Last week I was in a city of just over 10 million people in central China. When I arrived at the airport the smog was thick and not only outside but inside the enormous terminal too. You could barely see more than 50 metres as everything was immersed in a smoggy gloom. The cars outside were covered in thick layers of dust – dust we were now breathing. My colleague had an app for this and informed me that the pollution level was 429 parts per million, explaining that the World Health recommended level was less than 50 parts per million of particles less than 2.5 microns. Hmm… this was worrying indeed. Driving to our destination we were told that the city is spending more on infrastructure this year than the whole of the European Union. Indeed. As we drove along new building sites hoved into view one after another for over an hour as we made our way through the gloom. All was mountains of freshly moved earth and emerging skyscrapers for housing and business. The evening was spent in the somewhat bizarre Women’s and Children’s Centre – a 1980s state building which housed an ageing set of what might once have been described as a children’s adventure land, but now looked rather tired when compared with the new digital landscapes for children. There was a bike track painted on the floor framed by a huge photo of an urban landscape from the eighties. And a real crashed car too, showing the dangers of bad driving amongst a host of children’s ‘entertainments’ which were really just a series of tableaus – spaces to be gazed at, or not. Next morning we were driven to a campus housing a school, children’s dormitories, a very imposing library with Doric columns and the local Education Bureau offices. Here we sat in a large room around a dark meeting table that was perhaps ten metres long and had space for 30. In trooped 14 officials led by the mayor and the party official. All but three of the group were male. We began our presentation about why schools have to change (technology is threatening traditional jobs) and why the skills of creativity and communication skills are now critical. The presentations in Chinese lasted for perhaps 75 minutes as we looked at what might be accomplished. The faces opposite were fairly inscrutable. One of their number fell asleep. Not a good sign. At the end it was the mayor who asked: ‘Well if we did this would the qualifications that the children take improve?’ There then was the rub. The Chinese as such were typical of most educational authorities around the world. There is an acceptance of radical change but an inability to make the jump if it at all threatens traditional exam results. So my guess is that not much is going to happen in the central Asian city that we visited: they will continue with their education system as it always has been focused on rote memory and passing standard exams. The jump to a more modern approach is just too difficult to think about.