Flash Points

Themed journeys through our archive.

How Politics Shape Schools Around the World

For better and for worse.

A teacher interacts with students at a UNRWA school.
A teacher interacts with students at a UNRWA school.
A teacher interacts with students at a school run by the UNRWA at the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza City on Aug. 8, 2020. Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Around the world, or at least the Northern Hemisphere, many students are starting a new school year. In China, pupils will study curricula that prioritize manual labor, harkening back to Mao Zedong-era policies. Many Haitians, meanwhile, will soon return to classrooms conducted in French—a language few Haitians can speak.

In this edition of Flash Points, we take you into five school systems, examining how their education policies reflect domestic politics and geopolitical realities.—Chloe Hadavas

Xi Wants Chinese Students Back in the Countryside

New labor education policies echo Maoist obsessions, Don Giolzetti writes.

Around the world, or at least the Northern Hemisphere, many students are starting a new school year. In China, pupils will study curricula that prioritize manual labor, harkening back to Mao Zedong-era policies. Many Haitians, meanwhile, will soon return to classrooms conducted in French—a language few Haitians can speak.

In this edition of Flash Points, we take you into five school systems, examining how their education policies reflect domestic politics and geopolitical realities.—Chloe Hadavas


A Chinese employee works on vehicle parts at a factory in Jinan in China's eastern Shandong province on May 11, 2019.
A Chinese employee works on vehicle parts at a factory in Jinan in China's eastern Shandong province on May 11, 2019.

A Chinese employee works on vehicle parts at a factory in Jinan in China’s eastern Shandong province on May 11, 2019.STR/AFP via Getty Images

Xi Wants Chinese Students Back in the Countryside

New labor education policies echo Maoist obsessions, Don Giolzetti writes.


Students look at booklets at their desks on the first day back to school at the National School of Tabarre in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince on Sept. 5, 2016.
Students look at booklets at their desks on the first day back to school at the National School of Tabarre in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince on Sept. 5, 2016.

Students look at booklets at their desks on the first day back to school at the National School of Tabarre in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince on Sept. 5, 2016.HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images

Haiti’s Foreign Language Stranglehold

Around 90 percent of Haitians speak only Haitian Creole, Benjamin Hebblethwaite writes. So why is school mostly conducted in French?


Girls attend class in Afghanistan.
Girls attend class in Afghanistan.

Girls attend a class after their school reopened, hours before the Taliban ordered girls’ secondary schools to shut down, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on March 23.AHMAD SAHEL ARMAN/AFP via Getty Images

Taliban Reversal on Girls’ Education Ignites World’s Anger

The sudden about-face could undercut the Taliban’s hopes for international recognition, FP’s Lynne O’Donnell writes.


Palestinians collect food aid at a U.N. distribution center.
Palestinians collect food aid at a U.N. distribution center.

Palestinians collect food aid at a distribution center run by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East in Gaza City on July 26.MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images

Palestinian Schools Have a Problem—and Are Running Out of Time

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees has failed to fulfill demands for reform—and may soon face the consequences, Yardena Schwartz writes.


Chris Gash illustration for Foreign Policy
Chris Gash illustration for Foreign Policy

Chris Gash illustration for Foreign Policy

The Arab World’s Star Student

What Tunisia can teach its neighbors about the value of education, according to Kim Ghattas.

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