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China's push for education equality


2022-06-10 15:02:57

Examinees wait at an exam site in Beijing, capital of China, June 7, 2022. (Photo/Xinhua)

This year a record 11.93 million Chinese students are taking the National College Entrance Exam. The exam, otherwise known as the "gaokao," is traditionally renowned for its highly competitive nature.

The unprecedented numbers participating in the "gaokao" proves education is highly respected amongst all classes in China. I"ve seen waves of working class and rural students enter higher education, thereby transforming generational outcomes while adapting to the realities of the Chinese economy where mechanization and robotics change the nature of work.

China has been consistently investing in education and infrastructure over the last few decades. These factors have led to foreign capital flocking to China. I mention infrastructure along with education because these two factors cannot be separated. As China upgrades its infrastructure, which is dependent on technological capacity, it must also do the same for education.

Today, China"s former problem of illiteracy has been mostly tackled.

In global terms and taken as a whole, Chinese students do well. However, when taking a deep dive into China"s education system, there are huge challenges that demand huge reforms. For example, inequality in accessing good education exists in several forms, such as the rural-urban divide.

Access to a first-rate education, along with upgrading China"s education system, is inseparable from China"s dream of building a modern socialist country. Educational equality matters because, in practical terms, it increases democratic outcomes and enhances the individual – the source of value and the creator of technology – which China"s socialist future is predicated on. Furthermore, the dream of educational equality, shared by Confucianists, conforms to China"s historical ambitions too.

If you were to make the above case for educational improvement in China you would be "preaching to the choir." In 2019, China released its Education Modernization 2035 plan. China aims to establish a modern education system by achieving universal attendance in quality pre-school education, improving vocational training, developing disabled youth, and establishing an education management system that includes the participation of the whole of society rather than just the government.

Already, there have been a number of measures that work towards this goal. There is now the understanding that in order to build well-rounded graduates, the heavy school workloads – which have led to problems such as sleep deprivation – need to be curbed. However, this burden reduction should not come at the expense of succumbing to banal market pleasures.

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