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The Future of Education in China

My wife pointed out to me last night that over the last few days I had fairly completely torn apart the Chinese educational system. My goal in writing these posts was not meant as a way of proclaiming the complete failure of the schools.

So today I’d like to focus on the parts of the educational system that show great promise, but still need a bit of work.

Creating World Class Universities

If you look at this list of the top 100 universities in the world you will notice that China occupies 3 of the places (Sorry Chinese gov’t, you don’t get credit for universities in Taiwan or HK). Upon looking for the other up and coming BRICS, you will notice that China is the only developing country on this list.

China has managed to create a few universities with incredibly high standards that are staffed by well respected professors, and churn out creative, articulate graduates. China actually has several more universities approaching this level (3 more ranked between 100-200).

However, the city of Nanjing has more than 50 universities alone. It seems that there are hundreds of schools that are still far below international standards. My hope is that these schools avoid the trap of merely faking their way through inspections, and instead use them as a method of finding their weaknesses and making the improvements that must be made.

China knows what it takes to make a world class school, now it just needs to take action to make that happen.

Funding Research

China has also started to put more money into research and development in the last few years. The hope is that they are carefully funding key projects, and not just dumping money into pet projects. This investment is starting to pay dividends in China’s efforts to develop green energy sources.

China made headlines just last week for being on track to become the number one publisher of scientific papers. As the New York Times pointed out several months ago though, many of these papers lack credibility as they are often published with faked results or are plagiarized from Western sources (an excellent read). This is because the gov’t is trying to force discoveries instead of creating policies that would reward them, like protecting intellectual property rights.

Increasing Access to College Education

In the past four years, partially as a way to cope with the economic downturn, China has dramatically increased the number of college students. This is a wonderful thing in many ways, but it has not been handled so well in the smaller schools.

Instead of increasing the number of teachers, colleges have simply allowed class sizes to swell. In my school in Longzhou there had been about 33 students on average per class, the following year the average was 41. It is well established that smaller classes allow better student teacher interactions, and that results in higher quality education.

My point here is that China in many areas has set the right goals by trying to increase their number of world class universities, publish more research, and make college education widely available, however these have all been implemented by decree instead of through policies that would work to encourage the desired results.


  1. Pelo says:

    I figured Hu Jintao’s alma mater, Tsinghua University, would be on the list of top schools in the world. The same is true for his American counterpart.

    I wonder what draws this caliber and concentration of professors to these few great Chinese universities and not to others? Higher pay? Recruiting practices? Different hiring criteria? (Rhetorical questions). It would be interesting to know what percentage of these professors are foreign, and if these schools have historically performed well or if the success is due to some kind of reform.

    Of note is your use of the word “creative” when describing graduates of the top Chinese universities. This is truly exceptional given what we discussed in a previous post about the rote learning environments that appear to be pervasive in the school system there. This handful of schools appears to be doing something right. Wow.

    • s.a. says:

      my boyfriend told me that if they fail to have at least one paper published every year they lose up to 3000 rmb of their “bonus” he is struggling to create new discoveries because so many people are published nothing new is being discovered, only repeated, and they are never given any time to work on such papers to create real research. he has 20 classes that he teachers over 3 days. he is exhausted after 17 years of this and he is tired of this system,

  2. […] My wife pointed out to me last night that over the last few days I had fairly completely torn apart the Chinese educational system. My goal in writing these posts was not meant as a way of proclaiming the complete … Continue reading → […]

  3. […] The future of education in China […]

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