Understanding the Education Gap in Rural China


In China higher education is expanding at a rate unprecedented anywhere in the world. However, rocketing tuition and fees now exceed a rural family’s annual income many times over. Frequently, the best and brightest of China’s students from the countryside overcome miraculous odds academically to pass the rigorous entrance examinations to go to college, only to find their dreams shattered by the financial reality of escalating tuition. Sadly, many others hit bottlenecks along their K-12 educational journey long before, never finishing high school, never taking the college entrance exam. As a result, students from China’s poor, rural areas find themselves largely excluded from new educational opportunities and consigned to a continued life in poverty.

These poor, young rural students already have odds stacked against them in pursuing high school and college

While it is well known that there is a crisis, perhaps what is most tragic is that little is understood about the precise scale of the problem. This, of course, means that there is almost no basis for decision making or large scale policy intervention to close the education gap in poor areas.


As a basis for understanding the extent of the educational gap in rural China and the context of poverty in which rural students and their families struggle against, the Rural Education Action Project sought to illuminate, in empirical terms, what the educational realities are in rural China and indicate what the strategic intervention points may be.

Many high school students are unable to make it pass the bottleneck of higher education due rocketing tuition fees


Information was collected from 20 classes in 10 high schools in 8 randomly selected counties in Shaanxi province. From 2 randomly selected classes in each of these schools, all students and class captains (banzhuren) were surveyed. For survey click 2007 Shaanxi Province High School Baseline Survey


More information to come


Ongoing Project

Initial results indicate the rate of university attendance for students from rural Shaanxi is 5% (compared to 70% commonly found for students from China’s urban areas).


Stanford University, Chinese Academy of Science