In the New York Times, Helen Gao writes about the inequalities in China’s education system, which start at the elementary level and then coalesce in higher education:
China’s state education system, which offers nine years of compulsory schooling and admits students to colleges strictly through exam scores, is often hailed abroad as a paradigm for educational equity. The impression is reinforced by Chinese students’ consistently stellar performance in international standardized tests. But this reputation is a myth.
While China has phenomenally expanded basic education for its people, quadrupling its output of college graduates in the past decade, it has also created a system that discriminates against its less wealthy and poorly connected citizens, thwarting social mobility at every step with bureaucratic and financial barriers.
A huge gap in educational opportunities between students from rural areas and those from cities is one of the main culprits. Some 60 million students in rural schools are “left-behind” children, cared for by their grandparents as their parents seek work in faraway cities. While many of their urban peers attend schools equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and well-trained teachers, rural students often huddle in decrepit school buildings and struggle to grasp advanced subjects such as English and chemistry amid a dearth of qualified instructors. [Source]
People’s Daily recently tweeted a photo illustrating the education offered to some rural students left behind when fellow villagers move to the cities:
— People's Daily,China (@PDChina) September 2, 2014
The education gap is not just evident between urban and rural and the wealthy and poor residents. Last year Human Rights Watch released a report looking at the barriers to education faced by the disabled in China.