Education Reforms in China


EducationReforms in China


Educationreform is a topic that is constantly present in any discussion on therise of China. Many experts attribute education reforms started byDeng Xiaoping to the rapid industrialization of the country. In facta few decades ago, China was dismissed based on the communist systemof governance but today it’s a global force. In their book“Education and reform in China”, Emily Hannum and Albert Parkhave gathered several papers on the topic. In one article authored byAlan de Brauw and Scott Rozelle titled “Returns to education inrural China”, the issue of the earnings between urban and ruralChinese workers and the varying education levels between rural andurban is highlighted.

RuralChina records the lowest average years of education in Asia. Onaverage, Asia records nine years of education with rural Chinarecording only six years. The authors highlight the need to ensurethat the country educates its people to increase productivity andalso increase the returns on labor for the individuals. It is commonknowledge that education increases one’s marketability in the labormarket and thus education is a sure way of uplifting the welfare ofthe people. So what is the government of China doing about it? Thetrend is a bit shocking. The amount of GDP that the governmentallocates to education over the years has been falling. In 1980,China allocated 2.5% of the GDP to education but the amount fell to2.2% of the GDP by 2000. Other developing countries and especiallythose in Asia allocated 3.3% of their GDP to education in 2000.

Severalstudies have explored the effect of underfunding education in ruralChina. Most f the studies have addressed the issue led by the premisethat education improves employability. Nonetheless, underfunding ofeducation is not the only issue facing rural China. Some of thestudies identify institution bottle necks such as “mandatorymarketing delivery quotas” and rural-urban migration (Brauw &ampRozelle, 2007, 210). The net effect has been that economicproductivity and welfare in the rural areas has lagged behind. Withmajority of the youth moving to urban areas and shunning farming infavor of working in factories, labor in rural areas has diminishedand so has agricultural output. Consequently, the government hastended to look the other way to serve more productive urban areas.

Theon-farm labor market in rural China differs from other labor markets.Common assumptions have tended to claim that education levels oryears of education do not necessarily improve one’s marketabilityin the labor market in the rural areas. However, a research conductedby the authors show that education levels influence employabilityaffects positively. This is a boost in the push to promote educationin the rural areas.


Theauthors provide a very sensible and balanced approach to the issue ofeducation in rural China. In most cases, western perceptions of theChinese communist government have been negative. Through thisjudgmental lens, many would be quick to assume the Chinese governmenthas abandoned the rural people and instead given weight to the exportoriented manufacturing industries in big cities. The study is alsovery informative in the sense that it carries primary researchfindings on employability and education levels in China. To metherefore, the article gives me unbiased and more objective approachon the issue of rural education in China and the role of government.For the longest time, courtesy of the western media, I have viewedChina as a very ‘unearth’ like place characterized by populationexplosion, pollution and child labor. However, the book by Hannum andPark to a large extent highlights the point of convergence with thewestern world pertaining to education and the reforms that China hascarried out over the years to embrace western education. With moreand more Asian students being in western universities, it is nowclear to understand that the country is just normal with perhaps thegreatest differences being cultural and language.

Thearticle, although supported by research findings contradicts most ofthe information flowing from China regarding rural education. In mostcases, rural China is depicted to be out of touch with much of thehighly publicized economic development in China. Sometimes back, Iwatched a Chinese film cum documentary “Not one Less” that showedvery poor state of rural education. The film shows that rural schoolsin China are dilapidated and lack resources such as running water oreven chalk. In fact in this movie, a 13 year old girl, who alsohappens to be a student, works a substitute teacher. Her students,aged around 5-6 years are candidates to move into a neighboring cityin search of work. Again, there have been reports of child labor inChina working in factories. Several American firms based in China orsourcing from China such as Nike have been on the spotlight severallyover the issue of child labor in China and other Asian countries(Wilsey &amp Lichtig n.d.). Such reports have thus perpetuated animage of a country where young children are shunning school to workin factories where they are paid peanuts.


Brauw,A. &amp Rozelle, S. (2007). Returns to education in rural China inHannum, E. &amp Park, P.

(eds.).Educationand Reform in China.New York: Routledge.

Wilsey,M. &amp Lichtig, S. (n.d.). TheNike controversy.Stanford. Retrieved online on 16thOct