Category Archives: Education

The pride of the family

These photos were taken in December 2013 in Anshun city, Guizhou province. They show two school diplomas granted to the two daughters of a family who finished first and second in their class. The two unframed photos hanged on the bare walls of the living room.



Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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International Journal of Chinese Education

image of International Journal of Chinese Education

ISSN: 2212-585X
E-ISSN: 2212-5868

The International Journal of Chinese Education aims to strengthen Chinese academic exchanges and cooperation with other countries in order to improve Chinese educational research and promote Chinese educational development. Articles can be submitted as empirical studies, especially on popular issues, policy studies, and theory studies, and can address all educational disciplines, educational phenomena and education problems.

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Volume 3, Sound Bites Won’t Work: Case Studies of 15-Year Free Education in Greater China, 2014

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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Rule of law: one term, two characters, many meanings

Article written by Cary Huang and published by the South China Morning Post on November 10th, 2014.

President Xi Jinping called for it, the Communist Party endorsed it and the country’s judicial system is to be governed by it but there is still no consensus on how it should be rendered in English.

At the end of the annual gathering of the party’s elite last month, leaders backed Xi’s push to promote fazhi – a concept officially translated as “rule of law”. But others argue that the term is better translated as “rule by law” or “rule through law” to drive home the point that whatever the changes to the system, the law is not something unto itself – it’s there to serve the party.

Please click here to read the rest of the article (restricted access):

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Consuming urban living in ‘villages in the city’: studentification in Guangzhou

He, Shenjing (2014). Consuming urban living in ‘villages in the city’: Studentification in Guangzhou, China. Urban Studies. Published online before print August 1, 2014. DOI: 10.1177/0042098014543703

Against the backdrop of higher education expansion, studentification refers to a particular type of urban sociospatial restructuring resulting from university students’ concentration in certain residential areas. Over the last decade, studentification has evolved into different forms and has spread to different locales. This study aims to provide a contextualised understanding of this distinct phenomenon in China so as to decode the complex dynamics of urban sociospatial transformation in the Chinese city. In this paper, I present a line of empirical evidence based on fieldwork in Xiadu Village and Nanting Village, two studentified villages close to university campuses in Guangzhou. These two villages exemplify different consumption and spatial outcomes of studentifcation, owing to different institutional arrangements, types of studentifiers and roles of villagers. Yet, in both villages, studentification has profoundly transformed the economic, physical, social and cultural landscapes. Notably, rather than the spatialisation of compromised and marginalised residential choices by higher education students, studentification in China is better interpreted as the spatial result of students’ conscious residential, entrepreneurial and consumption choices to escape from the rigid control of university dorms, to accumulate cultural and economic capital, as well as to actualise their cultural identity. In the Chinese context, studentification provides a useful prism to understand a unique trajectory of urbanisation: re-urbanising the ‘villages in the city’ through bringing in urban living/urban consumptions. In the long run, studentification could provide a potential solution to sustain and upgrade the villages in the city.

Read full text article at Sage Journals (restricted access)


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Holly Ming’s book on Chinese migrant children’s education


MingBookEarlier this year, Holly H. Ming (senior researcher at the Youth Foundation, Hong Kong) published an interesting book on migrant children’s education in China.
This book is actually adapted from her PhD dissertation that she prepared at the Harvard Kennedy School.
This book is structured in four parts. Each of them starts with a migrant’s story and educational aspiration. The author has chosen to adopt an empathic tone; it is clear she cares about these people and their issues. It would be misguided to think that her approach is not academic enough. Actually, Holly Ming’s demonstration is backed with strong references, and she conducted numerous interviews to prepare this book.
She first introduces readers to the status of migrants and their children in cities, and then in a second part, described migrant children’s quest for identity. Most migrant children do not remember their early life in their mother province, but still need to find their own place in their host city.
In a third part, the author studies the career decisions of migrant students and the obstacles they face in pursuing their professional ambitions.
According to her findings, some progress has been made toward the integration of migrant children in public schools (although migrant schools – private schools for migrants delivering low quality courses – still exist in several cities). Several host municipalities reduced paperwork and so more migrant children can attend these schools. But the persistence of the hukou system still prevents many of them from taking the senior high school entry examination. Most migrant children have to choose between taking this exam in their home province, where the syllabus is different from the one followed in their host cities, or leaving school and searching for low-wage jobs, repeating their parents’ fate.
She ultimately presents several policies that could help second-generation migrants to get the education they deserve.
After reading this book, written with heart, we can argue that China does not properly nurture talent. This second generation of migrants faces too many obstacles to succeed. Without proper policies, they will suffer from the same social exclusion their parents experienced.
These children and their families show an incredible thirst for education; they know education is the key to social advancement. More funds and programmes need to be allocated to migrant children to reduce social inequalities and insure a real meritocracy where second-generation migrants and fuerdai (富二代) (the second generation of the upper class) will receive the same education and compete for high social status.

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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The musician who became a champion of migrant workers

Chan, Bernice. The musician who became a champion of migrant workers. South China Morning Post, 1 July 2014. Retrieved 2 July 2014 from:

Like many young people on the mainland, Sun Heng left his hometown to pursue his dreams. He loved music and had vague ideas about travelling across the country to sample different ethnic sounds and becoming a performer. He achieved that goal, forming the New Worker Art Troupe, a band which gave a voice to the country’s millions of migrant workers.

In the process of making music, Sun, now 39, became their champion: he set up a school in Beijing for the children of migrant workers who were not allowed to attend public institutions, a community centre, a museum and, in 2009, a centre where workers can go to pick up skills that could lead to better paying jobs.

Particularly concerned about second-generation migrants who were born in cities but stuck in low-paying jobs because they had little education, Sun and his friends figured one solution was to provide practical courses in areas such as computer literacy and graphic design.

“Once they begin working in a factory, they rarely have a chance to retrain in new skills, so we founded this training centre. It is not a formal academic university, but rather a social knowledge platform,” says Sun.

Founder of NGO the Beijing Migrant Workers’ Home, Sun was invited to Hong Kong in May by Oxfam to help raise awareness about the plight of the estimated 263 million mainland migrant workers whose contribution to China’s remarkable growth in the past 20 years is rarely acknowledged.

It wasn’t quite the role Sun envisaged when he arrived in Beijing about 15 years ago.

Read the full story on the South China Morning Post 


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Chinese research perspectives on educational development

Yang Dongping, ed, Beijing Institute of Technology Chinese Research Perspectives on Educational Development, Volume 2 is an English translation of selected articles from the 2013 Annual Report on Educational Development in China, produced by the 21st Century Education Development Research Academy in China.

In this volume, readers are brought up to date on the main educational issues and events of 2012. 2012, the second year since the Outline of China’s National Plan for Medium and Long Term Education Reform and Development 2010-2020 was implemented, witnessed the deepening of education reform in terms of promoting education equity and improving rural education and balanced development of compulsory education. This volume starts with a general report by Cheng Fangping and Yang Dongping that explains the new progress as well as barriers of education reform in 2012. Researchers and practitioners discuss the development and reform of rural schools, education for migrant workers’ children, impacts of educational resources on urban and rural children, new progress of higher education, among other topics in this volume.

Chinese Research Perspectives on Educational Development, Volume 2 informs the Western readers of the current educational development in policy, practice, and research in China.

Chinese Research Perspectives on Educational Development is a co-publication of Brill and Social Sciences Academic Press (China).

Table of contents

General Report: Reform of Education in China Stepping Forward with a Solid Pace and Going a Long Way
Cheng Fangping, Yang Dongping

Regional Features and New Issues on the Balanced Development of Compulsory Education
Wu Zunmin

Competition on the Transition of Primary School Graduates to Junior High Schools in Large Cities and Governance of Mathematical Olympiad Training
Li Xinling

An Investigation of Adjustment of School Mapping in Rural Areas
Wang Shuai

Research on the Learning and Life of Primary and Secondary Students in Rural Schools
Zhou Jinyan and Qi Xiang

Local Practices and Civilian Efforts on Revitalization of Small-Scale Schools in Rural Areas
Lü Chao

New Progress on Higher Education Reform
Yang Min

The Reform of Enabling Migrant Workers’ Children to Take the College Entrance Exam in the City Where Their Parents Work and Live Moving Forward
Xiong Bingqi

Beyond Rural and Urban Differences: Impact of Educational Resources and Family Resources on Children from Urban and Rural Areas
Han Jialing, Gao Yong, Zhang Yan, Han Chengming

From Shandong to Shanxi Province: A Reflection on the Reform of School Teaching in Primary and Middle Schools
Chai Chunqing

Non-Government Funded Education: Development Transition and Policy Innovation
Fang Jianfeng

Exploration on Building of Parents Committee in Primary and Middle Schools in Shandong Province
Lu Yongjian

A Survey on Specially-set-post Teachers in Rural Schools: Present Situation and Issues
Wang Guoming, Wang Xuenan, A Xia Re Ha Mo

A Report on Surveys of Sensitivity of Equality with Education Expressed by the Public in Some Major Cities of China for the Year 2012
Yang Min

An Analysis of Public Expenditures on Education in 2011
Zhou Ling

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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Migrants and “left-behind children” (2)

Two weeks ago, I published a review of a Ph.D dissertation written by Guo Lin on migrants and left-behind children that suggested that inequalities were greater between rural and urban children than between left-behind children and children with their parents. Although this study looked at the education, the health and the workload of left-behind children, the author did not analyse – as it was not the purpose of the paper – the emotional and behavioural consequences on being left behind by parents. In 2009, the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin released a paper on children and migrations in China looking at both left-behind children and those migrating with their parents to cities1. Even though this article was published five years ago, its findings are still current. According to a recent research, at least 61 million Chinese children are left behind2.

This report highlights the distress of these left-behind children, who can spend years without seeing their parents.

In addition to the issues they face at school and at home because of missing parents, many of them are also victims of sexual assault or harassment. They are also more likely to have accidents at home because of poor adult supervision. The authors argue that many of these left-behind children also suffer from emotional disorders.

Authorities are well aware of this issue and have launched several programmes to improve left-behind children’s wellbeing. One of these policies is the promotion of “stand-in parents” that will look after these left-behind children. Another is the creation of boarding schools that can host these children and provide them with proper supervision from responsible adults, but many of these boarding schools are poorly financed by local governments, and, consequently, do not offer adequate living conditions. The authors rightfully argue that all these measures do not address the underlying cause of the left-behind children problem, which is the challenge migrant parents face in bringing their children to the city because of the strict hukou policy. If this issue is not addressed properly, China will pay the price in the future with a poorly educated workforce and adults suffering from social disorders.

  1. Aris Chan (2009), Paying the price for economic development: the children of migrant workers in China, China Labour Bulletin, 2009, November. Reteived March 20 from []
  2. April Ma (2014), China raises a generation of ‘left-behind’ children, CNN, February 5. Retrieved March 20 from []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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Picture of spartan classroom in rural China awarded prize


Image © Fuyang Zhou

This photo, which was taken by Chinese amateur photographer Fuyang Zhou in Jiangxi province, won the first prize at the Hamdan International Photography Awards. It shows what seems to be an improvised classroom, with a dirt floor and mud walls, which serve as a blackboard.

In many villages of inland provinces with high rates of outflow migration, only children and old people remain. Remittances from parents working in the cities are usually the largest source of revenues for the village. The incentive for urbanisation from the government often means schools in remote villages are closed and schoolchildren are sent off to boarding schools located in larger towns. However, many local governments lack the resources to build enough boarding schools. Many of them have serious hygiene and safety issues1. Besides, the entry age at boarding schools is usually set at 6 years old. The most important problem is the shortage of good teachers. It is not only low salaries and heavy workload that deter teachers from moving to small villages, but especially isolation and the distance to urban areas. Thus, the teacher turnover rate is high. In spite of this, those willing to stay do not lack motivation and usually develop close bonds of friendship with the community.

For more information about the photo awards click here:

  1., last accessed 20 March, 2014 []

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Migrants and “left-behind children” (1)

Several studies look at the well-being of migrants and the issues they face in the cities. What about their children? We know that many migrants’ children do not have access to adequate education in cities because their families lack an urban hukou, and therefore cannot attend urban schools. So, many migrants choose to leave their children in their hometown where they will be able to receive an education.

How precarious are the lives of these “left-behind children”? That is the question Guo Lin1 attempts to answer in her Ph. D. dissertation.

She studied the different dimensions of children’s well-being based on their education level, their health and health coverage, and their daily activities.

According to her results, left-behind children and rural children living with both parents have a comparable level of education. Also, she notes there does not appear to be a large difference between left-behind children and other children in terms of health, but left-behind children are more likely to be covered by health insurance. Her findings also show that left-behind children are more likely to help with household chores. Based on this research, the overall conditions of rural left-behind children are no worse than those of rural children living with their parents.

Guo Lin recognizes that there needs to be further study the left-behind children phenomenon, not only by using samples provided by the China Health and Nutrition Survey, but also by conducting interviews. But for her, it is also crucial to look at the well-being of rural children in general. There are disparities between urban and rural children, which are partly caused by hukou. Guo Lin’s research shows that gaps in terms of education and health coverage are greater between rural and urban children than between left-behind children and other rural children.

We can go further and argue that China’s future greatly depends on the present health and education of rural children.

  1. Guo Lin (2012). Migration and the well-being of left-behind children in China. Ph.D. thesis, State University of New York, Albany []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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Thirty years of school reform in China

Sanford Mason, Charlotte (2013). On the anniversary of Deng Xiaoping’s “Three Fors”: thirty years of school reform in China. (Occasional Papers on Asia 3). Boston: Boston University, Center for the Study of Asia, December 2013. 12 p. Retrieved 28 January, 2014, from

In September 2013, China celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of Deng Xiaoping’s “Three Fors,” a document that launched educational reform in China. The document states, “Education is/should be for modernization, for the world, and for the future.”  What made it such a revolutionary, inspirational, and visionary declaration is the broad interpretation of its stated ideas by China’s educators. During the celebration teachers and officials expressed pride in the progress inspired by Deng Xiaoping, confidence that they will solve ongoing problems, and faith in the “Chinese dream” of an ever-brighter future. Despite the simplicity of Deng’s words in the “Three Fors,” his successors’ broad interpretation of it has set an ambitious course for continued school reform in China. In its sights, not yet achieved, perhaps to be articulated at a fortieth anniversary of the “Three Fors,” are universal K-12 education, including special education, and improved access to quality education for children of migrant workers, minorities, and the rural poor. Looking at the distance traveled in a mere thirty years, it is clear that education in China shows remarkable momentum, achievement, resilience, and promise, its goals aligned with those of other world powers.

Download full paper (PDF)

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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A third of Chinese graduates choose to go to second- or third-tier cities

Working in big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou has been the goal for many Chinese graduates for a long time. However, in recent years, with an increasing number of graduates, employment has been decreasing correspondingly. In 2004, the number of college graduates in China was around 2.8 million; it is expected that in 2014 this number will rise to 7.27 million, while three hundred thousand students who studied abroad will also return to China to find a job. China Central Television recently did a survey on the graduates’ preference for employment and found that more and more students are willing to work in second- and third-tier cities. This shift shows that the rising cost of living and the limit of hukou in big cities have been pushing graduates to move to second- and third-tier cities. This mobility of talent may on one hand reduce the pressure of graduates who are eager to find a job and start a career, while on the other hand it may boost the urbanisation process of the second- and third-tier cities in China.

mobility of talent

More information about this survey:

Chi-Han Ai

Ph.D. candidate of EHESS ( École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris) focusing on regional economic development in China and Taiwan.

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Frontiers of Education in China

image of Frontiers of Education in China

TENG Jun, QU Liaojian , eds.,(2013), Frontiers of Education in China, Volume 8, Issue 4,  p. 637 – 640
DOI: 10.3868/s110-002-013-0043-7 . (restricted access)

Frontiers of Education in China is a fully peer reviewed international academic journal, which publishes original papers. It aims to connect Chinese and international perspectives, and create a platform for a deepening understanding of the global significance of Chinese education. It will enable readers around the world to explore the genuine meaning of Chinese educational traditions and contemporary patterns in a global context. Through promoting a multi-dimensional understanding of Chinese education, this journal seeks to enrich the theory and practice of education.

Former issues online (restricted access)

Volume 7, Issue 1 is on full access.

This month, the OECD released the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results. According to this research, Shanghai pupils ranked first in the world in mathematics, sciences, and reading.

Related link

Baocun Liu, Xiaolin Liu, Liaojian Qu, Cross-Border Higher Education in China: Development, Challenges and Responses (accessed 2nd January 2014)


Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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Education, the key to success

This month, the OECD released the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results. According to this research, Shanghai pupils ranked first in the world in mathematics, sciences, and reading. Western media express criticism over the validity of such a survey since it compares a city, Shanghai, to entire countries.

Of course, it is possible to be critical and negative of this survey, and argue that Shanghai is not China. However, this test does tell us that there has been a significant effort to improve the level of education in China. We can also observe that many Asian city-countries such as Hong Kong, Singapore or even Macau achieved high scores. It seems that urban centres enjoy better educational services than rural regions.

Shanghainese may be able to boast of their performance in this test, but which Shanghainese are we talking about exactly? Locals? Migrants?

In Europe, we see increasing inequality in education among pupils. Children living in suburbs where there are high levels of poverty and unemployment have greater difficulty in completing their studies successfully. Moreover, many of these pupils are migrants’ children. Until now, the government has tried to implement a mainstreaming approach to this issue, and state schools have attempted to reduce these inequalities and offer the same education to every child. This policy cannot be considered a success, since inequalities still exist.

China faces a similar issue with her migrants’ children. Because of the hukou, many migrant children cannot study at the local school and instead must attend special migrant schools.

In a paper published last year, two scholars showed that migrant children, in migrant schools, achieved lower academic results than local pupils in state schools1 . The authors advocated for public schools being more accessible to migrants. It seems that some changes are happening thanks to media exposure (see SCMP article), and more migrant children are being enrolled in public schools.

However, as usual, there is a conflict between policy for the short term and the long term. Yes, it is costly to provide a high degree of education to both locals and migrants. Yet, if these migrant children are not offered this education, what then will be their future? What about Shanghai’s ambitions to become a world class service centre? Can Shanghai afford to exclude the migrant population from a leading education system?

  1. Chen Y. & Feng S. (2012). Acces to public schools and the education of migrant children in China. IZA Discussion paper No.6853, September 2012. Retreived from []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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