Hot Debate – China: A Society Segregated through Education

People’s Daily (overseas edition) has released an article by LI Xiaohong on the segregation of China’s education, including details of an interview with two overseas Chinese academics, LI Shanjun from Cornell University and KANG Deliang from the University of Columbia. The academics discussed their belief that there is no significant difference in teaching quality between “tier 1” and “tier 2” universities, instead the variation in outcomes is a result of the differences in student quality at the entry points.


Chinese society is fixated with individuals’ “social trademarks”, which are not merely reflected at tertiary level, but also throughout K-12. Parents start competing to enter their children into “top brand” kindergartens, then primary schools and high-schools, with each higher tier of schools/universities mostly accepting students from the top of the lower tier. Under this vicious cycle, developing learning curiosity, independent thinking and problem-solving skills all become secondary; the number one priority is to achieve results which achieve an admired “social trademark”.


The academics also criticized the “key school policy” (selective entry) but praised the “talent programs” which have been adopted in US public schools. Many Chinese education professionals believe such segregation has also resulted in a stagnation of merging and reshaping the status of tiers amongst universities: it only widens the gap between the different tiers of universities, and between the different strata of society.

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