Greetings from Singapore, where I’ve been spending the last couple of weeks.
Home schooling remains highly controversial. In 2017, for the first time, the education ministry openly attacked the practice, calling it “very unfavourable to a child’s lifelong development”. It reminded parents that home schooling without authorisation was banned. In March the ministry threatened parents with unspecified “legal action” if they failed to comply.
There are several reasons why parents risk it. In Mr Wang’s surveys, by far the commonest is dislike of the “ideology” and “teaching methods” of state schools (Mr Yuan stresses independent thinking and open debate). Another is contempt for “school culture”, such as the adulation of pupils who swot day and night. A few prefer home education for religious reasons. China’s schools promote atheism.
In Finland’s vast forest lives a monster with a voracious appetite. Once, it would have been called a pulp mill. But after a recent makeover costing €1.2bn ($1.3bn) it is now known as a bioproducts mill—and as such is one of the biggest in the world. This sprawling plant, near Äänekoski, a town in the centre of the country, consumes 6.5m cubic metres of wood a year. That translates into the delivery of a large lorryload of felled tree trunks every six minutes, day and night, together with yet further logs arriving on 70 railway wagons a day. Apart from a brief break for maintenance once a year, the mill never stops working. On the face of things, such rapacious industrialisation of the Finnish forest, which covers three-quarters of the country’s landscape, looks the antithesis of tree-hugging environmentalism. The forest is home to wolves, bears, deer and many other species of wildlife, and its trees lock away carbon that would otherwise be in the air, warming the atmosphere. Yet Metsä Group, which operates the Äänekoski mill, claims the very opposite.
The new cocoa bean harvest kicks off in West Africa this month, and Ivory Coast, the world’s largest producer, is poised for another strong crop. In addition, global supply and demand for cocoa are decently balanced. Nevertheless, new government policies and emerging disease pressures in major producing countries present uncertainties that could boost the price cocoa buyers are forced to pay for beans.
Epic Games Inc., the closely held video-game company behind the global hit Fortnite, will now be studied at Harvard Business School. The university published one of its famous case studies last week on the company, which was founded in 1991 by computer programmer Tim Sweeney. The case study focuses less on Fortnite, which took in an estimated $2.4 billion last year, and more on the company’s introduction in December of the Epic Games Store, an online video-game retailer. That business challenges Steam, a division of closely held Valve Corp., with an online marketplace that promises game developers a greater share of revenue.