Education in China: Competitive Beyond Compare

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BEIJING — For the Chinese people, education is everything. Most families put all of their money, resources and time into providing the best education possible for their children. While education is important around the world, the future of an individual in China rests on the quality of their schooling. Education in China, similarly to other countries around the world, is compulsory for nine years. After that, students have the option to attend a university if their test scores are high enough.

Unique to education in China, test scores make or break an individual’s future. For most students in the country, the final year of their education is dedicated to taking a final test at the end of the year, which determines what kind of college they can attend.

Out of the 3000 universities in China, only 39 schools are in the top tier and 115 of them are in the second tier. The students of the top tier schools have much more success in life after university. They are exposed to better teachers, have more opportunities in school like studying abroad and have a variety of quality job opportunities available to them when they graduate. For students of lesser schools, their options are far more limited. These students face greater challenges when trying to find a job post-grad unless they are wealthy or have a family with significant connections.

Many students and parents feel that the only way to succeed on the test, and therefore get into the best universities, is by attending the best schools from the start of their education. In order to do this, many parents try to bribe schools to admit their children. Parents of potential students give these “voluntary donations” to top-ranked urban schools and total to as high as 130 thousand dollars.

The bribery that goes on behind closed doors makes success for children of rural families extremely difficult. Many people now feel as though the education system in place discriminates against impoverished citizens and favors well-connected families. One study showed that students from Beijing are 41 times more likely to gain admission into Peking University than students from the rural province of Anhui. In order to combat inequality in the Chinese education system, Beijing enforces policies requiring students to attend school in their home districts.

While the education system in China sets the bar for many other countries, its competitive atmosphere leaves citizens on edge. Many families feel as though wealth is the only way to provide a quality education for their child. Education in China currently makes a favor of wealthy students apparent. Luckily, some cities such as Beijing already see the flaws in the education system and are taking strides toward bettering it.

Olivia Hayes
Photo: Flickr

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