village schools


village schools
Village schools in contemporary China are as diverse as villages themselves. Even what constitutes a village in China is a tricky question. There are natural villages (ziran cun); there are administrative villages (xingzheng cun) that provide governmental functions for otherwise dispersed households or hamlets; and there are former rural areas that have been swallowed up by China’s rapidly expanding towns and cities, but retain the governmental structure of a village. Villages also vary in terms of wealth, ethnic make-up and numerous other attributes. The schools that exist in ‘village’ settings reflect this diversity.
Village schools have historical links to the line-age schools and arrangements for private tutoring that existed in the Qing dynasty, but are primarily a legacy of Mao’s effort to eliminate illiteracy in the countryside. Under Maos rule most villages in China came to have their own primary schools. Teachers were usually recruited from within the village even when that meant that these teachers were barely more educated than the students. The schools were called minban (literally, ‘people run’), which meant that the funding came out of village coffers and that teacher salaries were quite low. Despite these shortcomings, the system was quite successful in raising literacy rates in rural China (see literacy (and illiteracy)). Relatively well-educated villagers did not usually have the opportunity to leave their villages, so the education levels of new minban teachers steadily progressed over the decades of Mao’s rule.
During the post-Mao period there has been a general attempt to regularize village schools. This has involved replacing minban teachers with ones trained in the standardized teacher-training colleges, paying them a regular salary from the county government’s payroll, and urging villages to invest more in school equipment and facilities. In many places this has been accomplished by consolidating the schools from a number of neighbouring villages, so that some villages are now without their own primary schools. In general these reforms have worked best in the relatively wealthy areas of the countryside, many of which have witnessed an improvement in educational standards. In many poorer areas, however, the policy has been a failure. Poorer counties are not able to fund teacher salaries, and the poorer villages in these counties have difficulty finding anyone to teach at the minimal salaries that they can offer.
Gao, M.C.F.
(1999). Gao Village: A Portrait of Rural Life in Modern China. Bathurst: Crawford House Publishing.
Li, S. (1999). Cunluo Zhong De Guojia: Wenhua Bianqian Zhong De Xiangcun Xuexiao [The State in the Village: Rural Schools in the Midst of Cultural Change]. Hangzhou: Zhejiang renmin chubanshe.
Ma, R. and Long, S. (eds) (1999). Zhongguo Nongcun Jiaoyu Fazhande Quyu Chayi [Regional Diversity in the Development of Chinese Village Education]. Fuzhou: Fujian jiaoyu chubanshe.
Paine, L. (1998). ‘Making Schools Modern: Paradoxes of Educational Reform’. In A.Walder (ed.), Zouping in Transition: The Process of Reform in Rural North China. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Thogersen, S. (2001). ‘Learning in Lijiazhuang: Education, Skills, and Careers in Twentieth-Century Rural China’. In G.Peterson, R.Hayhoe and Y.Lu (eds), Education, Culture, and Identity in Twentieth-Century China. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Zhang, Yimou (1999). The Road Home (Wode baba mama) [film]
ANDREW KIPNIS

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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