Brat Academy looks at one solution to the problem of badly behaved children. New kinds of schools are springing up across China. These special private schools use discipline and military-like regimes to turn problem children around. They’re educational boot camps that re-build children from the ground up.
Brat academies are private schools. The fees are enormous -- as much as 35,000 RMB per year. Brat academies separate the children from their families, friends, and temptations. Using strict discipline and a tough physical regime brat academies attempt to turn wayward children around. They’re schools built on a philosophy of “tough love”.
Our film focuses on one of China’s most well-known brat academies. It’s run by the charismatic Xu Xiangyang. With his shaved head and wrap-around sunglasses he’s the antithesis of a classic school headmaster. He runs his school with an iron fist. Headmaster Xu puts the boot into “boot camp.”
Xu’s school pursues an unusual curriculum. For part of the year the children live on the road. Literally. Convoys of 20 or more army vehicles carry the students the length and breadth of China. But more important than mere transport, the trucks are the students’ home-away-from-home. They live, eat and sleep in the trucks. But they don’t always travel in them. Because another unusual aspect of Headmaster Xu’s school is that the children walk. And they are no walks in the park. Children go on epic walks. Forty kilometers a day is not uncommon. Seventy kilometers a day is the record. Altogether students walk hundreds, sometimes thousands, of kilometers in their careers at Headmaster Xu’s school. It’s for this reason that Xu’s school has earned a nickname China: its known as the “Walk School”. The walks are for more than just exercise. They give the children achievable goals, a first step on the road to self-esteem. Even more importantly, the walks give badly behaved children time to think. It’s only by realizing their past mistakes that they are turned around.