China provides 9 years free education for primary and junior high school students, implementing the “Two remissions and One subsidy”: – remissions of miscellaneous and textbook fees, subsidy for boarding students. In recent years, China has trial-run 12 years free education including high school education in a few regions. Yet, being a country with 13 billions of population, it is an enormous figure to have every single issue applied to every single person. As announced in 2015, there are still 592 poverty-stricken counties* by the State Council standards, and it is real not easy to universally implement 12 years free education.
Hugh difference between urban and rural education
The disparity between the rich and the poor in Mainland China is also reflected in urban-rural education. As the source of educational funding is mainly from local government budget, urban cities tend to have more educational resources and a higher chance of receiving education. Those regions that are lack of resources with tight finance, tax income is inadequate to support local education and thus have to rely on central government for subsidy. Because of the poor conditions, capable teachers prefer working in the city to earn a higher salary. Therefore, recruitment of rural teacher is relatively more difficult. Some teachers even have to teach subjects which they are not professionally trained in, thus affecting the quality of education.
Closing down and merging schools
The economic development in Mainland China re-structures local administration and also affects the educational policy. In some remote areas, the closing down and merging of schools forces affected students to walk a few hours to their primary or secondary schools. As a result, some central schools suffer from the problem of inadequate classrooms, dormitories and canteens. Not eating at home also adds financial burden to families. Students from families that cannot afford such expenses have to cut their meals from 3 to 2 a day.
This happens to those villages with dozens of households sparsely located over a certain area with lots of small school units; and these areas barely have any economic development, and one have to walk a few hours because of absence of transportation. Since there may not be students for certain grade; or no recruitment for that year; students of different grades are under the same roof, and taught by one teacher even though he may not have adequate experience, as no teacher is willing to come. This is the scenario of one-teacher-one-school.
There once was a story about a high school graduate working as a substitute teacher in a poor village. No one was willing to take up the job due to the low salary and poor living environment of the village. This substitute teacher did not want to see this poor village went without any education, he then decided to stay and worked as a teacher there. He stayed on for over twenty years, got married and had a son. During these years, his neighbours’ children were able to receive education because of him. However, when his own son got admitted to a high school in the city, he was unable to pay the school fee.
*note: poverty-stricken counties by the State Council standards is based on the annual net income of the locals. According to the 2012 report by the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, a place is considered as poverty-stricken if its average annual income is less than RMB2,300; and a relatively lower standard is applied to regions of ethnic minority groups and old revolutionary base area.