China's Education Reform in the 1980s: Policies, Issues, and Historical Perspectives

China's Education Reform in the 1980s: Policies, Issues, and Historical Perspectives

China's Education Reform in the 1980s: Policies, Issues, and Historical Perspectives

China's Education Reform in the 1980s: Policies, Issues, and Historical Perspectives

Excerpt

For those trying to steer a more-or-less steady course through the shifting currents of Chinese educational policies during the past twenty years, a few fixed landmarks can help to guide the way. Different people use different reference points. Mine are a certain common denominator of problems that virtually all countries, whether socialist or otherwise, have been found to encounter when they embark upon the path of educational development in the contemporary world. These problems inevitably take on political dimensions, because education is now commonly accepted to be a public as well as a private resource. Solutions thus depend ultimately on the decisions of governments and the makers of public policy. When formulated at that level, moreover, these concerns are not specifically professional or academic in nature. Although questions such as how students are taught, what they are taught, and what facilities are to be made available for learning are conventionally left to professional educators to answer, they do so on the basis of policy directives and within parameters that are rarely fixed by them alone. Each country’;s policies and parameters actually derive from a range of considerations, including its historical traditions, level of economic development, and the nature of its political system, together with the priorities adopted and the changing demands of its citizens.

Nevertheless, the problems with which policy makers must cope are remarkably similar everywhere. Nor are they recent discoveries. Virtually all can be traced in the international literature on educational development at least as far back as the 1920s and 1930s. Neither are they confined to the countries of what, in the latter half of the twentieth century, came to be called the Third World. But they do tend to take on somewhat different dimensions once national economies begin to move out of the low income range and governments no longer have to worry about large, basi-

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