n elite high school in the Hebei city of Handan known for its military-style of schooling has further embraced that reputation by installing two actual decommissioned tanks outside its main gates.
“We hope that all teachers and pupils will fully equip themselves with a fighting spirit and determination so that they are unafraid of hardship and sacrifice, and advance bravely together, daring to win at any cost,” the school’s principal was quoted as saying by The Paper at the tanks’ unveiling on Tuesday.
“They will not forget their mission of studying and working hard, struggling constantly until the end.”
Despite what it might sound like, what the principal is talking about here is not sending students into battle, but preparing them for the gaokao, the nationwide college entrance exam that will likely determine their future. His school, the Hengshui No.1 High School in Handan, is known for how well its students perform on the examination and how many of them go on to be enrolled in China’s most prestigious universities.
The elite private boarding school is part of a growing chain of schools that began in the Hebei city of Hengshui and have become infamous as China’s top cram schools or “gaokao factories.” It is said that students at these schools spend at least 12 hours a day in class, taking only 15-minute breaks for meals.
While at school, the students are subject to strict military-style discipline that is reported to include a ban on close contact with classmates of the opposite sex. Each year, 100 days before the start of the gaokao, they take part in a banner-filled rally out on the athletic field, where they shout out their determination to do well on the upcoming exam.
In recent years, Hengshui’s style of schooling has made many increasingly uncomfortable with its latest school in Zhejiang province receiving a “cold welcome” last year from officials who called its methods out of touch with the times.
Some have expressed their concerns that the schools place far too much pressure and stress on teens, a burden which will inevitably cause them to snap. After one student died in 2016 from jumping from the top of the flagship school in Hengshui, school administrators responded by installing floor-to-ceiling iron railings on each story of the building. The enclosed hallways were likened online to those of a prison.
[Images via CGTN]