China’s Problematic Education System

Since the mid-1990s, China has gone through major reforms in its education system. New campuses were built on a large scale, and many colleges were upgraded and merged with universities. College enrollments expanded dramatically. In 2009, about 23 million students were enrolled in China’s colleges and universities, compared to merely 6.4 million in 1998.

However, the quality of the education has deteriorated. Many professors spent the bulk of their time making money – charging steep consulting fees to businesses or for private tutoring. Lian Fang, a professor at Zhejiang Art Institute, told me that he charged 100,000 yuan ($15,000) to design packages and advertisements for a company that sold cookies and fruit juice products. Professor Lian’s salary was about 7,000 yuan ($1,030) a month. His wife, a music teacher, also made a handsome income by giving private piano lessons. As Harvard mathematician Yau Shing-tung noted, despite the increased levels of funding and much-improved facilities in China’s higher education institutions, the standards of research and quality of education in China have continued to deteriorate. Continue reading