the first 100 books on the list were written by ethnic minorities, women or LGBTQ authors.

A school district in San Antonio pulled 400 of those books from its libraries without any formal review process or specific complaints from parents.

A Tennessee school board removed Maus, a Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, from its eighth-grade curriculum because of profanity and anthropomorphised mouse nudity.

In Polk County, Florida, a school removed 16 books pending review, including award-winning novels The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and Beloved by Toni Morrison, because they contained “obscene material”.

Challenges have come from the left, as well. A school district near Seattle, Washington, dropped the 1960 Harper Lee classic To Kill a Mockingbird from its curriculum because of its depiction of race relations and use of racist language.

Characters’ use of racist epithets also prompted efforts last year to limit the teaching of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men in school districts in Mendota Heights, Minnesota, and Burbank, California.

The American Library Association keeps track of the number of complaints lodged against books in school libraries and has recorded a marked increase over the past year. According to preliminary data, from September through November of 2021 the association tallied 330 incidents. The total number reported for all of 2019, the last year schools across the US were in-person for the entire year, was 377 – suggesting that the final 2021 numbers ultimately will dwarf previous amounts.

The cumulative effect, says Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, is significant damage to open discourse and learning across the country.

“We are a government, a society that purports to protect freedom of speech, the freedom to access information to make up our own minds, to engage in a broadly liberal education,” she says. “And we’re now finding that we have a movement to shut down that conversation, to deny those rights, particularly to young people.”

‘Covid lemonade’

According to Tiffany Justice, co-founder of the parents group Moms for Liberty, the surge in parental interest can be attributed, at least in part, to the remote learning policies schools implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic. For the first time, they say, many parents had an up-close view of what their children were being taught – and they didn’t like it. She calls it “Covid lemonade,” because the pandemic had a silver lining.

“We had never really been able to get parents as invigorated as they have been seeing the curriculum up close and personal while they were sitting with their child doing the work,” she says. “We saw it as an opportunity to really engage parents even more and to get them involved in their children’s education.”

Social media has also proved to have a potent effect on the scope of the movement. Activists says it has helped their groups organise across the US, as parents learn that they are not alone in their concern. On the other side, groups like the American Library Association have found the same books identified in complaints turn up again and again, as lists – like the one on the No Left Turn websites – are circulated online.

“Social media is amplifying and driving both the messages of these groups that are pursuing a particular agenda, as well as individual challenges that crop up in a community,” Caldwell-Stone says.

At the heart of the issue is a debate over the role of parents, schools and the rights of students in the classroom. Both Levin-Sheldon and Justice point out that until children turn 18 they are minors, and parents should be able to review the ideas and subject matters to which their children are exposed – even if that’s not supervision all parents want to exercise at home or in the classroom.

Free-speech proponents counter that libraries are meant to serve an entire community of students, not just the ones with the most prudish parents. And although students are not adults, they still have rights – and agency. A dialogue between parents, teachers and librarians is important, but if teenagers seek out information on a topic of interest, they should have access to it.

“There’s this notion that young people are in search of the most illicit material in every area of their lives, all the time,” says Jonathan Friedman, director of Free Expression and Education at PEN America, an author’s free-speech group. “I don’t think that’s true. I think people go to a library there’s usually an alignment between reader and text.”

The politics of anger

As the push to pass judgement on – and remove – certain books from schools has become a national drive with national attention from conservative and liberal media, tempers have become increasingly frayed.

A school board meeting in Flagler County, Florida, to discuss the removal of the book All Boys Aren’t Blue devolved into obscenity-laced protests and counter-protests. (The board’s decision to approve the book’s use was ultimately overruled by a county official).

Meetings in other parts of the US have had to be cancelled or delayed because of threats against public officials. During a school board meeting in Carmel, Indiana, last July, where parents were taking turns reading out explicit passages from books that they believed should be removed from their school library, a man was arrested after a handgun fell out of his pocket.

Levin is quick to note that her group does not approve of such parental conduct and they seek to train their members to behave “respectfully and professional” at school board meetings. Justice agrees, calling her members “joyful warriors”, but adds that parents have reason to be angry.

“Yeah, they’re upset,” she says. “Their kids aren’t learning in school. They’re sending their kids to school and their kids are learning more about – who knows? Not reading and writing.”

Anger can be a potent force in politics, and conservative politicians – and Republican-dominated legislatures – have sought to harness the passion.

Last November, Republican Glenn Youngkin won the Virginia governorship by campaigning on education and parental rights. One of his television adverts featured a mother who objected to Morrison’s Beloved being taught in her son’s high-school English class.

As November’s mid-term elections approach, with control of the US Congress and many state governments at stake, more candidates on the right are following suit.

Matt Krause, the Texas legislator with the 850-book list, is running for state attorney general. On Tuesday, the Indiana state Senate approved a bill that would allow the criminal prosecution of school librarians for disseminating “material harmful to minors”. The Oklahoma legislature is considering a bill that would ban public school libraries from offering any books on sexuality or gender identity.

Friedman warns that efforts to remove books will have an adverse impact on librarians and school officials, who could engage in “soft censorship” by pre-emptively pulling titles they worry could spark controversy. It could also have a chilling effect on authors and publishers, who might shy away from controversial topics and stifle their creativity.

“If you are telling a story that’s on the borderline of any of these issues right now, you’re going to think twice about writing in a way that might get banned or draw national attention,” he says. “You’re not going to publish that book; you’re not going to give that talk publicly about it.”

Ashley Hope Perez is one of those authors feeling the pressure. In a recent issue of Texas Monthly, she describes how she was harassed after her book Out of Darkness was criticised as being obscene in meeting of a school board near Austin.

“Ugly phone messages calling me a ‘degenerate piece of -‘, emails that were little more than expletives strung together, social media comments saying I was ‘literally SATAN’ and suggestions that I hang myself,” she writes. “The attacks on Out of Darkness say far more about our cultural moment than they do about my book.”

She notes that her book was first published six years ago with little controversy. The political ground, it seems, has shifted significantly since then.


Source : BBC

Chart: Number of U.S and China STEM Ph.D. Graduates

Source : Center for Security and Emerging Technologies

Beijing Kids: Tutoring Is Back, and It’s Free for Everybody

Jiayun Feng wrote . . . . . . . . .

When China sent a wrecking ball through its $120 billion a year tutoring industry in July, barring for-profit companies from tutoring in core curriculum subjects, many parents and education experts were skeptical about the reform. The affluent, they argued, would continue to hire expensive private tutors for their children, making the state education system even more competitive and ultimately exacerbating inequalities in society.

Five months later, it seems a solution might be on the horizon, and the local government of Beijing is ready to test it out on students across the city as early as this month.

The possible fix is outlined in a directive (in Chinese) issued recently by the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education, the local government body that manages all schools in the capital. In the document, the commission announces a plan to build an online tutoring platform, where celebrity teachers in local primary and middle schools can provide tutoring services in various forms, including one-on-one teaching, live-streaming classrooms, and pre-recorded videos.

Although participation is not mandatory for teachers, those who join the platform are entitled to financial benefits based on their performance. The compensation, which is calculated each semester and maximizes at 50,000 yuan ($7,880), is determined by several factors, including evaluations from students and the number of classes taught.

The biggest draw of the platform is that it’s completely free to use. The project is solely funded by the Beijing government, which plans to pay teachers at public schools to fill the void left by tutors hired by private companies. The general principle of the initiative is also in line with the “double reduction” policy (双减政策), the wide-ranging overhaul announced by China’s education authorities in the summer to ease academic pressure on students and reduce after-school tutoring. To ensure that the platform won’t keep students up late at night or occupy their weekends, the service is only available from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays, and each one-on-one sessions and group classes are limited to 30 minutes.

The idea is not entirely new. Rather, it’s an upgraded version of an old project launched by the Beijing government in 2016. Designed to solve the uneven distribution of educational resources in the city, the previous version of the platform was only accessible to schoolchildren in nine districts, most of which are on the outskirts of Beijing, where the quality of teachers is lacking in comparison to good school districts like Haidian and Xicheng.

The past few months have been a nightmare for China’s tutoring sector. In July, after months of rumors and ominous signs, China launched an aggressive campaign to rein in private education companies, blaming them for fueling an unhealthy educational rat race. Since then, a slew of stringent regulations have come into effect, including rules outlawing firms from making profits by teaching the school curriculum, raising capital, or going public.

Although the crackdown on private educational companies is aimed at making life easier for Chinese students and restoring fairness in education, it has received a tepid reception from many Chinese parents, who worry that without adjusting demand, simply suppressing supply will only further exacerbate the uneven distribution of educational resources between the rich and the poor.

Their concerns seem to be justified. Despite the crackdown, wealthy parents are still seeking new ways to give their children an edge in the cutthroat education system. Instead of joining traditional foreign language classes, some of the wealthy have signed their kids up for non-core curriculum subjects like art and theater, which are taught in English. A slew of unlicensed companies and instructors in the tutoring industry have moved to operate under the radar, forming an underground market where tutors are advertised as “providers of housekeeping and childcare services” or “professional nannies.”

By launching its own tutoring service, the Beijing government is hoping to cut demand for costly private tutoring and make high-quality education accessible to everyone. But its good intentions have been lost on many internet users, who say they are confused by the conflicting messages surrounding the “double reduction” policy and the hypocrisy of the government.

“So they killed the entire private education industry just to make sure that only teachers at public schools can make money from tutoring? What is going on here?” a Weibo user commented.


Source : SupChina

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Source : Statista

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Source : Trading Economics