Posts

Poverty in ChinaPoverty is a persistent global issue affecting billions of people around the globe. China, with its vast population and rapid economic growth, is making significant strides in reducing poverty. 

In 2020, President Xi Jinping declared that China has successfully eradicated absolute poverty. According to the World Bank, poverty alleviation policies in China lifted almost 800 million people out of poverty since 1980. Though 0.6% of its population remains below the global poverty line, China’s efforts in expanding employment opportunities to rural areas and increasing access to education and health care have brought the country closer to common prosperity.

Historical Context

Before the initiation of economic reforms and trade liberalization, China was a predominantly agrarian society with a large rural population. The state was stagnant, centrally controlled and relatively isolated from global economic policies. It also strictly controlled and limited individual economic activities. All of this contributed to widespread poverty in the country.

The turning point in China’s fight against poverty came in 1978, when Deng Xiaoping — China’s paramount leader — initiated pro-market reforms, opening up China to foreign trade and investments. This led to rapid industrialization and urbanization, resulting in significant poverty reduction. Millions of people moved from rural areas to cities in search of better opportunities, finding increased employment and access to resources.

The 2015 Poverty Alleviation Policy

In 2015, the Chinese government implemented a four-part poverty alleviation policy aimed at eliminating absolute poverty by identifying and assisting the poorest individuals and regions. Under this program, resources were channeled to specific areas, such as health care, education and access to basic infrastructure, to address the root causes of poverty. 

Rural Development

A significant amount of China’s population still resides in rural areas. To combat rural poverty, the Chinese government initiated the Rural Revitalization Strategy, which encourages small-scale farmers to adopt modern farming and agriculture technology, improves the property rights of farmers and modernizes rural infrastructure. These approaches increased productivity, income and living standards for many rural households. 

In 2021, 31.45 million rural residents lifted out of poverty found jobs. To further increase employment opportunities in 2022, China focused on boosting labor service cooperation between provinces, providing public welfare jobs in rural areas, and supporting entrepreneurship and flexible employment.

Education and Health Care

In China, disparities in education and health care for those living in poverty have been persistent challenges. Many rural areas offer limited access to quality education due to the lack of public education funding and a shortage of qualified teachers. Similarly, health care services in impoverished regions often lack adequate infrastructure and resources, leaving vulnerable populations without essential medical care. 

In the past seven years, China has made substantial progress in improving access to education and health care. Between 2016 and 2020, China allocated around $114.6 billion worth of subsidies to support compulsory education, with 90% of the funds going to rural areas to support students by providing them a living allowance while they are enrolled. Free compulsory education and the expansion of health care coverage have reduced the economic burden on families and improved overall well-being.

Challenges

Although China has made remarkable strides in reducing poverty, the challenges remain. Income inequality is a concern, with urban areas enjoying higher living standards than rural areas. The Gini coefficient, which measures income disparity, ranks China at 38.2 as of 2019

In response to the widening wealth disparity in the country, the Chinese government banned thousands of accounts showing off their wealth on social media and erased video content depicting the lives of individuals grappling with poverty. China has set 2035 as the target date to achieve common prosperity, establishing new policies that focus on lowering income inequality.

Conclusion

China’s journey in eradicating poverty is a remarkable success story. The combination of economic reforms, government initiatives and targeted poverty alleviation programs has significantly improved the living standards of millions of Chinese citizens. As the nation continues to develop, addressing the remaining challenges, such as income inequality, will be crucial to ensuring a better future for its population. China’s experience provides valuable insights into the complexity of poverty reduction and the need for a multi-faceted approach that combines economic growth, government support and social welfare. 

– Genevieve Tan
Photo: Unsplash

Child Poverty in ChinaChina has remarkably reduced poverty over the past four decades. The percentage of rural residents living in poverty decreased from 96.2 to 0.6% between 1980 and 2019. That means that nearly 765 million people were living in poverty, compared to the present, 6 million people. Experts agree it is important to approach child poverty in China as a multidimensional problem. Many Children are born into poverty. Therefore, reducing the general scope of poverty is important in eliminating child poverty. China has dramatically reduced poverty, and even their global hunger index, based on two pillars: economic transformation to open new opportunities and raise average income, and recognition and targeted support to people living in persistent poverty.

Child Poverty in China

Despite recent efforts, roughly 4.2 million children live in extreme poverty. It’s important to note that more rural children are impoverished than urban children. The families of China living in rural areas or belonging to an ethnic minority are most impacted by poverty. 

Therefore, China has focused on reducing poverty in low-income rural households. There are significant differences that affect poverty in rural and urban areas. These differences include income disparities, limited access to education and health care services, poorer sanitation and overall poorer living conditions. However, according to UNICEF, the most severe forms of poverty that Chinese children experience are nutrition, access to clean water and sanitation and housing.

To focus on relieving poverty in the rural areas of China, the Anhui Yellow Mountain New Countryside Demonstration Project supported Huangshan’s rural development in several areas per the Chinese government’s initiative to “build new socialist countryside,” including investment in rural infrastructure and public services to reduce inequalities in the quality of life between rural and urban areas; improvement in the quality of tourism services to draw more tourists and create jobs and income-generating opportunities; the development of greener, higher value-added agricultural production bases and market facilities, as well as training for farmers to boost agricultural productivity.

Overall, the main objectives of the SDGs established by the UN are to eradicate child poverty and reduce the gap between urban and rural areas. To accomplish these goals, looking into the disparities between urban and rural areas and the causes of child poverty is crucial. Understanding the differences between child poverty in urban and rural areas enables us to understand better how factors related to demography, the economy, society and policy contribute to child poverty.

Current Picture

Alongside reducing rural child poverty, much has been done to end intergenerational poverty in China. According to social policy expert Peter Whiteford, child poverty is the main reason poverty is generational. China has made significant strides in reducing poverty over the past decade by promoting education, an essential feature in preventing poverty from being passed down to future generations. Since 2012, China’s government budgetary spending on education has maintained a proportion of over 4% of the nation’s GDP. It has shifted more in favor of rural areas and areas with significant populations of ethnic minorities.

At the end of 2020, China’s nine-year compulsory education stage saw only 682 drop out, down from over 600,000 dropouts in 2019. The nation has hired 950,000 teachers in total for compulsory education in rural areas, trained nearly 17 million teachers and principals for rural schools in the central and western regions under a national-level training program, provided subsidies for 1.27 million teachers from more than 80,000 schools in nearby poverty-stricken areas and sent 190,000 volunteer teachers to schools in outlying and poverty-stricken regions, border areas and areas with large ethnic populations.

It is important to look at child poverty as a multidimensional problem. Education can open the door to jobs, resources and skills to help a person survive. UNESCO estimates that 171 million people could escape extreme poverty if all students in low-income countries had only the most fundamental reading skills. The percentage of adults who did not complete their secondary education could reduce global poverty by more than half. Therefore, promoting education in China, especially in the rural areas, can be vital in reducing children’s poverty and helping break the cycle of generational poverty.

Conclusion

China’s significant reduction in overall poverty over the past four decades is commendable. However, child poverty remains a pressing issue, especially in rural areas.

China’s ongoing commitment to addressing child poverty and poverty in general through a holistic approach is an instructive example for other nations, highlighting the importance of education, health care, social support and economic opportunities. By prioritizing the well-being of its children, China is not only improving the lives of current generations but also paving the way for a more prosperous and equitable future.

– Paige Falk
Photo: Flickr

how-ai-is-reducing-inequalities-in-china-through-education
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is reshaping the world and how it works. Machine learning offers new and more efficient solutions to the distribution and organization of services and resources. Specifically, AI is becoming a substitute for human decision-making in all fields from the justice system to sports.

China has started to apply AI to the education system, which has many potential benefits. China currently suffers from a large urban-rural divide that the strict household registration of Hukou has exaggerated. Hukou is a household registration system that has placed limitations on domestic migration in China. This makes it more difficult for those living in rural areas to migrate to the cities and obtain secure jobs.

As a result, China’s education level is surprisingly low for a country that is growing at such a vast rate. About 70% of the labor force in China does not have a high school education, falling far below the levels of countries with comparable incomes. AI provides opportunities for the entire Chinese population to receive an education. On top of this, AI education in China should allow for more specialized and accurate teaching schemes.

AI Education in China

An example of AI education in China is Squirrel AI. Squirrel AI specializes in “intelligent adaptive education.” The company is putting money into AI scientists so that they can invest more research into the field. Squirrel AI uses an algorithm so that students received 70% of teaching suggestions from AI and the other 30% from human teachers. This allows for an education tailored to the needs of each child whilst maintaining some human control to manage the machine learning process.

China has huge potential to implement schemes such as this due to its high development level in AI. The percentage of research papers from China working on AI development has risen from 4.2% in 1997 to 27.7% in 2017. China is now the leader in publications as well. On top of this, China is also the leader in patent applications concerning AI.

China’s other important advantage in AI research is that it is a one-nation state. This means that AI developers that the government backs have access to mass amounts of data compared to other nations. On top of this, it means that the implementation and regulation changes occur much more rapidly in China. This has helped enhance the production and development process of AI in China.

For example, China has utilized school-industry partnerships and school curriculums to bolster the understanding and implementation of AI in society.

Consequently, the growth of AI access, and efficacy in the education sector, has been sizable in China. For example, 248 schools from areas of low income received access to online lessons from a top-level high school. On top of this, AI education in China is also acting to shift the focus of the education system in China from the ‘assembly line’ approach of mass education to higher quality education for the masses. Instead of mass testing, AI programs will develop to meet the needs of each child’s abilities. On top of this, AI provides many benefits in its application as it is cheaper, and people can utilize it at any time and in any place.

Squirrel AI itself reflects this success, opening more than 1,800 learning centers in more than 300 cities. This shows the potential for the implementation of AI education in China.

Reduction in Urban-Rural Divide

This presents new hopes in reducing the 70% not graduating from high school in China. This could help to present new opportunities to the rural areas of China, and therefore, reduce inequality levels across the country. China needs to ensure that AI emerges in a way that does not act to further exacerbate these divides by promoting its accessibility to all. Other countries should be keenly watching the events that unfold in China’s near future, whether that be avoiding the mistakes China may make or adopting the AI and implementation process China pursues.

– Reuben Cochrane
Photo: Unsplash

rural-urban education gap
China has the largest education system in the world, and education investments make up 4% of the country’s annual GDP. But despite China’s reputation of striving for academic excellence, the country’s rural-urban education gap is widening, and those in poverty are being left behind. After a passing a certain grade level in school, there are no guarantees for rural students to continue their education as easily as their urban peers. This rural-urban education gap helps perpetuate China’s large divide between social classes.

Causes of China’s Rural-Urban Education Gap

China’s government has a mandatory nine-year education policy that allows Chinese children to attend school at no cost from grades one through nine. But after completing primary school, impoverished children are at a much higher risk of dropping out than their urban counterparts. The income level for rural regions is three times less than that of urban regions, yet residents from both areas are expected to afford tuition, books and other educational fees. High school becomes the financial responsibility of families, but upon reaching this level, 60% of rural students have already dropped out because of the costs.

Many rural parents play a game of risk when considering their children’s education. When parents ultimately decide to leave for higher salaries in urban areas, around 60 million children are left in villages to live with relatives and attend school. But while parents’ intentions are to earn money for their children’s schooling, this lack of parental supervision for these “left-behind” children accounts for over 13% of school dropouts by the eighth grade.

The COVID-19 pandemic may increase China’s rural-urban education gap. Only 50% of students in rural regions have undisrupted access to online classes, with one-third of those students being completely cut off from learning. On the other hand, only 5.7% of urban students have zero access. The issue stems from households lacking computers and strong internet connections — a problem that hits rural children the hardest. For example, 40% of students in urban regions own a computer, compared to only 7.3% of students in villages.

Local governments are responsible for financing education in their regions, but those in rural areas often experience financial shortages. Without governmental support, families are left to pay for further schooling but lack the means to do so, resulting in dropouts and poor educational quality. Rural schools are usually staffed with fresh graduates, who are cheaper to hire, but who lack the teaching abilities and experience to properly develop young minds. Incredibly low salaries lead to a high turnover rate in rural communities, with educators in one county reported at earning only 2,500 yuan ($358.79 USD) per month.

Classroom instruction is also difficult with inadequate teaching supplies. While urban classrooms use up-to-date technology in large spaces, rural classrooms lack basic resources and include cramped rooms for students to sleep, because most travel far from their villages to attend school. Without experienced teachers and stimulating learning spaces, the few rural students who can pursue higher education do not make it as far as their urban peers. Less than 5% of rural students are admitted to universities, while over 70% of urban students attend, contributing to China’s rural-urban education gap.

International Aid

China’s rural-urban education gap falls directly in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which target unequal education and the disparaging effects of poverty. The U.N. is working with China to end wealth disparities in education and promote inclusivity in classrooms. The World Bank is also financing efforts toward mending this gap, including support for the Guangdong Compulsory Education Project. This project’s mission, enacted in 2017 and set to finish in 2023, focuses on improving classroom equipment and teaching quality in public schools. According to the Ministry of Education, 99% of school-age children complete the mandatory nine-year school policy. The World Bank pledged $120 million for this program, which will advance learning from grades first through ninth, helping rural children receive a more comprehensive education while school is still accessible to them.

With China’s current education system, rural children struggle to finance and pursue higher learning. As a result, the rich remain rich and the poor remain poor, perpetuating intergenerational poverty. China’s rural-urban education gap remains a challenge, and changes must be made. As education in China improves, poverty will decrease and millions of children can hope for brighter futures.

Radley Tan
Photo: Flickr

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