Public education is free only through grade 9. Fee based high schools prepare a fraction of students for the grueling college entrance exam. Rural classrooms are held to the same standard as urban ones, but have a fraction of the resources to keep up.
Low pay, poor conditions, a weak career track, and heavy teaching loads often push teachers away from rural areas. The gap in teacher quality only widens consequently.
High stakes testing and the tedium of rote learning in the classroom drive many rural students off the academic track and into the labor market or low quality vocational schools.