Rural High School Education

Published on Author hinklee17

China needs more skilled laborers in order to sustain its constantly evolving economy. As Hessler highlights in Country Driving, an increasing number of Chinese men and women are leaving their home villages to take advantage of the economic opportunity in the developing urban regions. Rather than working in the advancing technology and services industries, these migrants are forced to accept elementary jobs such as waiting tables or cutting hair due to low-levels of educational attainment. Having exhausted most qualified candidates in urban areas, employers are now shifting their focus to rural regions.

Profuse factors contributeRural China Education to the rural region’s educational deprivation. Rural high schools have insufficient facilities, curriculum, and teachers compared to urban areas. Additionally, some students lack the intellectually capability, and their parents perceive a higher benefit in having them work on the farm. Aside from the quality of education and capability, many rural students do not even attend high school because it’s so expensive. According to a Shaanxi high school student survey, a high school student in rural China has to pay as much as $160 a year for tuition. In response, China has implemented minimal financial aid packages to eliminate this financial constraint.

As a result, urban region employers are struggling to acquire qualified skilled workers. For China to meet the educational needs of the urban labor force, the rural labor force must increase the level of promotion from junior high school to academic high school. However, recent research suggests that “while 70% of graduates from urban junior high school were promoted to urban academic high schools, only 9% of graduates from rural junior high went on to attend rural academic high schools.” Ultimately, China’s rural education system needs to drastically improve and reduce this discrepancy if China wishes to sustain its current economic growth and urbanization.

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7 Responses to Rural High School Education

  1. Careful on the “intellectual capability” argument: rural students are on average neither more nor less bright than their urban counterparts. They may however be ill-prepared, particularly if their compulsory education was in a non-Chinese language or a local “dialect” that is considered Chinese but has different vocabulary and grammar from the standard putonghua 普通话 dialect.

    In principle there’s no longer tuition for primary and middle school (from 2010?) ; I don’t know about high school. The reality may be that various fees, requirements for a uniform or school supplies, and all that add up even though schools aren’t supposed to require such.

    At one time slots in high school were in short supply, so parents had to make side payments to teachers. Before that, in the late 1980s and into the 1990s and after the communes were dismantled, local governments lost their revenue sources and had no way to pay teachers. Economic reforms had lots of side effects, some quite negative. Anyway, for a long while miscellaneous fees were used to generate extra money even for primary schools, but poor farm families had a hard time earning cash income even if they had a decent house and adequate food.

    In principle today higher levels of government provide funding. What the reality is, is not something I know. My sense is that in fact things are now OK if you aren’t in a remote area. Of course most of China IS remote, but most remote areas have few people. So on net???? The education tables in the China Statistical Yearbook suggest very real progress and high levels of completion of basic education. See this chart (Table 21-23).

  2. The problem of a lack of vocational workers in China is one similar to many countries with developing/ developed economies. The allure and commonality of a college education has made it a baseline achievement for many.

    In my economics of education class, we learned that this causes inefficiency in the labor market. Not everyone is cut out for college, or jobs requiring a college education. For these people, attending college is more of a signal (ie I have a degree, so people must think I’m capable) than a true, tangible contribution to human capital. With a decreased supply of vocational or labor workers, a short supply of labor means wages above the equilibrium; on the other hand, with more and more labor in the white-collar sector, wages are decreased–and administrators bare the cost of sifting through unnecessary amounts of resumes for non-qualified candidates.

  3. Like many sectors of China, the ‘low hanging fruits’ /easy gains have been made in respect to improving education levels for rural children, which is reflected in the “rise in low-end manufacturing power.” Since 1990, the number of rural children attending senior middle school has increased from 7% to 33%. While cost is a prohibitive factor in education- which the government has addressed with larger budgets- it is also important to recognize that the wages for lower skilled workers has increased over the past few decades. Therefore the opportunity cost of pursuing a higher education for rural students is the wages that would be received by these lower skilled jobs, which they are qualified for. Until wages fall for these jobs or there aren’t enough jobs left for these rural students or education costs decrease further, it may be difficult to incentivize students to stay in school.

    • I like that you have brought up the idea of low hanging fruit. This is a perspective that I did not approach the education update with. I see what you are saying about the opportunity cost of going to school vs. working the fields. A secondary school education is not going to help them much in the fields.

      However, I do not believe the availability of education, especially at the lower levels should be an issue. Schooling at younger ages is undoubtedly easier on labor. Think – there is not a lot of education absolutely required to be a teacher. At the primary school level, the teacher evidently needs to have knowledge of the subject or subjects they teach, but they do not need to be able to go above and beyond. After all, the curriculum, though limited, is prescribed. So it seems the shift in education must come from a rise in wages of positions that require education. Until then, however, it does not make sense from an individual’s point of view to receive high levels of schooling.

  4. As we read in Hessler, those who had education, went to college, learned computer skills, were able to break from their rural background and were valuable human capital to the China that was hurtling toward the modern age. Starting education early in rural areas will help more people get higher paying jobs. However, education also takes workers away from menial labor jobs, less workers in agriculture.

  5. Even if laborers do not leave their villages, it is still hard to ask for equal quality of education in cities and rural areas. I have seen a documentary on teachers from cities volunteering teach in villages. Most of these teachers leave after a few months because of the huge gap between the life qualities in cities and rural areas. If these laborers do not leave their villages, they would have even worse life in villages, which would lead to bigger gap in educational quality.

  6. I think there’s definitely no intellectual capability difference between urban and village kids. What makes them so different is that kids from the village doesn’t have as good of resources as those from urban areas. Not only village kids’ parents go the city for a better job, everyone does so, including the best teachers. Recent years, more attention has been put on these kids in the village. Government gives subsidies for teachers who are willing to teach in the village, philanthropists donate money for these kids, and college and high school students volunteer themselves to teach there.