What she discovered is a military-like education system driven by high-stakes testing, with teachers posting rankings in public, using bribes to reward students who comply, and shaming to isolate those who do not. At the same time, she uncovered a years-long desire by government to alleviate its students’ crushing academic burden and make education friendlier for all. The more she learns, the more she wonders: Are Chinese children—and her son—paying too high a price for their obedience and the promise of future academic prowess? Is there a way to appropriate the excellence of the system but dispense with the bad? What, if anything, could Westerners learn from China’s education journey?
One remaining significant question is why the use of child soldiers differs from area to area or country to country? It is important to realise that numerous reasons are valid, and that it is tempting but misleading to make sweeping generalisations. However, it is crucial not to omit so-called accessibility factors, which describe to which extent children are easily accessible for recruiters. 32 Recent studies have suggested that the previously mentioned push and pull factors indeed contribute to children becoming soldiers, but those factors alone do not capture the full picture.