China's changing economy, families, cultural values and student learning: Benefits, challenges, and strategies

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Once a poor, equal country, China has become 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 abandon disadvantaged students. China's rapid economic growth increased her children's learning both directly (spending more on schools, books, teacher training, etc.) and indirectly (better health care, safety standards, etc.). Students with more educational resources have more learning opportunities on which they can capitalize to learn more, while healthier students can use these resources more effectively. On the other hand, economic reforms that facilitated corruption, favored coastalareas, favored cities, and opened markets reduced inequality and student learning via several inequality mechanisms: (a) less sharing among students and teachers, (b) less 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. Moving to find better jobs, parents earn more to give their children more physical educational resources (e.g., books) and more learning opportunities. However, labor 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 limited family resources. On the other hand, smaller families reduce the size of extended families and access to their available resources. 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 tend to share fewer 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' learning opportunities. Possible measures to redress the harmful effects of inequality on learning include (a) giving parents a flat, refundable tax credit for each dependent child's schooling, (b) random allocation of students to classes within a school, (c) mixing rich and poor students together in the same schools and classes, (d) assigning each teacher to multiple grade levels and subjects, and (d) ending housing subsidies in cities. Copyright © 2008 by Nova Science Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEducation in China: 21st century issues and challenges
EditorsSeren T. HALL, Megan W. LEWIS
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc
ISBN (Print)9781604567038, 1604567031
Publication statusPublished - 2008


Chiu, M. M. (2008). China's changing economy, families, cultural values and student learning: Benefits, challenges, and strategies. In S. T. Hall, & M. W. Lewis (Eds.), Education in China: 21st century issues and challenges (pp. 141-156). New York: Nova Science Publishers.


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