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Relationship Between Education and PovertyThere is a distinct relationship between education and poverty. Countries with inadequate education lead to a greater number of people in poverty. The Borgen Project had the opportunity to speak with the International Affairs and Outreach Director at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, A. Aneesh. Aneesh is also a sociology and global studies professor at UWM.

Data on the Relationship Between Education and Poverty

If every adult received two or more years of education or completed secondary school, it could alleviate 60 million people from poverty, according to a study conducted by UNESCO. If everyone in school left school at basic reading levels, 171 million people could rise out of poverty. Educated people earn 10 percent more for every year they attend school. If everyone received the same schooling, poverty would decrease by 39 percent and there would be less inequality in the world.

According to Aneesh, the main cause of low levels of education is predicated on how highly valued and prioritized education is in societies. For example, places in developing countries may value farming over getting an education. Their families rely on farming to provide money, so it is what they value the most. Consequently, it is more important for them and their children to be working instead of taking the time for education. This is just one example of the relationship between education and poverty.

The United Nations also believes education needs to be prioritized in vulnerable areas. For instance, one of its top sustainable development goals is to mobilize countries to make education a priority. Fortunately, the U.N. made progress on the goal in 2016 when the participation rate in primary education had risen up to 70 percent. However, there’s room for improvement. Only 34 percent of primary schools in the world’s least-developed countries had electricity in 2016.

Opportunities Stem from Education

Aneesh said in his interview that “the kids and the teachers can’t be blamed. The issue is something larger. Society is the issue.” When suffering from poverty, things like education cannot be prioritized. Unfortunately, those with a basic education are offered benefits that the under-educated simply do not have.

Highly-educated people are offered many benefits such as dual citizenship. Both education and capital create a new transnational form of citizenship. The people that move abroad for jobs after receiving adequate education often return to their home countries and invest back into them. These opportunities are not offered to impoverished people. They are unable to improve themselves or their countries.

The Danger of Overprioritization

The way society handles education is another problem in the relationship between education and poverty. “School is the pivotal institution for our society,” said Aneesh. “We’re at a point where there’s no value for people who have no education.” Ultimately, society is the root of the problem of the relationship between education and poverty. It’s a macro issue, not just a problem among certain communities or areas. Society as a whole needs to change in order to alleviate impoverished people from receiving inadequate or no education.

The pendulum swings both ways. For one example of how society can influence priorities in education, Aneesh explained that this can involve too much stress, competition and pressure. For example, in China, parents suffer from “education fever.” Families must choose to pay for their child’s education or other costly things, and they most often choose education. They make this choice even if something else may be a necessity such as medicine for an ill family member.

To improve this problem, society must convince families that education is a priority and must be held at value, but not to such an extreme degree. “Education isn’t only about intelligence,” said Aneesh. “Intelligence is overrated, discipline, not so much. It’s about dealing with the environment. Awareness through education is an important ingredient.” Putting too much priority on education can create an unhealthy environment.

To resolve this issue, societies need to work to instill the value of an education in its citizens. Certainly, it needs to be a priority. Education is a solution to poverty, but it can’t function properly with societal setbacks, which is why it is so important to understand the relationship between education and poverty.

-Jodie Filenius
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in ChinaChina, the world’s most populous nation, has made great strides and significant progress towards improving girls’ education. Since Deng Xiaoping’s societal reform and opening up, the country has not only made great economic improvements but has ensured growth and development in its education system. Although the country continues to take steps to improve girls’ education, there are still challenges that need to be further addressed.

Laws Mandate Girls’ Education in China

In 1986, the “Compulsory Education Law of the People’s Republic of China” Law took effect. This law required that all citizens obtain at least nine years of education, funded by the government. Before this, the greater value of males in society gave boys priority over girls to the right to an education. According to the journal Gender Inequality in Education in China, “Thanks to the compulsory education system and gender equity promotion, the gender gap in educational attainment has been greatly eliminated in the past decades.”

Rural Girls Still Struggle to Obtain an Education

As mentioned before, there are still many challenges in terms of girls’ education in China, including:

  • The priority of boys over girls to the right to education in poverty-stricken areas
  • Gender segregation between higher and vocational education
  • The education gap between urban and rural areas
  • Barriers for female educators and researchers in the workplace

A further challenge is the population of left-behind girls in China, a population of girls whose parents have moved from their village to the city to find better-paying jobs. Often times, parents are more inclined to take their sons to the city and leave their daughters behind. According to China Daily, 96.1 percent of girls in rural areas attend school from ages six to 11. However, only 79.3 percent have access to high school education. Additionally, these left-behind girls are often put in a position where they have to drop out of school and find work to provide for their aging grandparents.

Government and Nonprofit Programs Address Remaining Education Gaps

Nevertheless, the country’s government and international NGOs are working to improve such challenges to girls’ education in China. For instance, the State Council publicized its National Program for Women’s Development that worked towards development dealing with China’s women, making women’s education one of the six areas of priority.

In 2006, China’s new five-year plan incorporated more investments in education. In the same year, the state revised its compulsory education law that takes steps to improve rural students’ quality of education by “abolish[ing] tuition and miscellaneous fees for all rural students and guarantees free textbooks and subsidies for room and board.” Meanwhile, UNICEF has proceeded with its efforts in western China to improve the quality of education in poor areas, focusing on gender equality.

Furthermore, China has made significant progress in girls’ education in China in the last three decades. Female enrollment in higher education is on the rise. In 2012, female college students made up 51.4 percent of the total university student population. Women are beginning to take on more roles in science and technology. More and more programs are beginning to subsidize girls’ college tuitions. Although numerous programs have been put in place to further girls’ education in China, it is important to continue this work to improve gender equality awareness throughout the country.

– Emma Martin
Photo: Flickr

education in jiangsuAs one of the largest provinces in education, Jiangsu is located on the southeast coast of China. In the past decades, rural education in Jiangsu saw great achievements, while the problems and deficiencies in Jiangsu’s education system are also transparent.

In 2016, the average length of education in Jiangsu was 9.5 years. In rural regions of Jiangsu, gender differences in education had been generally eliminated. The annual budget for educational investment indicated a 30 percent increase compared to five years prior. In the last five years, besides the enlarging scale of preliminary education, compulsory education displayed balanced development, and the number of students in higher education showed a 5 percent annual increase with equal opportunities to rural areas.

While the discrepancies in education between urban and rural areas are gradually shrinking, deficiencies and problems in rural education in Jiangsu remain. Students in Jiangsu are enduring top pressures in the 12 years before college entrance. Many rural schools, especially senior high schools in Jiangsu, have harsh schedules requiring students to arrive at school before 6:30 am and return home after 9:30 pm.

By the end of 2016, there were still 2.76 million rural people living below the poverty line in Jiangsu. Kids from poor farming families require sponsorship from charities for book allowances, food, clothing and school supplies. For instance, a German charity named as the Pfrang Association based in Nanjing, supported multiple classes at Xiaoliji Middle School in the Lianshui county of Jiangsu Province.

Another significant problem with rural education in Jiangsu comes from the imbalance of subjects. Since a few courses such as music and art, were not counted towards the total score on all sorts of entrance exams, these subjects often lose out to major parts of the curriculum such as Chinese, Mathematics and English. It is not unusual to see rural senior high schools sacrificing physical classes privately in order to make up classes on main subjects.

On Nov. 18, 2016, Jiangsu set up an educational target in the thirteenth Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), aiming at building an education system with more completeness and dynamics, for better equality and quality of education especially in rural areas. A variety of schemes have been proposed to support 280,000 rural teachers in Jiangsu, which include improving the status of working and living, holding regular training and providing more opportunities for tutorial exchanges. It aims to attract more teachers to enjoy teaching in rural areas of Jiangsu.

In early November 2017, a group of 84 foreign students from 37 countries participating in the Experience China Event visited Huaxi village in Jiangyin, a national model place in Jiangsu for rural developments.

Rural education in Jiangsu province of China has challenges and opportunities now and into the future. Improving and promoting education in this area urges both practical measures and feasible planning.

– Xin Gao

Photo: Flickr

Education in NingxiaNingxia, known as Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, is located in the northwest of China. This region of about 6.7 million people is surrounded by Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi and Gansu. People of the Hui ethnicity make up more than one-third of the population in Ningxia. The steady and continuous progress of education in Ningxia has taken place since it was founded in 1958.

Until now, the nine-year system of compulsory education in Ningxia has established an enrollment rate of more than 98 percent. There are nine universities and ten professional colleges. Standards of higher education and vocational education for adults are high.

Last year, education in Ningxia reached a number of milestones. A total of 69 kindergartens were newly set up or restructured, the heating facilities of 1,086 schools were renovated and rural schools ended the use of stove heating. Nine vocational training centers were built. A total of 313,000 people received financial aid from the Student Financial Assistance Project and 280,000 students were benefited by the Nutrition Improvement Program.

Compared to the last century, great changes have taken place for education in Ningxia. However, regarding the overall quality of education in this region, there remain significant disparities compared to the well-developed southeastern provinces of China.

Firstly, there is an observable gap between education in urban and rural areas. By the end of 2016, there were still 43.7 percent of people living in rural areas of Ningxia. About 380,000 rural people live below the poverty line. Take the Chencha Primary School as an example. It is the most remote school in the countryside, about 250 miles away from Yinchuan. Due to the inconvenience of lacking transportation services, each of the 48 students across five grades has no option but to walk a long distance to school.

The second problem is the ethnic disparities in education. In October 2014, an investigation on ethnic disparities concluded that the Hui children have a shorter period of education than the ethnic majority and that this had been occurring for generations. Sample statistics showed that while urban males in Hui and Han ethnicities had an average of 11 years’ education, in rural Ningxia, male Hui had 1.4 fewer years of education on average than rural male Han. However, many senior women of rural Hui only had a couple of years’ education and their illiteracy rates in poor, remote areas were high.

Gender inequality in education accompanies this ethnicity problem. It was reported that in rural Ningxia, Hui females had two fewer years of education on average than those of Hui males. Meanwhile, in some Hui families with multiple children, it is likely for parents to put the education of younger boys above that of girls and older boys. Due to the relatively low attendance rate of Hui girls, education in that region was lower, which restricts the overall development of education.

A recent investigation on the lifestyle transformation of Hui Muslim women in Ningxia found that higher education is correlated with avoiding early marriage. Meanwhile, some rural Hui families regard education as unnecessary for women. While the enrollment of primary schools had reached 99 percent in Ningxia, quite a few rural girls terminated their education in grade three or four.

In the Chinese government’s thirteenth five-year plan, the local government in Ningxia will be part of a plan to improve the overall education level of China by 2020. A total of 15,000 new kindergartens are expected to be constructed in poor villages across this region.

These policies will address poverty-related issues and provide aid to minority students and poor families attain education in Ningxia. Global giving with online donations is another measure to support scholarships for girls in rural families of Ningxia.

Better education in Ningxia demands reliable support from all individuals and broader society now and in the future.

– Xin Gao

Education in MacauEducation in Macau experienced slow progress before the middle of the twentieth century. Primary education was gradually popularized from the 1960s onwards, and the development of secondary and higher education followed. The economy of Macau was developing fast in the following two decades, which induced changes in the structure of society and families. As a result, education in Macau boomed, particularly primary.

Since the Macau Special Administrative Region of China was set up in December 1999, the government has provided 15 years compulsory education, comprised of three years of kindergarten followed by primary and secondary education each of six years. Out of 77 secondary schools in Macau, 65 offer free education. There are 10 accredited institutions for higher education in Macau, offering more than 250 academic programs.

Compared to China and other nations, education in Macau displays special features of its own. The whole society in Macau pays high attention to education, comprehensive curricula and professional development. Students are open to bilingual education and extracurricular activities.

While education in Macau is fast developing and has made great achievements, a few existing problems are also transparent. Before free and compulsory education was extended to 15 years in Macau, only 35.3 percent of the employed population had received a high school education.

Despite the overall education level of the labor force gradually improving in the past decade, in-grade retention rates are relatively high in Macao. As reported in 2013, the retention rate in junior middle school was as high as 15 percent; a previous study showed that 76 percent of senior high school graduates had been retained at some stage.

Tertiary education in Macau is also far from problem-free. The system of tertiary education is not consistent with other levels of education; performance appraisal in universities exists in name only. Due to the high cost of tuition in Macau, student resources and living space and restrictive. Meanwhile, more than 70 percent of students choose the major of economy and business management, which leads to an unbalanced allocation of educational resources. This is harmful to the healthy growth of these institutions in the long run.

In 2017, the government launched the third phase of its Continuing Education Development Plan in Macao. For tertiary education, the corresponding services office kept on facilitating a variety of external cooperation projects within that field, and seek reinforced collaboration from China inland.

To sum up, the current education in Macau has great potential for future improvement. Kindergarten education urges more attention from governmental and public support, and there is a need for better integration of all levels of education. Meanwhile, the structure of tertiary subjects also requires adjustment to meet the economic development strategy with diversity in this region.

– Xin Gao

Education in Hong Kong: Problems and Solutions

Similar to the British system, education in Hong Kong consists of a 9-year compulsory education for students aged six to 15. Before enrolling in university, most students complete 12 years of study at public or government-aided schools, which are generally free to attend. However, there also exists a private international school system that is in high demand in Hong Kong: the schools are highly competitive to enroll in and boast very high tuition and schooling fees.

The education system in Hong Kong ranks high, though there are a few evident problems. Experts claim that quite a few schools overly stress “reciting” material, which requires students to memorize information verbatim. Further, the “spoon-fed” teaching style does not allow for lively student debates or the promotion of critical thinking. There is a worry that the mechanical reciting and negative acceptance of learning materials will restrain potential creativity and imagination among students. Other major problems of the current education system include low enrolment rates in local universities as well as social and psychological problems among students due to high stress.

There are advantages of getting an education in Hong Kong: one is that the use of English is more popularized in Hong Kong, as compared to mainland China. However, with respect to the education itself, there is no major difference between schools in Hong Kong and mainland China.

The system of education in Hong Kong makes it quite difficult for local students in Hong Kong to connect with Chinese culture and mainland China. In addition, many teachers in Hong Kong are greatly influenced by Western education; thus, they are more likely to recognize the issues of freedom, democracy and human rights as opposed to strengthening their identities with the mainland region. At the moment, both primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong are encouraged by the central government of China to set up curriculums that include Chinese teaching and bilingual learning.

There have been 3,714 cultural exchange programs with nearly 60,000 participants from mainland China to Hong Kong and Macao from 2006 to 2010. Both the scale and quality of cultural exchange has grown in the past decade. The exchange programs that have been included in the education in Hong Kong encourage closing the culture gap between students of these regions.

As mentioned earlier, pressures of higher education in Hong Kong have led to increased stress among students. This is fuelled by a prevailing ideology among the Hong Kong society that nothing is achieved without attending university. More than 80,000 high school graduates compete for one of the 15,000 government-subsidized first-year university spots each year.

Greater efforts must be made to address the stress faced by students within the system of education in Hong Kong. At the moment, the Hong Kong Children and Youth Services helps those who have a tendency of violence. Its staff provides services in addition to speaking gently, listening to the youth and helping them process their thoughts with patience and empathy. The Hong Kong Youth and Children Education Center opened in 2013, offering self-sponsored services and free testing for kids of families in need. It facilitates would be capable of helping them recollect self-esteem, increase resilience and coping skills.

Education in Hong Kong is moving towards an advanced global education system while also placing efforts on fusing the cultures between mainland China and itself. Reasonable solutions and measures depend not only on efforts by the government, schools and society, but also relies on the interactions between teachers, students and their families.

– Xin Gao

Photo: Flickr

 Education in China
A white paper released on Oct. 17 reveals China’s progress in poverty eradication as well as governmental measures taken to improve prosperity. According to this document, the main priority of poverty relief measures was improvement and expansion of quality education in China between 2011 and 2015.

Over the past three decades, China has lifted more than 700 million citizens from poverty, accounting for 70 percent of the world’s total across that time. Through this experience, China has gained a wealth of knowledge in crafting and implementing development-oriented poverty relief policies. The white paper confirms that from 2011-2015 such measures placed particular emphasis on education.

The government enacted policies to promote compulsory education in China, bridge the education gap between rural and urban areas, grant living subsidies to students and improve education infrastructure in poor and rural regions. These measures were supported by the government’s investment of 189.84 billion yuan ($28.17 billion), and an additional 14 million yuan earmarked for living quarters for teachers in rural areas. In less-developed central China, the efforts resulted in a 30 percent increase in children enrolled in kindergarten.

As a supplement to the education measures, the government enacted a nutrition improvement program for students receiving compulsory education. In order to promote sustainable nutrition improvement, the program helped popularize nutritional knowledge among parents and students. In 2015 alone, the government invested 500 million yuan toward nutrition improvement for students and families, benefiting 2.11 million children in 341 Chinese counties.

China’s commitment to and success with poverty reduction demonstrates a commitment to the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (U.N. MDG) of eradicating extreme poverty. The U.N. MDG report shows that the proportion of Chinese living in extreme poverty fell from 61 percent in 1990 to 30 percent, and again down to 4.2 percent in 2015.

The Chinese government has made it a top priority to complete poverty eradication by 2020. By addressing needed changes to the education system, the government presents a commitment towards sustainable poverty eradication. Funding education in China will help ensure the prosperity of future generations, and China’s efforts provide a promising model for global poverty reduction.

McKenna Lux

Photo: Flickr

 Educational Success_Chinese Teaching Methods
China is known for having educational success. 70 United Kingdom (U.K.)-based teachers were sent to Shanghai in 2014 to study Chinese teaching methods. Surprised with what they found, they returned to the U.K. and reported China’s success in the classroom comes from the “chalk and talk” approach – a teaching method the West has been moving away from.

The “chalk and talk” approach is an example of direct instruction; it is when the teacher remains at the front of the classroom, directing learning, controlling classroom activities and ensuring a disciplined environment. This method has contributed to China’s great success in international tests such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS).

Despite the technique’s proven success, the West strayed from direct instruction in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In an attempt to improve teaching methods, it developed what is referred to as discovery learning: basing learning on children’s interests, giving them more control over classroom activities and eliminating mental arithmetic.

Jun Yang-Williams, a teacher in English schools who previously taught in China said, “It seems… that British schools have almost dismissed the ‘teacher-led’ teaching style… Although the ‘teacher-led’ pedagogy is seen as passive, it does not necessarily jeopardize learning outcomes. Students are in fact more proactive and more responsible for their learning.”

Videoed lessons in both China and the U.K. revealed that whole-class teaching makes up 72 percent of Chinese lesson time, compared to only 24 percent in the U.K.

These supposedly innovative techniques were proven to do the opposite of what the West was trying to accomplish. A recent study of classrooms in the U.K. and China found increasing evidence that new-age teaching methods lead to under-performance.

Professor David Reynolds of Southampton University and postgraduate research student Zhenzhen Miao also conducted a test in 2014 on 562 students ages 9 and 10 from Southampton in the U.K. and from Nanjing in China using math tests from TIMSS. The average Chinese score was 83 percent, whereas the average English score was just 56 percent.

By establishing the basics and spending more time on teacher-led style, Chinese teaching methods lead to educational success. Teachers constantly ask and answer questions, invite students to demonstrate solutions on the board and quiz students about their thinking. The classroom is involved, but driven by the teacher rather than the students.

Even with teacher-driven classrooms, students are content with Chinese teaching methods. According to the 2012 PISA survey, 85 percent of Shanghai’s students agreed that they “feel happy at school” – a percentage much higher than the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average.

Perhaps the West will consider reintroducing direct instruction to its teaching methods.

Alice Gottesman

Photo: Flickr

Technical Training

Although China has experienced an annual GDP growth rate of 10 percent since the 1970s and lifted 800 million citizens out of poverty, 82 million of its rural poor continue to live on less than $1 a day. In an effort to combat poverty, the Chinese government has launched a free technical training program for the rural poor.

According to ONE, a poverty campaign organization, millions of people fail to escape the cycle of poverty because they do not have access to quality education. More specifically, currently, 59 million children of primary school age do not attend school. Though governments provide free public education programs, many families living in poverty send their children to work or have them help out at home.

In China, only 40 percent of rural students attend high school because they cannot afford the tuition, uniforms and other costs. Many students also drop out in middle school to work and help support their struggling families. By the time they are of college age, only five percent of rural students remain in the education system.

There are resource disparities between rural and urban students that have contributed to these statistics. Urban students have access to newer technology and well-qualified educators who teach them English, reading, math and sciences in state-of-the-art classrooms. Meanwhile, the rural poor learn from under-resourced teachers in crowded rooms.

Uneducated individuals living below the poverty line mostly participate in non-formal economies as self-employed entrepreneurs. Two-thirds of the Chinese rural population work in the farming, forestry and fishing industries, which make up 40 percent of all employment in China.

Providing technical and vocational education to the rural poor through China’s free program provides the necessary skills to access better career opportunities.

An estimated 1,000 Chinese schools will provide free technical training to impoverished rural communities over the next four years. Project participants will also receive a yearly subsidy of $450 from the government poverty relief fund.

“Anyone who is able to work from a poverty-stricken area can receive training,” the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development announced. The two institutions urge local governments to implement subsidies, provide fee exemptions and implement other policies to encourage students to pursue education.

Ashley Leon

Photo: Flickr