Yu Minhong: Education Inequality Has Deep Roots

April 2, 2014
Editor: Sophia Zhu
Yu Minhong: Education Inequality Has Deep Roots
Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee member Yu Minhong, founder of New Oriental, one of the best-known and influential English training schools.[Xinhua]

Equality in rural education has become a hot topic ever since the 'Two Sessions' this year. A proposal was brought up during the 'Two Sessions' that has drawn great attention, that is, "The Ministry of Education wants to increase the number of rural students going into national key universities by 10 percent."

"Ten percent? I doubt it," said Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee member Yu Minhong, founder of New Oriental, one of the best-known and influential English training schools.

According to Yu, his company provides financial support to needy rural students applying to Peking University every year. "But after I speak to them, I realize they are not that poor," the majority of these so-called poor students have surprisingly similar experiences – they graduate from key junior high schools, and then key senior high schools. "These are not real needy students," Yu said.

Since 2012, the Ministry of Education and other ministries jointly organized and implemented five annual arrangements directed towards enrolling 10,000 students from rural areas in universities, in 2013 this figure had increased to 30,000 , and this year's task is the "10 percent."

Yu said he does not believe this figure. In one of the top high schools he visited in many poor areas, Yu noticed something rather interesting: more than half of these students there are either the children of local government officials, or of local rich people. According to Yu, these are the students who will go to key universities under the Ministry of Education's policy of supporting poor students going to key universities. But the sad part is, they are not that poor.

"Top universities like Peking University, Tsinghua University and Renmin University of China are full of kids with a good family background. Do they cheat? No. Because these kids have the privilege to go to the best kindergarten, best primary school and high school, and it is easy for them to go to a top university," Yu said.

"Family background," to some extent, plays a decisive role in education. This so called plan in increasing the number of students in key universities by 10 percent seems ill-equipped to fill the inequality gap in education.

As a member of the CPPCC National Committee, Fudan University Professor Ge Jianxiong said, under the unequal distribution of educational resources today, simply increasing the proportion of rural students in university will only increase inequality. Furthermore "if the students are not good enough, then giving them special entry requirements will only harm them."

How do we tackle this problem, then? To solve the inequality of education resource distribution, the government has spent a lot of money, but it does not grasp the key issues. "A really good school needs really good teachers. That's where students will be," Yu said.

However, it is not easy to encourage good teachers to go to rural areas.

Yu said that in America he saw Harvard graduates teaching in rural areas, but in China, very few highly educated teachers would do that.

Money is the key here. In America, teachers in rural areas do not necessarily suffer from a very low standard of life. But in China, that difference is alarming. Teaching in remote, poor areas in China means no water, no house, and no money.

"Everything in China is about money, "said Yu.

Yu tried, once. New Oriental had set up charity schools in remote areas which teachers can get 3,000 yuan (U.S. $483) extra per year, as long as they stay in the school.

"The government should pay the 3,000 yuan (U.S. $483)," Yu said.

(Source: Xinhua/Translated by Women of China http://www.womenofchina.cn/)

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