China’s Education Minister Removed

By Sean Cavanagh — November 02, 2009 1 min read
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It might not be as opaque as a Kremlin shake-up, but knowing the exact reasons for the ouster of China’s education minister is something of a guessing game, with national leaders saying little publicly about the reasons for his removal. Zhou Li was relieved of his post by the standing committee of the National People’s Congress and replaced by his deputy, Yuan Guiren, according to news reports.

American leaders, of course, have looked with curiosity and more than a little bit of anxiety in recent years at China’s rapid economic expansion and the improvements in its schools. But China Daily, a government-run publication, says that there was widespread dissatisfaction, at least in political circles, with the rate of progress. The article describes Zhou as “unpopular.” It also notes that he was the former mayor of the city of Wuhan, where the university has been roiled by a bribery scandal. Zhou, however, has never been implicated in that matter, the story says.

The New York Times notes that Zhou served at a time when demand for education at all levels, including universities, was dramatically increasing in China, and that the nation has struggled to keep up. Low literacy and lack of access to education also remain major problems. At the very least, the removal of Zhou is a reminder of the enormous pressure China faces to meet the needs of its student population and create schools and universities capable of producing more qualified workers.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.