Changes in China's economy, families and cultural values: Effects on student learning

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3 Citations (Scopus)


In the last three decades, mainland China has transformed itself from a poor, equal country to a rich, unequal country with weaker family ties and more hierarchical, individualistic cultural values. These massive changes have improved many students' learning but threaten to leave behind disadvantaged students. China's rapid economic growth increased her children's learning both directly (educational spending on schools, books, teacher training, etc.) and indirectly (e.g., better health care). Students with more educational resources have more learning opportunities on which they can capitalize to learn more, while healthier students are more likely to capitalize on available resources to learn more. On the other hand, economic reforms that facilitated corruption, favored coastal areas, and open markets reduced equality and reduced student learning through several inequality mechanisms: (a) less sharing among students and teachers, (b) less overall educational investment, (c) greater corruption, (d) poorer student discipline, and (e) diminishing marginal returns. China's unequal economic growth, concentrated in its coastal cities (e.g., Shanghai), encourages large-scale urban migration. Through internal labor migration, parents earn more to give their children more physical educational resources (e.g., books) and more learning opportunities. However, internal migration worsens schooling for migrant children, increases divorces, and disrupts family ties, all of which can reduce student learning. Meanwhile, family planning policies and programs (culminating in the one-child policy) have sharply reduced births. Smaller family size enhances learning by reducing sibling competitors for family resources. On the other hand, smaller families reduce the size of extended families and their available resources to aid children's learning. China's greater inequality, greater internal migration, and weaker family ties have also shifted China's cultural values to become more hierarchical and individualistic. As a result, government, school, and family practices yield less sharing of resources with poorer children. Although China's economic growth and family planning improved student learning overall, her rising inequality, weaker social ties and changing cultural values threaten her poorer students' educational opportunities. Possible strategies for addressing these inequalities while maintaining economic growth include: (a) giving parents a flat, refundable tax credit for each dependent child, (b) improving relationships among students and teachers, and (c) ending urban housing subsidies. Copyright © 2011 by Nova Science Publishers, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAsian economic and political developments
EditorsFelix CHIN
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc
ISBN (Print)9781611227048, 9781611224702
Publication statusPublished - 2011


Chiu, M. M. (2011). Changes in China's economy, families and cultural values: Effects on student learning. In F. Chin (Ed.), Asian economic and political developments (pp. 291-307). New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.


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