Education under Mao: Class and Competition in Canton Schools, 1960-1980

Education under Mao: Class and Competition in Canton Schools, 1960-1980

Education under Mao: Class and Competition in Canton Schools, 1960-1980

Education under Mao: Class and Competition in Canton Schools, 1960-1980

Synopsis

In "Education Under Mao," an in-depth analysis of modern Chinese education, Jonathan Unger not only probes the policy issues and the nature of the debate between "Maoists" and modernizers but also shows, more concretely, how schools were organized, the changing attitudes and goals of students, and the tensions that permeated the schools. Unger focuses on Canton's schools through two tumultuous decades, and his rich factual presentation brings to life both the Chinese school system and its social milieu.

Excerpt

The origins of this study lie in a project sponsored by Great Britain's Institute of Development Studies. The project sought solutions to the "diploma disease" that has beset the educational systems of many of the Third World countries. The thesis which our project was exploring in the Third World goes somewhat as follows:

The school systems of most of the late-developing nations are in a state of crisis. In the eyes of their students, the education system's primary function is to provide the paper credentials necessary for a job in the modern economic sector. For this very reason, hoping for a decent job, a great many young people have flooded into the schools. But a vicious circle has ensued--for as the numbers of students crowding the schools have expanded, the numbers of their graduates have inevitably expanded in similar fashion. In a great many countries this rate of student growth has been faster than the expansion of jobs in the urban economy. In consequence, career posts that primary school graduates had been able to secure a decade earlier begin to be besieged by secondary school graduates.

In such circumstances, many a young person's solution has been to strive for a yet higher education, to get above the crowds of competing job applicants. As this occurs, the reputation of a school and often the careers of its teachers become more dependent upon obtaining a respectable pass rate of students on the examinations for the next higher level of schooling. With the school increasingly geared toward "prepping" its students in the subjects that are most important for such examinations, other school subjects receive short shrift.

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