Country changes and student learning: China's economy, families and cultural values

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Mainland China has transformed itself from a poor, equal country to a rich, unequal countrywith 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 (e.g., public schools) and indirectly (e.g., health care). 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. However, economic reforms that facilitated corruption, favored coastal cities, and opened markets reduced equality and student learning via five 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 was concentrated in coastal cities (e.g., Shanghai), which encouraged internal labor migration into these cities. Through migration, parents earn more to give their children more physical educational resources (e.g., books) and 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, internal migration, and weaker family ties shifted China's cultural values to become more hierarchical and individualistic. As a result, governments, schools, and schoolmates share fewer resources with poorer students. 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) 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, (d) diverse teaching duties, and (e) ending urban housing subsidies. Copyright © 2011 Nova Science Publishers, Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProgress in education
EditorsRobert V. NATA
Place of PublicationHuntington, N. Y.
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc
ISBN (Print)9781617616143, 9781617615801
Publication statusPublished - 2011


Chiu, M. M. (2011). Country changes and student learning: China's economy, families and cultural values. In R. V. Nata (Ed.), Progress in education (Vols. 24, pp. 265-277). Huntington, N. Y.: Nova Science Publishers.


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