EdTech for Equity in China: Can Technology Improve Teaching for Millions of Rural Students?

Despite major advancements in China’s K-12 educational outcomes over the past several decades, large regional inequities in academic achievement still exist, a proximal cause of which are gaps in teaching quality. Although conventional approaches to improving teaching quality for disadvantaged populations have overall been unsuccessful in China (i.e., student relocation to better-resourced urban schools, attracting high-quality teachers to low-resource rural schools, and rural teacher training), technology-assisted instruction may play a role in bridging these gaps. This paper explores why conventional approaches to improving teaching have not been effective in rural China and then describes the potential applications of technology-assisted instruction based on the small but growing body of empirical literature evaluating such interventions in other low- and middle-income countries. The paper concludes that while other (non-tech) interventions have thus far been ineffective at raising teaching quality, China may be uniquely positioned to harness technology-assisted instruction due to a favorable ecosystem for the scaling of EdTech in rural areas, though much more experimental research is necessary to assess which approaches and technologies are most cost-effective and how to best scale them.