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October 19, 2021

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Noted educator’s school unveiled on anniversary

A HISTORICAL school building founded by China’s celebrated educator and reformer Tao Xingzhi was unveiled in Shanghai yesterday to mark the 130th anniversary of his birth.

The Yucai Old Academy at 180 Xingzhi Road in northern Baoshan District was the only well-preserved school building left over by Tao, who devoted his life to promoting mass education in China, especially in rural areas.

He founded Yucai Middle School in the suburbs of Chongqing City, then the interim capital of the country, in 1939, and offered free education to refugees and children of the Communist Party of China members.

The prominent school was relocated to the current site in Baoshan in April of 1947. The siheyuan, a traditional house with a courtyard in the center, was divided into different sections for music, painting and cultural classes, to implement Tao’s teaching principle to train both the “minds and hands” of children.

The building was unveiled yesterday after a major renovation. The academy’s former layout has been restored, along with old photos and exhibitions about Tao’s contributions.

“We had to flee to Shanghai from Chongqing after the school was shut down by the Kuomintang in 1947,” said Cheng Daihui, former top national playwright of Shanghai Ballet and a graduate of the Yucai School Music Team.

“Inspired by Tao, we later staged many influential performances in Shanghai to reveal social truths,” said Cheng.

To alleviate a shortage of teachers and funds, Tao initiated the “Little Teacher” campaign in January 1934, which is still deemed an efficient way of teaching and studying today. Young students were encouraged to serve as teachers to others, even to those older than themselves.

Under Tao’s guidance, over 18,000 “little teachers” were recruited in Shanghai within 10 months. The campaign was later expanded to 28 provinces and cities as a key nationwide education movement.

“Tao’s legacy is still influencing the teachers and students in Baoshan,” said Yang Weihong, headmaster of Xingzhi Middle School, founded by Tao.

The school has opened multiple experimental classes in cooperation with top local universities such as Fudan, Jiaotong and Tongji. Students can assemble an artificial intelligence robot or operate an automated assembly line in the classes, Yang said.


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