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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 10, no. 15 (March 08, 2002).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c March 08, 2002
Basic education reform in China : untangling the story of success / Chengzhi Wang [and] Quanhua Zhou.
Arizona State University.
University of South Florida.
t Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA)
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1 of 4 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 10 Number 15March 8, 2002ISSN 1068-2341 A peer-reviewed scholarly journal Editor: Gene V Glass College of Education Arizona State University Copyright 2002, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES Permission is hereby granted to copy any article if EPAA is credited and copies are not sold. Articles appearing in EPAA are abstracted in the Current Index to Journals in Education by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation and are permanently archived in Resources in Education .Basic Education Reform in China: Untangling the Story of Success Chengzhi Wang Princeton University Quanhua Zhou University of ArizonaCitation: Wang, C. & Zhou, Q. (2002, March 8). Basi c education reform in China: Untangling the story of success. Education Policy Analysis Archives 10 (15). Retrieved [date] from http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v10n15.html/.Abstract China's recent basic education reform followed and, in a certain way, imitated its economic reform. The economic reform m erged the experimental dual (planned and market) price system s into a free market economy and yielded phenomenal success. Basic educa tion reform, however, has not succeeded in transforming the intr oductory dual-track (key school and regular school) systems into a univ ersal one. This article briefly examines the general process and outcomes o f basic education reform. It discusses the following questions: Is ba sic education reform also a story of success? What significant lessons c an the Chinese reform experience offer to other comparable developing cou ntries?
2 of 4 IntroductionThe reform of basic education (which includes prima ry and junior secondary schooling) in China from the middle 1980s has not completely s evered it from Maoist popular education. The post-Mao reform policy makers have n ever discarded the tradition of localization and community participation. In contra st to Maoist egalitarian schooling, however, school or pupil tracking (typically repres ented by key vs. regular schools) has been promoted in pursuit of economic efficiency in post-Mao educational changes and reforms.This article presents a brief examination of the ge neral process and outcomes of basic education reform. We first summarize economic refor m and basic education reform, in particular their significant similarities and diffe rences in terms of process and results. We then explain the success of basic education refo rm using three perspectives, namely, 1) the three matters/solutions, 2) contingency theo ry, and 3) the 3-C framework. Next, we analyze the price that China has paid for the su ccess of education reform. Finally, we conclude that what the Chinese experience can offer to other developing countries is just what other countries have offered to China: erosion of traditions and westernization of schooling.Economic ReformChinese economic reform is a unique process. From a price perspective, in the early 1980s, the government acquiesced to the coexistence of central planned production and market pricing. In 1985, transactions based on mark et prices outside the state plan won legal sanction. Gradual decontrol of consumer goods prices steadily brought most consumer goods into a market price system (Naughton 1995; Riskin, 1987). In 1991, the Central Committee of the Communist Party called for elimination of the dual-track system and boldly recommended a gradual shift to a market system. One year later, the National People's Congress declared that the object ive of reform was a "socialist market economy with all stress on the free market" (Naught on, 1995, p. 288). The government then unambiguously embraced the free market economy and began systematically dismantling the outdated command plan economic stru cture. However, the economic reform was not strategically planned. In other words, it was initiated without a strategy. Yet, "a limited numbe r of crucial government decisions and commitments were required in order to allow reform to develop. In certain periods, policymakers acted as if they had a commitment to a specific reform strategy" (Naughton, 1995, p. 7). In the process of the refor m as a whole, "what is most striking is the succession of incremental, steadily accumulatin g measures of economic reform that have gradually transformed the economy in a fundame ntal way" (Naughton, 1995, p. 20).No doubt, the two decades of economic reform result ed in increasing income inequality as documented in the rich research literature study ing the reform. Yet, the growth of an income gap is not peculiar to China. It is a worldw ide phenomenon observed in both developed countries such as the U.S. and all transi tional countries in recent decades. Furthermore, in the case of China, the extent of in come inequality and its underlying
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