Criticism of Education in China

Although Shanghai and Hong Kong regularly perform highly in international assessments, Chinese education has both native and international detractors; common areas of criticism include its rigor; its emphasis on memorization and standardized testing; and the gap in quality of education between students of rural and urban areas. Jonathan Kaiman of The Guardian writes that Chinese parents and educators "see their own system as corrupt, dehumanising, pressurised and unfair"; he went on to discuss the country's college admission exam (called the gaokao), writing that "many parents consider the gruelling nine-hour test a sorting mechanism that will determine the trajectory of their children's lives." In The New York Times, Helen Gao called China's educational system "cutthroat" and wrote that its positive reputation among admirers is largely built on a myth:

"While China has phenomenally expanded basic education for its people, quadrupling its output of college graduates in the past decade, it has also created a system that discriminates against its less wealthy and well-connected citizens, thwarting social mobility at every step with bureaucratic and financial barriers. A huge gap in educational opportunities between students from rural areas and those from cities is one of the main culprits. Some 60 million students in rural schools are 'left-behind' children, cared for by their grandparents as their parents seek work in faraway cities. While many of their urban peers attend schools equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and well-trained teachers, rural students often huddle in decrepit school buildings and struggle to grasp advanced subjects such as English and chemistry amid a dearth of qualified instructors. 'Rural students stand virtually no chance when competing academically with their urban counterparts,' Jiang Nengjie, a friend and independent filmmaker who made a documentary on the left-behind children, told me."

In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Lara Farrar argued that the disabled are "shortchanged" in Chinese schools, with very little chance of acceptance into higher educational institutions.