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Education in China Guerra

In 1949 when China became a communist nation, they were intent on removing all Western
influences in education. Missionary schools, which had been a part of Chinese education since 1818,
were completely purged and new laws banned study in the West, with the exception of a select few
studying Western language for political reasons. Concerns for educational expansion were suspended in
1944, until the war was over and the communist country was fully expanded. Mao Zedong became
agitated with the discrepancies in education between the rural and urban communities and during his
cultural revolution of 1966 to 76 he attempted to reconstruct the educational structure entirely. After
his death in 1976, members of the capitalist party and the educated middle-class collaborated and
renounced his educational efforts. In the fall of 1976, educators removed manual labor and work-study
for college students and brought back Gaokao, the National College Entrance exam. By 1981, the
educational system was returned to the system Mao despised, applying resources in only a few elite
school and closing others to ensure the quality of the few. However, with the push of willful Maoists,
educational jurisdiction begin admitting the system was flawed. In 1985, the State Education
Commission took control of the Education Ministry, addressing the many problems within the education
system. Minister of Culture, Wang Meng, was in charge of the writers and artists of China and a faction
to the State Education Commission. He advised that literature, along with less restriction, more choices,
and a willingness to hear out opposing opinions, would be necessary to make the needed changes. Thus
forcing reformers to admit to the shortcomings of their system. He pointed out that until real solutions
and development occurred, equality could not be attained.
In China’s rural areas, residents are peppered throughout the region. The landscape and lack of
transport make it unfeasible for children to travel long distances to school. Many communities and
parents do not understand the importance of education, as they come from a long line of uneducated
farmers. In these areas, once children are able to assist with the cultivation of land, they are used for
labor. Sending their children to school, costs money, increases the workload, and causes a loss of
income, and control over children. Additionally, to make education available to everyone, more schools
would have to be built, maintained, and filled with teachers, staff, and supplies. Afterward, the
communities each school served, would be responsible for supporting them. The resistance from rural
communities were supported by the elite, asserting that children in rural areas learn all that they need
from their fathers. An implication further supporting separation of classes, and wealth, while preventing
the poor from ever rising out of poverty. While the central government applied the general policy,
guidelines, and curriculum, they only provided a budgeted allowance for books and materials. In the
city, schools were fully funded by the state. In the country however, the states limited funds were sent
through provinces and counties, following the bureaucratic chain responsible for dividing aid to their
schools. State money allotted to rural schools typically covered the cost to build, operating expenses,
and the salaries for a few of the teachers and staff. The remaining costs to cover teachers and staff,
maintenance and repairs, student fees, educational materials, and supplies for everyday activities and
small projects, were the responsibility of the commune and local production brigades, which often fell
Only about one-third of the brigades were able to collect taxes from farmers, and they were
limited to those farmers who grew crops for the state, as they could withhold their earnings. Some
brigades divided costs up between all households, others only to those with children. Teachers were
expected to go door-to-door to collect the money, and were sometimes physically assaulted. The
inability of many families to afford the additional costs, led to increased dropout rates. The State
Council issued a resolution supporting universal elementary education requiring the local governments
to keep schools open, but they were not allowed to summon the local community to work without pay
or increase their financial burden, to make up the needed costs. Consequently, an experimental system
was conducted among 51 Hebei counties, withdrawing all state funds from rural schools, then dividing
what was collected among key schools of senior secondary and trade education. This reasoning
stemmed from the inadequacy of state aid to support rural education and the belief that changes in
agricultural policies were increasing the income of peasants, who should be able to fund their own
schools. What resulted was the inability of many schools to pay their teachers any cash payments,
sometimes for two years. By late in the year of 1984, the State Council promised to return the
educational operating expenses from the state, authorized the local governments to collect an
educational tax on agricultural and collectively owned enterprises, and prohibited head and land-tax. In
1986 the government officially announced the commencement of a law that would require a mandatory
nine years of elementary and secondary education, free from tuition. It also forbade the employment of
children, 16 or younger, as they should be in school. If parents or employers did not comply, local
governments had permission to take necessary action against them.
In China, students attend school five days a week from September through July, each year
includes two semesters. Classes usually begin at 7:30 a.m. and end at 6:00 p.m., with a 2-hour break for
lunch. Although parents may opt to send their children to pre-k and kindergarten, these schools are
expensive and only available in urban locations to local hukou holders. Compulsory Education begins at
the age of six or seven and lasts for 6 years in urban areas, but only 5 years in some rural communities.
Laws govern the use of Mandarin Chinese as the primary tongue for educational instruction. Though
exceptions are extended to schools with a higher minority attendance, allowing educators to use their
local ethnic language in addition to Mandarin Chinese. Assignments for urban populations are composed
of nine mandatory courses, including Chinese, Ideology and Morality, Mathematics, Physical Education,
Social Studies, Nature, Music, Fine Arts, and Labor Studies, along with an optional foreign language
course. The curriculum in rural areas offer little in comparison, only including Chinese, math, and
physical education. During primary education, students typically learn about 700 Chinese characters in
the first two years and know 3,500-7000 by the time they leave.
Primary education is followed junior secondary school, lasting for another three years, and
fulfilling the mandatory education requirements. In urban areas, a student’s Junior High location can be
chosen, decided by a computer, or assigned by proximity. Parents who wish to choose the location,
must pay extra for their child’s attendance. The courses studied in junior high, include Chinese, math,
physics, English, history, chemistry, geography, politics, biology, physical education, information
technology, music and arts, and practical work experience. Students are required to score above 60
points in order to graduate and be accepted into high school. Secondary schools in urban areas offer
evening classes for self-study from 7pm to 9pm. Fortunate students able to take advantage of these
classes, use the time for completing assignments and preparing for exams. Those without this option are
often up until 10pm completing homework. In the later years of secondary education, many urban
schools offer Saturday morning classes covering math and science to help prepare for the gaokao exam.
While the parents of rural students may find alternatives to assist their children in study, most cannot
afford to do so. Only about 40% of rural students attending secondary school even graduate. The sociopolitical barriers and vastly inferior education, make it difficult on many levels.
After secondary school, students who wish to attend senior high school, must pass the
enrollment examination. Passing students may choose to attend formal high schools or a vocational
school. Only those with the highest scores are able to attend China’s finest schools, which are typically
affiliated with their most elite universities. Exceptional students, or those with a social or political tie,
are often groomed for their associated university, and may be handpicked for admission by its
administrators. High school subjects include Chinese, math, foreign language, chemistry, physics,
geography, biology, morality and ethics, history, physical education, health and information technology.
The Chinese government spends a much smaller portion of their GDP on education then the
world average. The money they do spend, has been highly concentrated on the urban population, with
significant amounts going to the country’s most elite universities and their affiliated schools. The
location of schools in urban areas allow students to attend classes within a close proximity to their
homes. Most of these facilities are state-of-the-art, including advanced technology and educational
resources, and are staffed by highly regarded educators. Main campuses are large with 10,000 to 20,000
square meters of space and have additional facilities, including computer rooms, science labs, libraries,
playgrounds, and sports centers. Rural schools, on the other hand, make use of dilapidated buildings,
barns, or other structures which are no longer being used. They are often overcrowded, filling a room
with only 10 square meters of space with 20 children. Many times, these makeshift schools are without
restrooms, heat, or air. Educational materials are minimal, outdated, and shared. The community’s
inability to support a higher number of facilities and staff, have caused a large number of closures,
increasing the distance students must travel for education. This factor forces them to double as
dormitories for the attending children, who typically live too far away to return home after school.
Mattresses for children to share are often the only furniture available, forcing children to use the
overcrowded floors to do assignments and eat their meals. Primary educators are often local peasants
who never received more than primary education themselves. Other teachers may have more education
in comparison, but are often of poor quality, under paid, understaffed, and receiving no incentives.
Furthermore, they are responsible for the physical well-being of the children, 24 hours a day, the entire
school year.
Following the implementation of the new law, the minister of education, He Dongchang,
admitted there were shortcomings in many rural areas preventing universal education. In addition to
limited financial resources, many rural schools did not use the six-year format like schools in the urban
areas, shortening the time of elementary and early secondary education to a maximum of eight years.
Consequently, time parameters for implementation of the law varied. More developed urban areas
were expected to be in compliance by 1990, cities and towns that were less developed were given until
1995, and rural areas that had become accustomed to a culture of pervasive poverty could do so as
conditions permitted. In March of 1989, Dongchang made unsubstantiated claims that in the prior year,
97% of children had attended school, with 97% of them finishing the year. The claims contradicted his
previous admission that at least 35% of the administrative divisions at the county level had yet to
achieve universal elementary education. He gave no explanation to the declining number of schools in
rural areas, which made it further for children to attend and caused a decrease in enrollment. Nor did
he have anything to say about huge discrepancies discovered during surveys taken at several rural
provinces. These surveys found variations in enrollment between provinces, including one with nearly
19% of children between the ages of 7 and 12 unable to attend school, another experiencing a 10% drop
in enrollment - with an additional one and a half million dropping out in 1987, and another province
that had closed nearly 3,000 schools in less than 4 years and reported more than half a million children
between the ages of 6 and 11 had dropped out of school. The increasing cost of tuition, which wasn’t
supposed to exist, was reportedly the biggest factor causing children to drop out. Additionally, in 1987,
sample surveys were taken in 9 different provinces. The results indicated at least 15% of children from 6
to 14 years, living in cities, and another 25% from the country, were not attending school. In these
surveys, distance was the biggest factor for non-enrollment, accounting for 63% in rural areas and 43%
in urban areas. During the 1989 press conference, Dongchang was addressed about plans for solving
problems with rural education. He responded that the State Education Commission would gradually
setup procedures where state funds and education taxes would be pooled with funds raised by other
means. He added that the introduction of a system outlining the principles and rules would assist in the
development of laws surrounding education, which would need to support China’s legislative policies.
China’s one child policy, for example, meant that compulsory education was only available to
one child from each family, not every child. This may have accounted for some of the skewed claims of
high percentages of children in schools. China’s One-Child Policy, led to a decrease in the educational
gender gap. In the first decade and a half, the percentage of women completing high school was only
about 37%, and college completion was around 32%, during the 1970’s, both had increased to 47%.
Nevertheless, while the policy effectively decreased the number of couples having more than one child,
it did not eliminate their existence. Families with unauthorized children could lose their jobs and were
forced to pay significant fines and additional taxes, which many couldn't afford. Collectively, fines
totaling more than 20 billion yuan were paid to 24 provinces in 2012. Families who could afford to pay
the immense fines could register their second children, allowing their attendance to schools, for an
additional cost. According to the 2010 census, 13 million Chinese citizens were unregistered in the
country, all ineligible for services of any kind, including education and health care, or any protection
under Chinese law. In 2015, after the policy was lifted, some families began seeking help to register their
children. Others continue keeping them secret, unable to afford the fines. A study conducted by a
research institute indicated more than half of the 13 million lacking registration are older than 18.
Similarly, almost half were found to be illiterate and uneducated. Millions were forced to grow up
without education, assistance, healthcare, or the ability to find a job or get married.
Another governmental policy is the household registration system, hukou. The rules and
regulations of this classification system has been highly discriminatory towards rural residents,
exasperating inequality among rural and urban residents, their communities, and the education system.
Hukou was established in the late 1950s as a way to prevent rural-to-urban migration. Each person in
China was classified and registered as either a rural or urban resident, agriculture or non-agricultural. In
addition to controlling the movement of the population, it also dictated which welfare and stateprovided services each person was eligible to receive. Rural residents were not allowed access to
services that urban residents received. Lowest on the classification were agricultural hokou holders,
forced to sell their products to the government at a discounted price, as a method of providing capital
for national development. Non-agricultural hokou holders, were assigned to the wealthier, urban
population, but were also given to industrial workers, as the government was concerned about political
loyalty and economic livelihood. Benefits given included food rations, grain subsidies, better
employment opportunities, subsidized housing, free education, health care, and pensions after reaching
old age. The registration system forced strict laws on immigration within the country, from province to
province. Those who wished to travel had to attain authorization from where they lived, as well as
temporary registration from where they were going. The police used the system to monitor certain
classes and in the 1970’s, the system was so extreme that rural residents could be arrested simply for
coming to the city. The system also worked as a means to prevent rural residents from ever moving up
on the social ladder, by passing their status on to their children.
After farming was privatized, there was an increase in rural laborers that coincided with an
increased need for laborers in the city. Chinese officials effectuated reforms that would give rural
residents better ability to move and work. The reform included a system for temporary residency in
towns and allowed them to move from their homes to unskilled jobs in the cities. In 1984, the hukou
system added “self-supplied food grain,” to their classification labels. It allowed residents from rural
areas to move to market towns, if they were employed there locally and could provide their own
housing and food. In some areas, the requirements were so strict that the only kind of housing approved
was either private home ownership, which had only recently become available to wealthy urban
residents, or housing in a corporate or government facility. Regulations regarding what was a stable
source of income was also up for interpretation. Many areas required formal employment from a
private company or within the government. Other urban areas will allow local hokou if a person has at
least two years of college education or reaches financial criteria, and purchases a home meeting size or
price requirements. As the economy grew in industry and wealth, the government was able to eliminate
the rationing system, making it easier for unregistered migrants to buy food. With the reformed hokou
system and desertion of government rations, millions migrated from rural-to-urban areas, without
obtaining formal registration. However, despite the changes in the systems, the ability to receive any of
the public services offered to urban residents, were still unavailable. Even those who had temporary
residency permits or “self-supplied food grain" hokou were not eligible for subsidized health care or
education for their families. Meanwhile, officials added a special regime, whose purpose was the
detainment and deportation of undocumented rural residents who had not obtained stable housing or
work. Police would often extort money from, and beat migrants. In 2003, after police physically beat a
young migrant to death, the State Council aborted the system.
The following year, directives were issued by the State Council to prevent discrimination of
employment in additional occupations, and the ability for migrants to rent apartments or office space.
However, the system remained unsympathetic toward cultural, economic, social and political rights.
Hokou registration continued to link public service restrictions to all rural migrants, including long-term
residents. Barriers in education have prevented children without local hokou from attending public
schools in urban areas or any area that is not within their local, permanent home registration. In 1998,
laws forbidding them from attending urban schools were removed, but did not require schools to allow
their attendance. National legislation still mandated that educational responsibilities were based on the
hokou students were born into, not on the location they resided. In 2003 a directive was issued by the
State Council attempting to improve these educational barriers. However, the directive only dictated
that local governments make an effort to include migrant children in their educational jurisdiction. This
led urban governments to make light of the directive, holding on to primary hokou classification rules as
a loophole to release them from responsibility. For children of migrant workers, the ability to obtain the
country's alleged universal compulsory education, has been nearly impossible, especially for those
residing in the area for less than a year.
The only exceptions that have been made to rural migrant students are to those who are living
in an urban area with absolutely no guardian. In these cases, parents may apply for their child’s approval
to attend public schools, but it is still not guaranteed. In 2010, the number of high school students
enrolled in Shanghai schools was 170,000, while at least 570,000 children from the ages of 15 to 19 and
legally residing in the area, were restricted from enrolling due to their migrant or hukou status. 1986
compulsory education law was supposed to be free from tuition, but national and local regulations
allowed taxing of migrant children not attending the schools of their permanent home registration.
Local governments had fee schedules that were already established charging several hundred yuan each
semester. Provinces might charge 300 yuan each semester for elementary education and 500 for each
semester of secondary education. Often, public schools would take advantage of these regulations,
charging students with illegal fees in the upwards of several thousand yuan every year. For a migrant
worker, these costs made up a large portion of their annual income and increased their poverty. While
efforts have been made to decrease these actions, the local governments are disinclined to accept any
financial responsibility to educate migrants without additional funding. The Council’s 2003 directive
seemingly offered a level of support concerning the establishment of private schools for migrant
children in urban areas. However, rules and regulations regarding the school’s physical and financial
requirements were very strict, leaving few with formal authorization to run. Local governments, fearing
competition and loss of revenue, would earmark these schools, leading to their closure.
Ostracizing rural hokou holders is highly evident in China. The public service sector continues to
discriminate against them, providing additional programs to residents, while excluding all rural hokou
holders. There is little political representation for rural hokou holders, who often aren't even allowed to
vote. These political barriers further amplify inequality, especially in areas that could lead to upward
movement in society. The structural barriers in the education system continue far beyond elementary
and secondary education, making the likelihood of attending college extremely slim. First, to be
accepted into a university, students must receive a high score on the National College Entrance Exam,
often referred to as the world's most difficult exam. Questions on the exam vary by location, with much
easier exams in urban areas and more difficult exam questions in rural areas. Rural test takers, who have
already been disadvantaged their entire lives, must be highly gifted just to pass. The exam can only be
taken once a year, usually by students in their final year of high school. Students whose scores aren’t
high enough, may take the test again the following year. Many students who pass and are accepted into
college, but not an elite university, often take another year to study and attempt the gaokao again.
Receiving a college education does not guarantee employment. Employers are often biased, choosing
candidates from Elite schools in China before other colleges. Furthermore, in China, private colleges and
universities are considered to be of lesser quality then governmental ones. Students receiving a degree
from one of these colleges are often not recognized.
A second factor affecting a person’s admittance to a college or university are the use of quotas
and the more secretive, selective admissions. Quotas are given from local colleges and universities and
highly controlled by the Ministry of Education, distorting admission to universities. Quotas are strict and
advocate admission to residents of urban areas, with higher numbers of acceptance given to students
who’s resident hukou is in the same district as the university. In 2000, university admission for hokou
residents of Beijing included 25,000 reserved slots, with an additional 80,000 reserved for the Shandong
province. In 2012, China's most prestigious universities, Peking and Tsinghua, accepted 84 of every
10,000 Beijing students, but only 2 of 10,000 Cantonese were accepted. Additionally, gaokao score
requirements are lower for certain hokou holders, genders, and minorities. For example, students with a
Beijing hukou, who underscore a rural student by as much as 150 points, are more likely to be accepted
into college than the higher scoring rural student. While students officially classified as ethnic minorities,
taking the standard exam, are permitted lower scores than Han students. The opposite holds true for
female students, who are often required to test higher than male students, especially when their field of
study is viewed as gender inappropriate.
Furthermore, in 1998, the Higher Education Law granted permission to the highest ranked
universities to hand pick individuals for admission. In 2003, 22 select universities for given permission to
fill 5% are there quotas this way. By 2010, the same permission was been granted to another 68
universities. This practice, known as the duli zhaosheng initiative, was justified by the need for social
diversity and specialized employees in certain job fields, which may be hindered by gaokao testing.
These universities formed alliances and created various standardized tests and evaluation procedures
for specialized education programs. However, the program was corrupt and lacked transparency. The
pool of students selected for admission and not required to take the gaokao exam, were typically
chosen from university-affiliated schools. Students in the schools were often prepped specifically for this
purpose and selected due to pressure from highly connected elites, political favouritism, and monetary
contributions. Each of these universities enrolled 30% of their available slots to hand-picked students in
2010, with the exception of Fudan University, which filled nearly 60% of their admission this way. A
scandal was uncovered involving Beijing’s Renmin University in 2013, allegedly accepting admission for
the price of one million yuan. In 2015, the allowable admissions using duli zhaosheng alternatives was
officially restricted at 5%.
The People’s Republic of China accomplished sizable economic growth between 1978 and 2013,
increasing their GDP each year by an average of 10%. This achievement was produced by hiring a
substantial number of unskilled workers and paying them minimal wages to increase productivity, while
investing little to improve the efficiency of facilities and machinery. During this time of economic
expansion, there was a high demand for Chinese products in the international market, feeding
production and causing an increase in profits. While the boom and economic growth advanced the
Chinese economy to second largest in the world, labor intensive production is not sustainable. Beginning
in 2011, the country’s GDP saw a decline of more than 4%, and has continued to decrease. As China’s
population ages, their demographic dividend – grossly distorted by there one child policy, will see a
decrease in available laborers for factory production. To meet production requirements, investments
will need to be made not only the facilities and equipment, but in skilled, educated employees. Without
the proper education of all Chinese citizens, (regardless of residency location or hukou status)
specialized skills, and the ability of laborers to operate in an organized, cost-effective, and competent
manner, will decrease along with economic growth, effecting the entire nation.
Sadly, Chinese Society is entrenched with the belief that one class of people is far superior to
another. Chinese laws, policies, and servitude towards rural citizens, further enforce this belief. The
nation’s urban dwellers earn incomes that are more than quadruple the size of rural pay. Additionally,
the urban population are gifted subsidies from the Chinese government, including health care, housing,
education, and food rations. Their homes and community buildings are stable and safe, with heat,
running water and sewage systems. There education sector is top of the line, featuring all the latest
technology and amenities, provided nearly free of charge. They provide outstanding instructors, and
teach morality as a mandatory course. The urban community can move freely about their city,
purchasing items from markets if they desire, or enrolling their children in schools that will help them
achieve their dreams. Adversely, rural residents, with their meager earnings, pay higher tax rates, are
forced to relinquish their goods at government prices, are exempt from receiving government subsidies,
and aren't freely allowed in cities or their markets. Their communities are poor, unable to support the
education of the children living there. Their schools are little more than shacks, and sometimes
dangerous. They have no desks to work on, no heat to stay warm, and no restrooms. Yet the
government says it is mandatory that they go there to receive a falsely universal and free education.
They say this knowing that children, who they have sworn to protect in their constitution, will be forced
to live in these miserable conditions the entire school year, without their families or any comfort.
However, they can now boast to the world about decreasing their national illiteracy rate, and talk about
their “superior” schools, providing “superior” education for “free” to “every” child. Meanwhile, to boost
the nation, they underpay rural migrants to work in their urban factories, and refuse their children
education, because they aren't the city's responsibility. Like the 13 million unregistered citizens, who
aren't their responsibility. Maybe their perception of morality is skewed, and they are teaching it as
truth. Many students studying for the gaokao say they don’t really listen to any of the lessons that won’t
help them prepare, so maybe morality has been missed. Perhaps these are the shortcomings of the
system that Wang Meng was referring to when he advised the State Education Commission on equality.
Unfortunately, without changing the basis of law and addressing the error of prejudice in Chinese
society, there will never be equality in education or any other area for that matter. No matter how many
times officials reform their policies, and make adjustments so things are fairer, the foundation remains.
Providing an effective tool for the privileged, to exempt themselves from any responsibility to the less
fortunate. People will continue to unjustly suffer from the severely flawed and outdated system, each
generation sinking deeper into poverty and the belief that their lives are somehow worth less than