Differences in Students' Smoking-Related Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors among Public, Factory, and Private Secondary Schools in Guangzhou, China

By Wen, Xiaozhong; Chen, Weiqing et al. | Journal of School Health, January 2008 | Go to article overview

Differences in Students' Smoking-Related Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors among Public, Factory, and Private Secondary Schools in Guangzhou, China


Wen, Xiaozhong, Chen, Weiqing, Qian, Zhengmih, Muscat, Joshua E., Lu, Ciyong, Ling, Wenhua, Journal of School Health


LITERATURE REVIEW

The prevalence of smoking among adolescents in China has increased dramatically in recent years. The latest National Survey on Risk Factors of Health Behaviors indicated that the overall smoking prevalence declined slightly from 1996 to 2002, while the smoking prevalence of males aged 15-19 and females aged 15-24 in 2002 were higher than that of their counterparts in 1996. (1,2) How to delay or reverse the increasing tendency of adolescent smoking is a major challenge for public health. Accordingly, all kinds of adolescent smoking prevention programs have been carried out nationwide and many of them choose schools as the intervention settings. These school-based programs cannot achieve full success until they are carefully designed to fit the target schools' characteristics, one of which is the school type.

According to financial sources, the secondary schools in China can be mainly classified into 3 types: public, factory, and private schools. Similar to public schools in western countries, Chinese public schools are managed by governments and funded mostly from taxes. With strong financial and policy support from local governments, public schools have had good prestige in teaching quality and health care for a long time. But almost all of the public schools have strict residency-based enrollment policy, which means that children must go to the assigned local public schools according to their permanent residency.

The factory schools have their own special history with the development of China. (3) At the beginning of the establishment of the Peoples' Republic of China, many new heavy industrial factories (eg, steel, oil, mine, power) needed to be built in this new country. These factories often were located in the countryside, mountainous regions, or even in deserts far from cities. Numerous factory workers and their families moved into these areas. The number of local public schools around these big factories was too limited (or nonexistent) to accept all of the workers' children. Therefore, most of these factories were empowered to set up their own schools with encouragement from the government. All of these schools were funded and managed by the factories themselves. They usually only enrolled children whose parent(s) (1 or both) were factory workers. These factory school always owned better teachers and facilities than local public schools. Unfortunately, more and more factory schools are going to be closed down or recombined into local public schools with current reformation of Chinese state-owned factories. (4,5)

Comparatively, Chinese private schools have a shorter history. They were founded in the 1980s with the reformation of a market economic system in China. Currently, there are 2 main kinds: high-paid and general-paid private schools. The high-paid private schools are characterized by excellent physical condition and full accommodation. They are usually attended by children whose parents are company owners or businessmen with high salaries but little time to take care of their children. On the contrary, the general-paid private schools with tuition fees that are similar to public schools are mainly open to those children who are not born locally. Most of their parents are poor farmers migrating from the countryside to the cities to find new jobs. Being away from their birthplaces, these children face many barriers to enter the public schools in new places. (6) As a result, only a few immigrant farmers' children have opportunities to be enrolled in the public schools. Alternatively, most of them have to go to general-paid private schools owed by individuals or social organizations. Solely depending on students' tuitions, these general-paid private schools cannot afford experienced teachers and quality facilities. Regularly with small size and poor environment, some of them are even illegal in some places. Despite these problems, with the fast speed of urbanization in China, general-paid private schools have seen a rapid rise in number during recent years and have been playing a more and more important role in the Chinese education system. …

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