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ZGBriefs The Weeks Top Picks, January 3 Issue

Three stories caught our eye this week, two serious, and one that will make you want to don all of your winter clothes, grab your camera, and head to Harbin, China.

In China, one in five children live in rural villages without their parents (Washington Post)

William Wan visits a village in Hunan Province to tell the story of China's "left-behind" children. The statistics are grim:

More than 61 million children about one-fifth of the kids in China live in villages without their parents. Most are the offspring of peasants who have flocked to cities in one of the largest migrations in human history. For three decades, the migrants' cheap labor has fueled China's rise as an economic juggernaut. But the city workers are so squeezed by high costs and long hours that many send their children to live with elderly relatives in the countryside.

He goes on to write about a couple who leave their daughter behind to work in Zhengzhou, reminding us of the human cost of China's mass migration from the countryside into the cities.

Getting "Educated" (Sinostand)

China blogger Eric Fish highlights a YouTube video on education in China that is a must view for anyone involved with education in China:

I recently came across this documentary called "Education, Education" (released a year ago but new to me) exploring the hardship young Chinese are facing in leveraging their education for a decent job. It follows a college graduate struggling to find work, a poor rural girl deciding what she should do after failing the gaokao, and a recruiter touting a sham private college. The film was advertised with the question, "Has higher education become a cause of poverty rather than a route out of it?" This, I think, is a depressingly relevant question to be asking in China today.

Fish then shares some his own encounters with these recruiters and the students that have been cheated by them:

A few months later I met a man who'd graduated from a second-tier provincial university with a degree in Chinese in 2009. He'd spent the following three years hopping across the country working in factories and grocery stores as he struggled to find white collar work. It wasn't until after he cut his losses and paid 10,000 yuan for a four-month computer programming course that he found a decent-paying job in an office.

I suggested to one of the Henan men that perhaps he'd be better off cutting his losses and attending a shorter term technical school, since that's where the most demand in China is. However, that just didn't have the same appeal. "I thought about going to technical school when my college went bust," he replied. "But my classmates criticized me. They said, 'your parents saved for you to go to college. How could you use their money for technical school?'"

It's a sobering reminder of how brutal the Chinese educational system can be.

And now for something more fun...

Harbin ice-sculpture festival in pictures (The Guardian)

Click on the link to see some amazing photos of this year's Ice and Snow World in Harbin.

Image credit: Harbin Snow and Ice Festival, by Trent Strohm, via Flickr

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University... View Full Bio