|Private education in China|
|http://www.sina.com.cn 2003/03/20 13:05 中国周刊|
Beijing began to approve the establishment of private schools in September 1992. Now it has 49 private high schools, primary schools, and kindergartens. There are about 20,000 students in these schools, accounting for 1 percent of all school-aged children.
When Huijia private college--one of the private schools in Beijing --started in September 1993, it enrolled only 39 students. Today it has nearly 1,600 students, from primary to high school level. Most of the students are children of successful business people, entertainment and sports stars, best-selling writers, and some journalists, according to Wang Jiajun, principal of the school.
The huge population base of China creates the largest education industry in the world. 1999 figure shows that it had a total of 320 million, accounting for about 30% of world's student population. Limited financial resources severely restricted educational development in China. With lower-than-average national effort and fiscal effort measures, the number of junior high school classes that accommodate more than 66 students has increased from 61,000 in 1993 to the recent 132,000, the higher education gross enrollment ratio was only 10.5% in 1999, and only 1% of labor force has received 4-year and above tertiary training. Insgroupsto realize the developmental goal of 2010, the Chinese government launched a reform of the structure, administration and financing of education since 1985, decentralizing and diversifying the providing and financing of education. Non-governmental schools revived after the 1985 policy in respond to both the excess and differentiated demand.
Although the central government has paid close attention to education and sought ways to make it more accessible,the spending on education in China for 2001 only accounted for 2.55 per cent of GNP. That compares with an average of 2.5 per cent for under-developed countries and 4.1 per cent for developing countries. Universities have tried to do their bit as well with work-study programme and fee waivers. But, some educators believe that, with education going from elite to public, more government support is needed.
Partially aiming for releasing government's burden, private schools have been allowed to develop. Classes of private schools are much smaller than public schools, so that each student can get more face-to-face guidance from teachers. School management encourages introduction of new teaching methods to enhance the interest of students and teaching efficiency. Beijing's private schools unanimously emphasize on computer skills, English and creativity. Huijia demands all its graduates to master English, computer, piano and swimming. Among the school's 32 graduates last year, foreign universities recruited 14.
Education officials said that to a cultural center like Beijing, it is within reasonable limits to have 5 to 10 percent of the school-aged children attending private schools. Private education needs to develop at a faster rate. The Ministry of Education has made it a national policy to encourage the development of private education.
The history of Chinese private education
Though the tradition of private education dates back to about 2,000 years ago with Confucius, and for a long period it was the dominant form of education, the modern private school system (or few school system? did not appear till around the 1840. Through a series of humiliating defeats after 1840, the blind arrogance of the Chinese was shattered, and they began to accept, with great agony, the backwardness in their national development level. Various endeavors were made to save the nation. Education modernization is among the most important attempts.
In this education reform movement, private education played a crucial, if not the dominant role. Not only did private, modern schools appear earlier than public schools, but also that they were generally of better quality at the higher education level.
In the beginning, Chinese private schools were modeled after mission schools insgroupsto pass on western studiesto new intellectuals and invigorate the nation with new knowledge. Western studies in this period meant the learning of western political systems. The failure of Reform Movement of 1898 (the year of Wuxu in the Chinese chronology) proved that the new nationalistic political system could not possibly survive in the soil of old cultures and tradition. Through the development of understanding about Western studies, one constant theme was that education was consistently regarded as the most important way to rejuvenate the dilapidating nation.
After the founding of the People's Republic of China, all of the private sectors were transformedsintospublic sectors. Private industries and schools were regarded as the manifestation of Western capitalism, which was in the direct opposition to the new system. Within such a radical ideological framework, schools began to be foldedsintosthe public sector in 1951. Mission schools were also among those on the conversion list. By the end of 1952, private education had evaporated in China.
After the chaotic 10-year Cultural Revolution, education's role in national development is no longer ideological; instead education has the important function of meeting the skill requirements of a developing socialist market economy and is portrayed as the strategic foundation for national development. With excess demand from the society, and with the permission of private business in the socialist country, private education reappeared in many cities.
Concerns about private schools
The personal accounts nationwide accumulated a total sum of deposit exceeding 2 trillion yuan (US billion) as of 1994. The government is trying to direct the citizens to consume more education out of their own purse. People stay longer in schools. Public universities and graduate schools are expanding their student population quickly, in some cases by 20% each year. It seems that the government is pressing to expand the current educational capacity using private resources.
One concern about private education in such an environment is its great growth, which, in turn, may possibly result in improper competition such as the using of dishonest advertising. Another concern is that the government appears to care more about earning money by using its education institutions than educational quality. A lot of residence dorms and classrooms are being built around universities, while the number of regular teaching faculty remains unchanged. Graduate students are compelled to teach voluntarily some big classes completely by themselves.
A more serious concern is the inequality problem. Private schools that prospered on the growing gulf between the rich and poor only magnified the problems that were besetting Chinese society in the 1990s. The relation between educational equality and the development of private education requires more detailed study. Actually the current private education development policy is confusing in that on the one hand, policy makers are making great efforts to re-interpret the fon-profit education regulation so that entrepreneurs can distribute profit legally (because researchers believe profit is the incentive), while on the other hand, educators also realize the importance of promoting private education in poor areas to meet the excess demand there, forgetting little profit can be further wrenched from those families.
There are other worries about private education. For example, private schools usually offer classes on hot specialities. Now it is not rare for some kindergartens to teach children English before they can speak Chinese fluently. Computer classes are the emphasis of many private high schools, while some basic subjects like math is ignored. This is detrimental to the establishment of a solid knowledge foundation for students. Besides, there is no systematic evaluation mechanism for the outcomes of education.
Definition of private school
Different definitions of private education will result in different categorization of public and private sectors. Usually there are two standards: Is it privately funded and privately managed. According to the Regulation on Education Run by Social Forces, instituted since July 31, 1997, private schools (or schools run by social forces) refer to those run by businesses and governmental organizations, social groups and other social organizations and individuals, using non-government educational financial resources, to provide schooling and other forms of education to the society.
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