Home > Uncategorized > Inequality in China Mirrors United States… and in Both Cases More Spending COULD Solve the Problem

Inequality in China Mirrors United States… and in Both Cases More Spending COULD Solve the Problem

Today’s NYTimes article by Javier Hernandez on the problems plaguing the Chinese education system has elements that mirror those in our country and might foretell where our nation is headed if we don’t address the inequality of opportunity that exists in our schools today.

In China students gain admissions to elite colleges based on their scores on a single national exam, the gaokao, Hernandez describes the problem facing Chinese education as follows: :

The exam gives the admissions system a meritocratic sheen, but the government also reserves most spaces in universities for students in the same city or province, in effect making it harder for applicants from the hinterlands to get into the nation’s best schools.

The authorities have sought to address the problem in recent years by admitting more students from underrepresented regions to the top colleges. Some provinces also award extra points on the test to students representing ethnic minorities.

This spring, the Ministry of Education announced that it would set aside a record 140,000 spaces — about 6.5 percent of spots in the top schools — for students from less developed provinces. But the ministry said it would force the schools to admit fewer local students to make room.

If this sounds familiar, you understand how our elite privates university admissions procedures operate: there are seats reserved for legacies and a smaller number of seats effectively reserved for minorities who may or may not meet the ratings standards of students from elite private and public school systems. Since our elite universities operate independent of the government, though, their decisions on the size of the class they will admit and the composition of that entering class is not a decision of the government but of the university itself. But our State governments, like the Chinese provinces, all operate publicly funded post-secondary institutions and their budget cuts are having a similar impact on children from less affluent districts. These paragraphs describe China’s dilemma in that regard:

A set of national universities could rely on the gaokao to admit students from across the country, he suggested, while provincial colleges could focus on recruiting local students so they would look more like public universities in the United States.

But any change is likely to draw criticism, given limited resources and ethnic and regional prejudices. A common complaint, for example, is that students from Xinjiang, the far western region that is home to China’s Muslim ethnic Uighur population, receive a subpar education and should not get extra exam points.

A group of parents in Beijing has filed a complaint with the education ministry contending that minority students at an elite high school who had been recruited from across China should not be treated as residents of the city, and that, instead, spaces should be freed up in Beijing’s universities for other local children.

In poorer provinces like Henan, public anger is often directed at local governments for underinvesting in education and therefore dooming children in a society with a wide gap between rich and poor.

Because China’s education system is much more monolithic and reliant on test scores that gives the admissions system a meritocratic sheen change WILL draw criticism. But because it is monolithic the Chinese leaders will need to find a solution that unifies the nation instead of dividing it. China is trying to thread a needle: it wants to have more open markets but does not want to have a more open society and protests like those taking place are the result of this tension. In our country, some politicians are using the resentment of parents who insist that the favorable treatment of some children discriminates against their children to make the real problem, which is the overall underinvestment in education that is dooming our nation to a persistent gap between rich and poor.

In the coming months as elections play out across the country, I hope that education is used to unify voters instead of dividing them… but as long as public schools are called “government funded schools” and admissions based on diversity are perceived as “political correctness” I fear that we are dooming our children to a society with a wide gap between rich and poor.

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