In the last two decades, education in China has experienced significant transformation and restructuring in line with privatization and marketization. Unlike the Mao era where the state took up the major responsibilities in financing and providing education, individuals and families have to bear increasing financial burdens in paying for education in the post-Mao period. The marketization and privatization of education has undoubtedly intensified educational inequalities and widened regional disparities between economically-developed areas on the eastern coast and less economically-developed areas in the middle and northwestern parts of Mainland China. The growing inequalities in education and the increasing financial burdens for education have raised social concerns in recent years, which has also drawn the attention of the central government to revisiting approaches and strategies in educational development in China. This article sets out in this wider policy context to examine how China's education has been transformed, especially when far more pro-competition and market-oriented reform measures are adopted. Based not only on intensive secondary data analysis and fieldwork observations, this article also reports findings generated from a household survey conducted in eight different cities in Mainland China regarding people's perceived education hardship. With particular reference to the intensified inequalities in education, this article will also examine how the Chinese government has made attempts to address the problems after the marketization of education in the last two decades.
Professor Ka Ho Mok is Associate Dean and Professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences, The University of Hong Kong. Before he joined the University of Hong Kong, he was a Chair Professor in East Asian Studies and the Founding Director of the Centre for East Asian Studies at the University of Bristol. He has strong research interests in comparative education policy with a focus on East Asia, social development and social policy in contemporary China. His most recent books are Changing Governance and Public Policy in East Asia (London: Routledge, 2008); Education Reform and Education Policy in East Asia (London: Routledge, 2006), Globalization and Higher Education in East Asia (New York and Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Academic Press, 2005), and Social and Political Development in Post-Reform China (London: Macmillan, 2000).
His co-author Dr YC Wong is Assistant Professor at the Department of Social Work and Social Administration at The University of Hong Kong. He has researched the digital divide and poverty issues, social development and social policy issues in contemporary China.