Dilemma of High School Education in Rural China
   2014-03-13 15:50:55    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Liu Yuanhui

At this year's annual session of the National People's Congress, more deputies have raised concerns on the dilemma of high school education in rural areas of the country.

Liu Kun has more.

Wei Ce, an 18-year-old boy from a farming family in a small village of East China's Shandong province, is now studying in a high school in city center.

Now in his final year of high school education, he says he wants to enter a top university but believes that doing so is too difficult.
"Usually I am able to get a score of about 500 in the module tests for the college entrance examination. But that's not enough because I want to go to a top university. I come from a small village and my parents do not have that much in terms of resources or knowledge, so I think I am all on my own when it comes to finding a future path for myself."

Wei Ce is one of the many students from rural parts of the country who aspire to go to a "national top university"; a term referring to universities included in two national projects initiated by the Chinese government in the 1990s. Universities in the two projects usually have high academic levels and are able to receive substantial funding from the government.

But statistics from China's Ministry of Education indicate that the number of rural students going to top universities has dropped significantly in recent years.

In 2013 only 7.2% of students from rural areas who participated in college entrance exam enrolled in these universities. The figure came out even after the government had deliberately enlarged the enrollment proportion of rural students in key universities.
And according to figures provided by Peking University, one of the best educational institutions in the country, among more than 3,000 freshmen it enrolled in 2013, only a little bit more than 14 percent were from rural areas.

Yuan Guilin, professor of education at Beijing Normal University explains that the drop actually reflects the scarcity of quality education in rural areas.

"Education quality in rural areas has been poor even starting from the compulsory education stage; that's primary schools and junior middle schools. So when these children enter high school, inevitably they lag behind those coming from urban families. In high school, some of these children are among the last in class when it comes to academic performance, some quit, and others simply give up on the college entrance exam. The number of rural students going to top universities will of course decrease."

China's Ministry of Education addressed the issue in 2013, requiring major universities to open enrollment programs specially designed for rural students.

The prestigious Fudan University in Shanghai has accordingly initiated the "Tengfei Project", an admission project named after a former president of the university. Through the project, the university will admit about 300 rural students by reducing up to 40 points required to be recruited by the University. The university will see the first group of rural students coming in through the project this fall.

Ding Guanghong is head of Fudan University Admission Office.

"Fudan ran several test programs in the past few years and this time with the approval of the Ministry of Education we will allocate 10% of all planned admissions to rural students."

But many argue that simply adjusting enrollment plans is not enough. Xiong Bingqi is vice-president of the Beijing-based 21st Century Education Research Institute.

"The effect of modifying college admission plans is limited in terms of rectifying the imbalance of educational resources. Fair governmental allocation of these resources is the ultimate answer to the problem."

For those scholars who share the same views with Xiong, the inspiring news is that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, in his 2014 government work report to the NPC session, reiterated the central government's determination to balance education resources.

"We will comprehensively improve conditions in poorly built and run schools providing compulsory education in poor areas. The number of rural students from poor areas enrolled in key colleges and universities will again be increased by more than 10%, and this will give rural children more opportunity to receive higher education."

According to statistics from the Ministry of Education, in 2013, about a million high school students abandoned the college entrance exam to seek employment and the majority of them were from rural areas. Many say if they can't go to a top university, then they simply don't go to any at all because ordinary university diplomas won't guarantee graduates a satisfactory job.

As professor Yuan Guilin mentioned, the bigger dilemma for high school education in rural China is that it's now considered a preparation stage for key universities instead of an integral part of one's studies.

Shen Zhigang, a deputy from Shanghai to National People's Congress, suggests promotion of vocational education.

"I think we should promote vocational education more strongly. College entrance exams exist in western countries as well. It's just that some western countries have developed a mature system of vocational education so students will not rely solely on college entrance exams. They are entitled to choose whatever they can do."

But according to Ge Jianxiong, an expert on education, the fundamental task is to change the existing mindset.

"The biggest problem of education in China is that from a very young age children have been encouraged to go to universities, especially the best universities. Is it even realistic?"

High school student Wei Ce says that in college he hopes to learn a lot and prepare himself for society. Like many rural students in this country, he has many aspirations about university life.

For CRI, this is Liu Kun.


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