Challenging reality through idealism: The Rural Education Movement in China, 1920s-1940s

Chenchen ZHOU

Research output: ThesisResearch Papers


The Rural Education Movement was a reflection of modernity after China was incorporated into the global capitalist system in the early twentieth century. Intellectuals realized that the transition of China, a traditional agricultural country, towards modernity, depended on the degree of enlightenment of the peasants who accounted for the majority of the population and the degree of civilisation of the traditional rural society. Therefore, education scholars tried to establish a modern rural landscape parallel to the urban areas with rural schools which catered to peasants. Observing rural education during this period not only reveals a complex picture of the structure of traditional rural society in early Republican China but also investigates how low-mobility people acquire education under turbulent social conditions. This paper introduces and analyses the background and development process of the Rural Education Movement from a historical perspective. Eventually, the Rural Education Movement failed due to a collapsing economy, social class bias and political strife. However, in other parts of the word, particularly in Southeast Asia, rural education is still playing a role nowadays with a new position in the context of globalisation. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Rural Education Movement
  • Rural education
  • Education and peasants
  • Enlightenment
  • Republican China
  • Master of Arts in Global Histories of Education (One-year Full-time)
  • Programme code: A1M106
  • Course code: HIS6062


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