Will Education Reforms Really Extend the China Miracle?

Introduction

Traditionally education in China has already been held in high importance. Schooling is compulsory for children, and the country provides a suitable framework to ensure students are able to reach the minimum criteria deemed necessary. Currently the Ministry of Education estimates that around 99.7% of the entire population has achieved the nine-year basic standard. However, due to China only recently seeing growth resulting in strides towards becoming a first world country, the nation still has further to go in terms of education.

Higher Education

Higher education refers to students who continue to study past the compulsory age. This usually means going to university or a college, but may include trade schools and other similar professional paths. This area is also seeing consistent growth, much like the nation’s economy. Many government officials recognize the link between professional graduates and economic growth, and this has resulted in more students than ever continuing higher education, as well as more universities being founded also.

In 2010, over 30,000 students were studying for a PhD, a number almost 3 times higher than the United Kingdom. Positive statistics such as this are owing to the education reforms implemented within China starting around the early 90’s.

Education has come a significantly long way. In 1990, the countries Growth Enrollment Ratio was only 3-4%. However, in modern times, this number is hovering around 30%, and looks to continue further.

The Link to Economics

Economic commentators have gone so far as to suggest that education may be China’s “hidden weapon”. The importance of education ingrained within Chinese culture means parents are willing to invest heavily into private schools, seeing the cost as an investment into their child’s future.

The trends occurring within the Chinese education sector will effectively result in more professional and skilled workers. These enhanced skill sets should enable the country to grow faster and have citizens able to tackle the new jobs that a changing economy brings. Furthermore, China is attracting increasing numbers of international students to the country, which also helps to fuel economic growth.

Lessons can be learnt from the situation Mexico found itself in the middle of in the late 80’s. The country saw rising income levels, and hoped to have more skilled jobs to offer citizens. However, due to the education system being lackluster, there simply was not enough in the labor pool to maintain the level of growth being seen. If China follows a similar path, they can expect factories to move to cheaper Asian competitors, as well as foreign investment to become less frequent.

South Korea can show China the other side of the coin. The 70’s and 80’s saw the country riddled with sweatshops and citizens working in low-skilled manufacturing jobs. But, with a committed government, these citizens slowly transformed into a highly skilled and educated workforce, one that was soon demanded by high paying employers.

The Road Ahead

While the country of China has come a long way, there is still much further to go. Rural areas in particular are still not quite reaching the aspired levels. With the current level of growth, the pressure is much more significant to produce the workforce China needs. However, it does appear the country is willing to invest significant funds to ensure results are produced, with current GDP expenditure being roughly 4%.

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