Rural China Replaces Village Schools With Boarding Schools

By Diette Courrégé Casey — November 21, 2011 2 min read
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China might be a world away, but U.S. rural residents likely will identify with some of what’s happening there.

A research article, A matter of money? Policy analysis of rural boarding schools in China, published last month in the Education, Citizenship and Social Justice journal explores how rural schools are being hurt by China’s policy on educating its rural students.

The Chinese government has been replacing village schools with urban boarding schools for the past decade, saying doing so will improve school quality and be a more effective use of its resources (sound familiar?).

Author Zhenzhou Zhao has found the new boarding schools “fail to provide a safe, healthy environment or protect and enable students’ human rights” and “children’s interests are ignored and their rights overlooked in educational policy formulation and enactment,” according to the article.

Like in most developing countries, China’s rural residents make up a majority of the population, and Zhao writes they are the most vulnerable in policy decisions on public welfare. In China in 2000, more than 80 percent of primary schools and 64 percent of lower secondary schools were in rural areas.

During the past 10 years, the central government has been changing its school system for rural areas, replacing existing village schools with rural boarding schools located in towns and townships. By 2007 in Western areas of China, boarding school students at the secondary level accounted for 53.6 percent of students in rural areas.

Zhao looked at schools in two provinces to investigate the boarding schools. The research is based on 2006 interviews with teachers and students in 21 schools in Guangxi and Qinghai Provinces. More than 2,500 questionnaires were completed by boarding school students, 325 by teachers and 200 by parents. Interviews were done with 95 students and 63 teachers.

Researchers found the cost of room and board put a heavy financial burden on students’ families, and most boarding schools lacked professional auxiliary staff and boarding facilities. They also found “health care and hygiene facilities were inadequate, and under-nutrition was prevalent. Similar findings have also been echoed in a large number of investigations initiated by Chinese researchers in other provinces and regions,” according to the research.

This article made me wonder whether this kind of situation—rural schools being consolidated into regional boarding schools—recently has happened in the U.S. If you know of any, let me know.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.