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Good news concerning the Chinese educational private sector

At first it reads like bad news:

China not to pursue profit-oriented education: official

BEIJING, Jan. 6 (Xinhuanet) — Chinese education minister said here Tuesday that China will not place profit-gaining capability as the primary par for education.

At a press conference organized by the State Council Information Office, Minister Zhou Ji said that education is basically a cause for social benefits.

Governmental encouragement of private investment into education does not mean gaining economic returns is the priority for schools, said Zhou, adding that more private funds could alleviate burdens of the government for financing education.

Meanwhile, China welcomes overseas partners who are able to provide quality education service to the Chinese.

A newly adopted law stipulates that private schools are legally equal to their public counterparts.

Statistics show that by the end of 2002, about 61,200 privately-funded schools enrolled more than 11 million students. A total of 712 programs were jointly carried out by Chinese and overseas educators, nine times that of seven years before.

“Profits pursuit in education might endanger equal rights of education for every Chinese citizen,” Zhou said.

What’s going on here? My take: the Chinese government knows it has to have great gobs of education if it is to race ahead economically like it wants to. But (just like India) it can’t afford to supply this entirely out of its tax revenue. So it is going to encourage private sector, profit-oriented education. But won’t encouraging profit-oriented education encourage profit-orientation? No, says the government. We won’t be encouraging profit-oriented profit-oriented education, only non-profit-oriented profit-oriented education. So there.

And the shorter version of the above reads: never believe anything until it is officially denied. In China, as in so many places, “official” is another word for “not”.

The point here is not the answer, which is contradictory waffle. The point is the question, which is: how about all this private sector education? How about it indeed.

I am increasingly starting to believe – and I seem to recall (quick phone call) our own David Carr hinting here not so long ago at something similar – that the next great challenge to statism and statist economic policies may come not from the likes of us, but from the East.

5 comments to Good news concerning the Chinese educational private sector

  • julian

    china today in most ways is communist in name only. it is extremely common for someone to have a small side-business in addition to their job (more common than in the US). in fact, many parts of china are even more “purely” capitalist than the US. the US has had years of experience being capitalist, and have slowly added regulation upon regulation, eg. anti-monopoly laws, etc. currently, china has very little of this type of regulation. (i am not saying this is necessarily good.)

    china is an up and coming powerhouse. they will go about it their own way, and at their own pace, as they have always done in their 5000-year history. but sooner or later, they will become an economically successful society (assuming they can keep their grip on the growing population). it is my opinion that china will create their own brand of democracy at some point in the mid-future. good news for china, and good news for the world.

  • Scott

    Sure China is Communist in name only, but it is still very much statist, and the educational system very much reflects this.

    There are private schools cropping up though they are affordable only for the very, very, very wealthy. Foreigners are allowed to set up schools, such as Montessoris, and I believe they can take Chinese pupils now as well.

    But for the vast, vast majority of students, school includes silly politics classes in which the latest Party propaganda is shrilly shoved down their throats. Science and math are strong disciplines, yes, but in history and many other humanities the curriculum is politically correct as interpreted by party hacks.

    One good development is the growing spread of adult education. People are now able to go back to school to pursue new degrees or get new skills, something very difficult to do say, 10 years ago.

    Still I don’t think there’s much sign that the government is ready to truly relax its grip over what the general public is taught.

  • julian

    true. the vast numbers of “common” people, especially in the countryside, are not even close to being able to afford a private education. i was mostly addressing the general trend, as i have little knowledge of the specifics of the chinese educational system. no doubt classes are still heavily laden with propaganda. however, just from speaking with people in china, it seems that a great many (most?) no longer buy the propaganda. they seem to have built up quite a tolerance to it, and do not blindly believe what the government tells them anymore.

    china is well on the path to modernization, both technologically and intellectually.

  • Doug Collins

    I sure hope that this is good news. I am apprehensive about China in future years. If they can be integrated into a free world economy, then my fears will be groundless. However, ignoring the fact that we do not yet have, and may not have a free world economy, the cohesiveness of the Chinese and their ancient attitude that the rest of the world is made up of barbarians give me pause.

    An American or a Briton can look at Russia or Japan or Iraq and say, “They are just like us under the skin”. I’m not so sure a Chinese can bring himself to say the same about us.

    Or perhaps Charles Copeland is just telepathically manipulating my thoughts.

  • You have to add the caveat China Chinese.;)

    Most of them are able to shed that attitude when exposed sufficiently to other cultures(score one for multi-culturalism, I guess), but for the vast majority who never get any contact with non-chinese people, xenophobia is still a problem.

    Most chinese students tune out the propaganda, as the substantial number of china chinese friends I have tell me. It’s not that important to score well in those topics to get to higher level education. The emphasis is still on science, especially maths.

    The government’s move to promote private education is a good one, because they’re still unable to cater to the vast numbers of students who actually are capable of studying at an university but are unable to because there simply isn’t enough places. Competition for those spots is ferocious. There are other outs, of course, like scholarships from overseas, and they do take advanatage of these, particularly to learn english.