Education Reform in China: What the educators think

Coinciding with the China Development Forum in Beijing, the Insights Blog is focusing on China for the next week. In this first posting, Chinese educators Wang Zheng and Jiang Xueqin discuss the challenge of bringing education into the 21st century.

A sound mind in a sound body at Shenzhen Middle School

Earlier this month, China’s Premier Wen Jiabao unveiled a draft 10-year education reform blueprint, and welcomed public comments. Tens of thousands of e-mails flooded in, recognition of the importance of education to China’s technological advancement, economic progress and global engagement.

When China’s Communist Party came to power in 1949, it transformed education from the privilege of the elite to the right of the people. Basic schooling and universal literacy became proud traditions. To Western eyes, the relentless use of examinations to determine who wins a coveted slot in higher education may seen harsh. But, in a time of widening inequality, the Chinese believe this merit-based system guarantees fairness. It is this belief that encourages poor boys in remote hills to study by candlelight and dream of testing into Peking University, China’s best university.

But a system designed 60 years ago to train technocrats for a command economy will invariably need to change as China learns to engage with modernity, technology, and the world. (more…)