Tuesday, March 05, 2013

What Chinese Parents Do for Their Children's Education

An inspiring – but also heart-breaking – story about the sacrifices Chinese parents make to try to get their kids a college education. If the average US parent made 1/10th this effort, we’d rule the world for another few centuries…

Wu Yiebing has been going down coal shafts practically every workday of his life, wrestling an electric drill for $500 a month in the choking dust of claustrophobic tunnels, with one goal in mind: paying for his daughter’s education.

His wife, Cao Weiping, toils from dawn to sunset in orchards every day during apple season in May and June. She earns $12 a day tying little plastic bags one at a time around 3,000 young apples on trees, to protect them from insects. The rest of the year she works as a substitute store clerk, earning several dollars a day, all going toward their daughter’s education.

Many families in the West sacrifice to put their children through school, saving for college educations that they hope will lead to a better life. Few efforts can compare with the heavy financial burden that millions of lower-income Chinese parents now endure as they push their children to obtain as much education as possible.

Yet a college degree no longer ensures a well-paying job, because the number of graduates in China has quadrupled in the last decade.

Interesting to see that China is falling into the separate-and-unequal trap that we’ve fallen into:

As Ms. Wu approached the national higher-education entrance exams in the spring of 2011, the odds were stacked against her, and heavy costs loomed for her parents as a result.
Youths from poor and rural families consistently end up paying much higher tuition in China than children from affluent and urban families. Yet they attend considerably worse institutions, education finance specialists say.

The reason is that few children from poor families earn top marks on the national exams. So they are shunted to lower-quality schools that receive the smallest government subsidies.
The result is that higher education is rapidly losing its role as a social leveler in China and as a safety valve for talented but poor youths to escape poverty. “The people who receive higher education tend to be relatively better off,” said Wang Jiping, the director general of the Central Institute for Vocational and Technical Education in China.

Top four-year universities in China have resisted pressure to expand enrollments. So roughly half of all college students now attend a growing number of less prestigious three-year polytechnics instead.

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