China has a history of revolutions, but the Chinese Communist Party launched the greatest revolution in modern times. A revolution that emancipated mind and thoughts; a revolution that boosted the spirit of social sacrifice; and a revolution that inculcated the notion of equity. For a long period after the establishment of the PRC, this spirit of service and devotion was consolidated with labels like “model workers”, “model cadres”, “model teacher” etc. Hence, even after the reform and opening up, one could easily find volunteers in the universities and community work gained special recognition in climbing the social ladder. However, gradually with the honorariums attached to education, the ground realities of teaching and learning have changed.
While the government is pushing for compulsory education and voices raised for equal rights for education, education is becoming exclusive commodity. Today many from rural backgrounds, who pass the entrance examination for top-class Universities in China, do not get admission due to their inability to pay the high-end fees. The issue gains significance as one, passing a university exam is a daunting task; two, most universities have “additional point system” (Jiafen Zhidu) or “recommendation system” (Baosong Zhidu) for students; and three, there are no reserved seats for people from poor or backward areas. Consequently, many from the backward areas or smaller towns are unable to break the city walls. The drive for moving to city universities is underlined by the fact that recognized quality education is available only in select city universities with Beijing occupying the majority share.
In a country where egalitarian notions run high, it is surprising that most of the university campuses are devoid of students with physical disability. It could perhaps be lack of special infrastructure facilities or a social stigma; top-class universities of China openly practice social division. Where the world is highlighting different abilities of physically handicapped people, China is secluding this group. This social exclusion not even merits importance in the revised policies on extra point system for university admission.
The other issue that is becoming popular among the youth is a disparity of admission criteria for male and female and the subsequent privileges. It is shocking to know that a female has a natural advantage of getting admission in a university. The linkages and ties a female can create with the Professors of the university only talks of the deteriorating morale of a society. A situation where even after admission, career growth is linked to fulfilling illegitimate demands of the Professors, demoralizes and defames the objective of education. The situation calls for greater attention as the universities have no student redressal mechanism and no institutional framework to deal with female exploitation. Female students exploitation in universities is a very complex and delicate subject matter that requires strong desire and strict actions against the culprits.
Education is a right and an opportunity to have better quality of education is a necessity. This being the aim and objective of every responsible state, it is also imperative for the state to create such environment. Since time in memorial, China has had a culture of respecting those who guide the masses. Even during Mao’s time, ‘education campaigns’ of different nature were launched oft-and-on to educate the masses. Today, most educated class of people is a composite of creamy layer in the society and occupies top political positions. This being the case, education cannot be and should not be linked to material benefits. However, the ground realities speak volumes about the monetary linkages. All Conferences and Seminars impose stupendous fees even to students’ participation, all Professors seek ties with western universities as scholarships and fellowships boost their promotional chances, not all teaching is for dissemination of knowledge but for multiplying salary packages, and all scholarly discussions are with relationships based on exchange of gifts and favours. One wonders, in this race for money, what kind of social education is imparted to future generations. Are the educators involved in any social devotion or there is a march towards soul erosion?
Chinese philosophies advocated ‘Chinese as the base and learning from the west’. It seems that the learning from the west has overshadowed the base. As the state calls for expanding the horizons of education in China and as it enjoys the privilege of higher literacy rate among the developing countries, it will be inevitable for the state to look for the higher standards of quality education imparted with an inclusive approach. More importantly, it will be imperative for the state to establish diverse posts of high standard educational institutions in multiple cities. Commercialization of education will only lead to cultivating a degenerated society, while building a civilized society will remain as an objective.
(The writer, Dr. GEETA KOCHHAR, is Assistant Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.Views expressed ar her own. Email: email@example.com )