Category Archives: China

5,000 schools destroyed in Nepal quake.

As the scale of the devastation wrought by Saturday’s deadly earthquake in Nepal continues to emerge, nearly 5,000 schools are estimated to have been completely destroyed — which is expected to have a devastating long-term impact on the lives of children.

In Gorkha alone, it is estimated 90% of the district’s 500 schools have been destroyed or badly damaged, affecting 75,000 school children.

“A routine school environment is one of the best ways to return children to a sense of normality and to talk about their experiences with their peers, helping them to recover from the trauma of the disaster.”

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of children spent a fourth night sleeping outdoors in the pouring rain, unable or simply too afraid to return to their homes. Many sustained injuries in the earthquake or have seen their family members hurt or killed.

Through the funds raised in this campaign, One Million Words Organization will be able to supply over 5,000 much needed class set textbooks, once the schools start again in September and will be able ensure that whilst their lives have been heavily disrupted by this disaster  the children are once again given the chance to succeed in life.

Support our Nepal Textbook 2015 project here http://igg.me/at/HANPyaDpREU

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Early childhood education in rural China needs investment

Two-thirds of China’s 90 million children aged 0-6 still live in rural areas and get insufficient early childhood education, said a survey on early childhood development (ECD) released by UNICEF on Thursday.

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The findings include the latest global evidence on neuroscience and showcased how important the first few years of life are for a child’s physical, social and emotional development.

“Early brain development and function is the foundation for learning, behavior and capabilities later in life,” said Prof. Pia Britto, UNICEF’s Senior Global Advisor on ECD, at a press briefing in Beijing.

“Investing in early interventions for the most disadvantaged children is the most effective and cost-effective way for societies to ensure all children develop their full potential,” said Pia.

In 2010, China’s State Council called for an expansion of ECD. Already the national coverage for early childhood care has increased from 35 percent in 2000 to 67.5 percent in 2013.

To meet the target of rolling out universal pre-school education by 2020, the Chinese government has earmarked 50 billion yuan (8.2 billion US dollars) to expand pre-primary education in the poorest and remotest part of the country from 2011-2015.

“These commitments made by the Chinese government demonstrate how important this investment in early childhood care is for the country’s long term development,” said Dr Chen Xuefeng, UNICEF China’s Education Specialist.

ECD is not just an issue the government cares about, but also concerns parents, related professionals and children, said Chen.

“We continue to give priority to building the skills, knowledge and understanding of teachers, health workers as well as parents and grandparents on why these first few years of life are so vital for a child’s longer term development and how through new types of interventions, they can be part of this investment,” said Chen.

Dr Chemba Raghavan, an Education Specialist for UNICEF East Asia and Pacific, values the parents’ role, especially father involvement in ECD.

“With the ongoing initiatives of ECD in many areas, parents could reach the ‘belief’ level through community interventions,” said Chemba.

In urban areas, parent involvement is easier to achieve while for the 23 million left-behind children in rural areas, ECD from kindergartens could even barely meet the needs.

The gap between rural and urban areas for young children is likely to expand unless more is done to invest in teacher training and improving standards of care, according to the recent survey on early child care in kindergartens targeting children aged 3-6 years old, conducted in China’s five disadvantaged counties.

Led by the National Institute of Education Sciences and Peking University, the survey indicated that the more investment made in teacher training, the better the outcomes for child development.

Since the pre-school infrastructure has been laid out, the increasing investment in the quality of ECD services will be China’s next plan for the benefit of rural preschoolers.

Early childhood education in rural China needs investment

BEIJING, March 19 (Xinhua) — Two-thirds of China’s 90 million children aged 0-6 still live in rural areas and get insufficient early childhood education, said a survey on early childhood development (ECD) released by UNICEF on Thursday.

kids reading

The findings include the latest global evidence on neuroscience and showcased how important the first few years of life are for a child’s physical, social and emotional development.

“Early brain development and function is the foundation for learning, behavior and capabilities later in life,” said Prof. Pia Britto, UNICEF’s Senior Global Advisor on ECD, at a press briefing in Beijing.

“Investing in early interventions for the most disadvantaged children is the most effective and cost-effective way for societies to ensure all children develop their full potential,” said Pia.

In 2010, China’s State Council called for an expansion of ECD. Already the national coverage for early childhood care has increased from 35 percent in 2000 to 67.5 percent in 2013.

To meet the target of rolling out universal pre-school education by 2020, the Chinese government has earmarked 50 billion yuan (8.2 billion U.S. dollars) to expand pre-primary education in the poorest and remotest part of the country from 2011-2015.

“These commitments made by the Chinese government demonstrate how important this investment in early childhood care is for the country’s long term development,” said Dr Chen Xuefeng, UNICEF China’s Education Specialist.

ECD is not just an issue the government cares about, but also concerns parents, related professionals and children, said Chen.

“We continue to give priority to building the skills, knowledge and understanding of teachers, health workers as well as parents and grandparents on why these first few years of life are so vital for a child’s longer term development and how through new types of interventions, they can be part of this investment,” said Chen.

Dr Chemba Raghavan, an Education Specialist for UNICEF East Asia and Pacific, values the parents’ role, especially father involvement in ECD.

“With the ongoing initiatives of ECD in many areas, parents could reach the ‘belief’ level through community interventions,” said Chemba.

In urban areas, parent involvement is easier to achieve while for the 23 million left-behind children in rural areas, ECD from kindergartens could even barely meet the needs.

The gap between rural and urban areas for young children is likely to expand unless more is done to invest in teacher training and improving standards of care, according to the recent survey on early child care in kindergartens targeting children aged 3-6 years old, conducted in China’s five disadvantaged counties.

Led by the National Institute of Education Sciences and Peking University, the survey indicated that the more investment made in teacher training, the better the outcomes for child development.

Since the pre-school infrastructure has been laid out, the increasing investment in the quality of ECD services will be China’s next plan for the benefit of rural preschoolers.
(http://shanghaidaily.com/article/article_xinhua.aspx?id=273356)

Literacy in China

I was doing some research on literacy in China this week and came across a great report by UNESCO. The history and progress of China’s literacy is an important part of the country’s overall educational health, so I wanted to highlight some of the information I’ve gleaned in my reading.

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Trying to find a consensus on the growth of literacy in China is like trying to find a grey rock in a quarry of gravel. The one agreement is that literacy is growing, but sorting through the data for the most reliable information proves challenging. For the first fifty years of the 20th century, illiteracy (不识字或识字很少) in China remained at a steady 85-80% of the population. Thereafter, the figures start to vary. Below is a broad view of literacy rates:

By 1959 rates among youths and adults (aged 12-40) fell from 80% to 43%.  By 1979 this figure had dropped to 30%, by 1982 to 25%, and by 1988 to 20%. (Wang, 1985; Wang and Li, 1990)  China’s national censuses of 1964, 1982, 1990, and 2000 reported slightly different declines of illiterates as a percentage of the total population (which increased during those years from approximately 694,580,000 to 1,265,830,000) from 33.58%, to 22.81%, to 15.88% to 6.72%.(Li, 1992; Meng, 2002)

According to 2000 census data, 86.992 million adults in China were illiterate, 20.55 million of whom were between the ages of 15 and 50.  Three quarters of these illiterates lived in rural areas. Seven provinces and regions had the highest illiteracy rates, including Tibet, Yunnan, Guizhou, Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia and Inner Mongolia (Figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 and Tables 1, 2, 5 and 6) Tibet’s illiteracy rate was 37%-38%, the illiteracy rate of Yunnan, Guizhou, Gansu and Qinghai varied from 10%-15%, and the illiteracy rate of Inner Mongolia was 7%-8%.

History’s role
History shows that Chinese have long held literacy as an important “moral template for cultural identity and modernity.” Wisdom and education have been highly regarded in China, and literacy campaigns appeared throughout the 20th century and continue today. Despite the importance of education, literacy has not been easy to achieve. During the Cultural Revolution when secondary schools were closed between 1966 and 1968, the number of illiterate citizens rose, and the population boom further destabilized learning.

Prior to 1978, adult education had always taken precedence over children. The report says, “Adult literacy was given first priority in literacy campaigns designed to ‘sweep away illiteracy’ (saochu wenmang). Because 80% of adults were illiterate they were targeted as crucial for securing new China’s economic security.” It may sound cliché, but reading was (and continues to be) power, and leaders knew that the literate could have considerable influence.

In 1950 the government set recognition of 1000 characters as the standard for literacy and 300 for illiteracy. A reading primer for peasants was distributed in 1951 to rural people. Pinyin was developed (there was even talk of doing away with characters), Putonghua became the standard for the Chinese language, and characters were simplified in an effort to make the written language more accessible to the public and to unify the country under a singular language system.

When the primary school curriculum was standardized in 1978, the focus shifted to a more consistent national education program for the younger members of society, and adult education began to decline (of course, it was no longer as necessary since the newest generations picked up the language quicker). Literacy among children increased; however, the years before had seen a decline in literacy despite the campaigns to eradicate it. The trend changed however during the ‘80s and ‘90s when the literacy rate rose considerably and China reported a 15.9% illiteracy rate (1990). UNESCO reports that the majority of those who remained illiterate were (unsurprisingly) women.

What is the standard of literacy?
In China, literacy is measured by the number of characters recognized. For urban dwellers, the current literacy standard is 2000 characters while rural dwellers need know only 1500. Minority languages and dialects do not generally factor in. Over the years other criteria has factored into what counts as literacy including ability to write reports, read popular publications, etc.

The actual statistics published by China have made critics outside of the country skeptical. With the size of the population, condition of rural education, and other factors to consider, it does not seem possible that the literacy rate in 1990 could be as low as 15.9%. The age range represented in literacy censuses has not been consistent or clear over time, which makes statistics hard to reconcile when combined with the shifting literacy standard.

What are the barriers to literacy?

  1. Rural education. China has made great inroads to better rural education—lessening the cost of primary and secondary education, sending or subsidizing books, etc; however, there is still a significant gap between the rural and urban education systems.
  2. Gender disparity: male children are still chosen to receive more education than female children, especially in rural settings.
  3. Population: with over one billion citizens, educating the huge population is decidedly challenging. Factor in the minority culture and tradition of minority peoples, the difficult to monitor rural populations, and the millions of migrant children living in cities with barebones education and you can understand how difficult educating the country is.
  4. Disabled students: “China’s reported disabled population of 60-70 million represents approximately 5% of the overall population, 1/3 of which resides in rural areas.” Disabled students are not given the same educational rights as other children, and schools that do specialize in caring for the disabled and those with learning disabilities are expensive and are almost nonexistent outside urban areas.

Solutions

  1. UNESCO proposes several recommendations:
  2. Establish a reporting system for literacy work within the Ministry of Education;
  3. Collect better data, including better monitoring of new illiterates, those becoming illiterates again, or migrant illiterates linked to the consolidation and improvement    of assessment and evaluation in literacy work.
  4. Continue vigilance in UPE for the prevention of new illiterates and insuring post-literacy education
  5. Sustain a primary focus on impoverished areas, national minority area and women’s literacy work
  6. Improve literacy classes with learner-oriented methods and curricula.
  7. Engage rural elementary and middle schools directly in adult education work and adequately compensating teachers who participate.
  8. Improve government leadership at all levels of literacy education.
  9. Better coordinate literacy education at all levels of government with the work of “social forces” (NGOs, media, military)
  10. Diversify funding for literacy to include local village funds, funds from enterprises and state agencies, and donations; and
  11. Improve research on literacy education, including participatory research in impoverished, minority regions.

With the government’s (and the people’s) commitment to education, China can continue to make great strides in eradicating literacy. Of course, this cannot simply mean installing more teachers in rural areas or subsidizing education for females. To achieve literacy, China must also incorporate the culture and traditions of minority and the way of life of rural peoples. The goal of literacy must be to give citizens more freedom and options which encourage heritage while also looking towards a fuller future.

Illiteracy Jumps in China, Despite 50-Year Campaign to Eradicate It

LIUPU, China — Last year, finally, everyone in Liupu village was able to read and write 1,500 Chinese characters, a census showed. Village leaders threw a big dinner to celebrate, presenting commemorative teacups to the last two adults to make the grade.

But ask Zhao Huapu, the earnest principal of Liupu Shezu Girls School, how many people here can actually read and write, and he gives an embarrassed smile. Nearly 30 percent of Liupu’s adults are illiterate.

Maureen Fan

“The situation is worrying,” Gao Xuegui, director of the Education Ministry’s illiteracy eradication office, told China Daily, blaming the increase on changing attitudes toward knowledge in a market economy. “Illiteracy is not only a matter of education but also has a great social impact.” … “That’s just reality. . . . A lot of them can’t read and write,” said Zhao, who acknowledged that the census is based on a test that fails to measure adult literacy accurately.

Illiteracy is increasing in China, despite a 50-year-old campaign to stamp it out and a declaration by the government in 2000 that it had been nearly eradicated. The reasons are complex, from the cost of a rural education to the growing appeal of migrant work that draws Chinese away from classrooms and toward far-off cities.

In many cases, as in this farming hamlet in China’s southern Guizhou province, villagers whose education ended in elementary school have simply forgotten basic skills.

From 2000 to 2005, the number of illiterate Chinese adults jumped by 33 percent, from 87 million to 116 million, the state-run China Daily reported this month. The newspaper noted that even before the increase, China’s illiterate population had accounted for 11.3 percent of the world’s total.

Gao’s remarks echoed concerns voiced by literacy researchers and served as a reminder of the challenges facing China’s mostly rural population.

This country is proud of its traditional focus on education, as well as more recent efforts to raise standards, such as passage of a law that says every child has the right to nine years of schooling. Yet in many rural areas, such schooling remains unavailable or prohibitively expensive.

In 2000, officials announced that the illiteracy rate in Tibet, the worst in China, had dropped to roughly 42 percent from 95 percent about 50 years earlier. From 2001 to 2005, China educated nearly 10 million adults who couldn’t read and write, the Education Ministry said in September. Authorities have also boasted of higher enrollment figures in primary and middle schools.

Experts, however, contend that official reports are sometimes unreliable. Local officials are pressured to inflate enrollment figures, and students who are enrolled often don’t bother to show up, they say.

There are also questions about how literacy statistics are gathered. In Liupu, for example, Zhao and other local leaders go door-to-door each September, asking the village’s roughly 300 families how many people are in each household and what type of education they have. Those who can show they have graduated from primary school are not counted as illiterate, regardless of whether they can actually read or write.

Literacy in China is defined according to an exam taken in fourth grade. Even if villagers pass that exam, they frequently do not pursue further education. Having no reason to read and write, many forget the skills. This is especially true of ethnic minorities, rural women and young dropouts, according to researchers.

“It’s undeniable that there’s a relapse, but what the number is, is hard to tell,” said Guo Hongxia, a scholar at the China National Institute for Educational Research.

Hu Xingdou, a sociologist and professor of economics and China issues at Beijing Institute of Technology, suggested that the problem is related to the perceived benefits of education.

“Farmers don’t see a bright future from receiving more education,” he said. “Many believe it won’t help them much in making money. They also can’t afford to send their children to university, and a university degree no longer guarantees a job after graduation.”

Farmers are expected to learn at least 1,500 characters, according to state education regulations. Urban residents should master 2,000. Teachers in Beijing often tell students they need to know 3,000 characters to read a newspaper. College graduates are tested on 7,000 characters or more.

In Liupu, located at the end of a three-mile-long, potholed dirt road, many of those who can’t read and write are older, homebound women. Members of the Shezu ethnic minority, they speak their own dialect and have had little formal education.

Still, with the help of Zhao, the school principal, they are trying to make gains. On a recent Saturday night, Zhao used a flashlight to climb a rocky path of steps, past an old woman beating water out of pickled vegetables, up to a spartan wooden house.

“Actually, not many people have the patience to read this all the way through,” said Zhao Tongxiu, a 24-year-old teacher, pointing at a page in a book. “Did your teacher teach you all this?”

“She taught us all of this, but I just cannot remember it,” said his pupil, Wang Chengyi, who thought she was about 30 years old. “My child taught me how to write a little at home, but still I don’t write well. I just can’t memorize it. I’m already this old, what use is it studying?”

Many women here don’t have time for class, the teachers said. They are tired after working 12-hour days in the fields and returning in the evening to feed their families.

Wu Wanqin, 44, the village cadre, earned 2 1/2 cents from the government as an incentive to get the women together Saturday. She would have to walk several of them home by flashlight afterward, and some lived half an hour away.

The women of Liupu use a simple, practical textbook published by the Beijing Cultural Development Center for Rural Women, which began testing it in parts of China a few years ago. But often, adults learning how to read are taught words that don’t closely relate to their lives, according to Guo, the national education researcher. By June, Guo said, officials will urge that the approach used in Liupu be adopted countrywide.

Researchers say that illiteracy is not confined to older generations, an assertion borne out in Liupu.

Zhao Xianghua, 15, said half of her friends can’t read. She boards during the week at a county school that charges $50 a year in tuition, but she has friends who don’t have the same luxury.

“Several are already out working,” she said, “and when they come back to visit and we hang out, I can feel the distance between us.”

The main test of literacy in China will be officials’ ability to follow up with students and cement any gains, said Hu, the professor, who complained that adults are often taught only how to pass a test.

“It’s like planting trees to make a forest,” Hu said. “Many people plant trees, but few take care of them, and finally the trees die before becoming a forest.”
(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/26/AR2007042602452.html)

 

Tibetan areas get bilingual kindergarten books

“There are very few children’s books in Tibetan areas, Xiangqiu  Doje, head of Ngawa’s translation bureau, said on Wednesday. ”

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MAERKANG, Sichuan, March 18 (Xinhua) — More than 6,000 bilingual children’s books have been distributed this week to four kindergartens in a remote part of southwest China, part of a drive to promote bilingual education in disadvantaged Tibetan areas.

The books, distributed to Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province, were published by a government-supported translation bureau in the prefecture. This is one of the first large print runs of bilingual books for pre-school children in Tibetan areas, most of which are in Tibet Autonomous Region as well as the provinces of Qinghai and Sichuan.

There are very few children’s books in Tibetan areas, Xiangqiu Doje, head of Ngawa’s translation bureau, said on Wednesday. Kindergarten teachers usually tell stories translated from Mandarin books into Tibetan language.

China has been promoting bilingual education in all Tibetan areas, where language teaching is divided equally into Tibetan and Mandarin. In Ngawa, compulsory education has been extended to kindergartens since 2013.

Doje said the bureau plans to publish 50 bilingual kids’ publications this year. Among them will be popular Western stories as well as domestic ones.

The bureau is also compiling Tibetan folk stories into audio books for children, and working on bilingual TV programs and movies targeting pre-schoolers.

Government-supported publishing is part of a broader plan by central authorities to improve livelihoods in Tibetan areas. The government pumped 11.5 billion yuan (1.84 billion U.S. dollars) into this work in 2013 and 2014.

(http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/xinhua-news-agency/150318/tibetan-areas-get-bilingual-kindergarten-books)

The Chinese system of education

Before the defeat of the Kuomintang in 1949, education was effectively closed to workers, peasants and generally females in practical terms despite Sun Yat-Sen’s support of general education in principle. However, the Marxist ideology of the post-1949 government, in reacting to the overly literary and classical tradition of China, overstressed the superior wisdom of the worker and peasant. Various experiments in which peasants and industrial workers were made “teachers” overnight but were unable to communicate their knowledge.

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In an attempt to make education more practical and accessible, Chinese characters were simplified by communist leader Mao Zedong for quick learning. The Great Leap forward (1958-1960) and the Socialist Education Movement sought to end deeply rooted academic elitism, to narrow social and cultural gaps between workers and peasants and eliminate the tendency of scholars and intellectuals to disdain manual labor.

Later on Deng Xiaoping’s introduced far-ranging educational reform policy, which involved all levels of the education system, critical to modernizing China. Academically, the goals of reform were to enhance and universalize elementary and junior middle school education, to develop vocational and technical education, a paramount importance. China’s mandatory nine-year compulsory education, now effectively cover 85 percent of the population. Illiteracy in the young and mid-aged population has fallen from over 80 percent down to five percent.

As of 2014, China’s population is estimated at 1,393,783,836. International cooperation and education exchanges increase every year. China has more students studying abroad than any other country. Chinese students have been studying in 103 countries. About 185,000 have returned after finishing their studies.

Regional overview: East Asia and the Pacific

The past decade has seen mixed progress towards Education for All (EFA) in East Asia and the Pacific.1 More children are participating in pre-school education, many countries have achieved universal primary education (UPE) and more are moving from primary school to secondary education. Gender parity has been achieved at the primary level in a majority of countries and adult literacy rates are improving. However, challenges remain. The Pacific subregion has seen a 7% decline in primary enrolment rates, and 7.9 million children are not enrolled in school in the region as a whole. Some 105 million adults are still illiterate and levels of learning achievement are low in many countries. East Asia and the Pacific spends a lower share of national income on education than the world average. On the other hand, external aid to basic education has increased in recent years, despite stagnation in overall levels.

UNESCO Regional overview: East Asia and the Pacific

Goal 2: Universal primary education Over the past decade, progress towards UPE has been uneven across East Asia and the Pacific. While many countries in the region have relatively high primary enrolment rates, some are registering increasing numbers of children not enrolled in schooling. Progress towards UPE is limited. From 1999 to 2008, nearly 30 million fewer children enrolled in primary education in the region, partly due to declining fertility rates in some large countries. The regional primary adjusted net enrolment ratio (ANER)2 remained about the same over the decade and stood at 95% in 2008. However, the Pacific subregion is moving away from the UPE goal, as its primary ANER declined from 90% to 84% between 1999 and 2008. Progress towards UPE was particularly marked in Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Tonga, where the primary ANERs increased by five to eleven percentage points between 1999 and 2008. In Tonga, the indicator increased from 88% to 99%. The situation remains critical in several countries, including the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste, all with ANERs below 80% (Figure 2). Numbers of children out of school are declining, but at varying speeds. Some 7.9 million children of primary school age in East Asia and the Pacific – 61% of them boys – were not enrolled in school in 2008, down by nearly 3 million since 1999.

Progress in recent years has been particularly remarkable. The number of out-of-school children increased by an annual average of 203,000 between 1999 and 2004, but then declined substantially, with reductions of nearly 1 million per year between 2004 and 2008. Some countries with large out-of-school populations, including the Philippines, saw their rate of progress slip over time. The out-of-school number in the Philippines fell by nearly 23,000 per year on average from 1999 to 2004, but by only 16,000 annually from 2004 to 2008. By contrast, progress has accelerated in some countries, including the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, in recent years. Many children in the region will remain out of school in 2015. Trend analysis can provide plausible scenarios for the numbers of children out of school in 2015. In the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, a continuation to 2015 of the trend from 1999 to 2008 would see the country’s out-of-school number fall by 4.4% to some 135,000 by 2015. The out-of-school number in the Philippines would be roughly unchanged at 961,000 in 2015 based on the 1999–2008 trend, but the country’s recent slowing in progress towards UPE means a continuation of the more recent 2004–2008 trend would lead to an increase to just over 1 million.

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Starting school at the right age is a challenge in some countries. Getting children into primary school at the right age, ensuring that they progress smoothly and facilitating completion are key elements to advance towards UPE. Many countries in the region are struggling to get children into primary school at the official starting age. In eight of the ten countries in the region with data, less than 70% of children starting school were of official primary school age in 2008, and the figure went as low as 38% in Vanuatu in 2007. However, rapid change is possible. In Cambodia, the share of children starting school at the official age increased from 61% in 1999 to 79% in 2008. Progress in survival to the last grade of primary school is mixed. Once children are enrolled at the right age, the challenge is to get them through school. While more than 92% of children starting primary school reached the last grade in East Asia in 2007, school survival remained an important issue in some countries, including Cambodia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic with survival rates below 70%. Nevertheless, several countries made significant progress in improving survival rates. In particular, the rates in Fiji and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic have risen by twelve percentage points each since 1999. Prospects for entry, progression and completion of primary school are closely linked to household circumstances. Children who are poor, rural or from ethnic or linguistic minorities face higher risks of dropping out. In Cambodia, completion rates for the richest 20% of the population are more than three times as high as those of the poorest quintile. Tackling school dropout requires action on several fronts. Dropout profiles vary enormously by country. In Myanmar, with a first-grade dropout rate of 12%, and the Philippines at nearly 13%, children have trouble negotiating their way through the early grades. High dropout rates in the last grade in other countries, such as Indonesia and Vanuatu, are associated with late entry to school. Evidence from many countries shows that the risk of primary school dropout increases with age, thought the strength of the association varies. Lowering the risk of dropout requires a broad set of policies aimed at reducing underlying vulnerabilities, including poverty-related factors and problems linked to the quality of education.

The Korean, Chinese, Indian and Singaporean systems of education

The various educational systems in Asia are all traditional, completely dependent on lectures of teachers and prescribed textbooks. However, the colonial influences of the British, Spanish, American, French and Dutch are still felt. Buddhist and Hindu, Muslim and Christian beliefs have permeated their culture as well.

South Korea’s uphill struggle to become a democracy

South Korea has a total population of 49.3 million. The 20th century (1948) history of education in Korea dates back to the liberation from Japan after the Gwangbokjeol era. Then the Korean government began to study and discuss for a new philosophy of education. The new system attempted to make education available to all students equally and promote the educational administration to be more self-governing.

Following the Korean War, when the country was divided into North and South Korea, Syngman Rhee and later Park Chung Hee were in power. Education became centralized. Because of lack of resources, education was compulsory only up to the sixth grade. Reforms in the 1980s took place under the power of Gen. Chun Doo-hwan. In 1980 the number of students attending all kinds of higher educational institutions was almost 600,000, that number grew almost 100 percent to 1,061,403 students by 1983. A second reform was the prohibition of private, after-school tutoring. Formerly, private tutors could charge exorbitant rates if they had a good “track record” of getting students into the right schools through intensive coaching especially in English and mathematics.

Kindergarten is optional in South Korea and most parents prefer to keep their little ones at home as long as possible. However, at age 6 compulsory chodeung-hakgyo elementary education was imposed. The transition to 3 years of Middle School can be difficult because studies are taken far more seriously.

Places in secondary schools are awarded by lottery and everybody gets an equal chance. Discipline with uniforms, haircuts and punctuality is strictly enforced. Specialist teachers move between classrooms teaching core subjects. The final 3 years of school education take place at high schools. These may specialize according to subjects taught like Science versus Languages. Some are state owned and some are privately run. Approximately 25 percent of Middle School graduates prefer to go on Vocational Schools, where they are taught skills in Agriculture, Commerce, Fishery, Home Economics and Technology.

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The greater majority of Korean high school students must pass a college scholastic ability test with a view to studying further. Standards are high and some students start preparing as early as in kindergarten years. Whole families become involved in helping them to pass. Thus a student who passes acquires a qualification that meets top international standards – living proof of the power of a knowledge-based economy.

China

Before the defeat of the Kuomintang in 1949, education was effectively closed to workers, peasants and generally females in practical terms despite Sun Yat-Sen’s support of general education in principle. However, the Marxist ideology of the post-1949 government, in reacting to the overly literary and classical tradition of China, overstressed the superior wisdom of the worker and peasant. Various experiments in which peasants and industrial workers were made “teachers” overnight but were unable to communicate their knowledge.

In an attempt to make education more practical and accessible, Chinese characters were simplified by communist leader Mao Zedong for quick learning. The Great Leap forward (1958-1960) and the Socialist Education Movement sought to end deeply rooted academic elitism, to narrow social and cultural gaps between workers and peasants and eliminate the tendency of scholars and intellectuals to disdain manual labor.

Later on Deng Xiaoping’s introduced far-ranging educational reform policy, which involved all levels of the education system, critical to modernizing China. Academically, the goals of reform were to enhance and universalize elementary and junior middle school education, to develop vocational and technical education, a paramount importance. China’s mandatory nine-year compulsory education, now effectively cover 85 percent of the population. Illiteracy in the young and mid-aged population has fallen from over 80 percent down to five percent.

As of 2014, China’s population is estimated at 1,393,783,836. International cooperation and education exchanges increase every year. China has more students studying abroad than any other country. Chinese students have been studying in 103 countries. About 185,000 have returned after finishing their studies.

India

India has a population of 1,238.9 million as of 2014. Both public and private education in India is funded from three levels: central state, and local. Free and compulsory education is provided to children between the ages of 6 and 14.

According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2012, 96.5 percent of all rural children between the ages of 6 to 14 were enrolled in school. Its quality has been questioned. Some of the reasons are attributed to the absence of around 25 percent of teachers everyday. Private schools in India must be non-profit to run any accredited educational institution.

The Indian education system is structured as follows: preschool education is not compulsory. The Montessori system is especially popular at the preschool level since Dr. Maria Montessori lived here to continue her research on the Cosmic Curriculum. The medium of teaching is often English, but Hindi, the national language is compulsory. More than 50 percent of the children are enrolled in private schools in urban areas and 20 percent in rural areas. The percentage of untrained teachers (parateachers) is 54.91 percent in private, compared to 44.88 percent in government schools. Even the poorest often go to private schools despite the fact that government schools are free. Elementary education for 6 to 14 years old is a major challenge for the government, specially to engage communities where child labor is still a common practice and young females particularly are still being deprived of this opportunity.

The secondary school curriculum is still largely based on the colonial system that the British left behind. Young people who do not wish to go on to tertiary education or who fail to complete secondary school often enroll at privately owned vocational schools. In so doing, they prepare themselves to face the impact of the liberalization and globalization of the Indian economy.

Tertiary Education – India is justifiably proud of its universities, which are mainly funded by state governments and many are centers of excellence. The 12 larger ones are funded by the central government, which is more generous in its financial support. The National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) is responsible for the management of the education system and teacher accreditation.

 Singapore – Strictly multi-lingual and ‘subject band’ based, leading to British GCE ‘O’ levels

Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles founded Singapore Institute (now known as Raffles Institution) in 1823, thereby starting education in Singapore under the British rule. Due to the multi-racial nature of the population, there are three main types of schools which appeared in Singapore: the Chinese and Tamil schools (taught thru their native tongue) Malay schools. English schools were exclusively then for the British residents.

In 1947, after World War II, the Ten Year Programme for Education Policy was implemented partially with the British military administration (1945-1955). Internal self-government set in 1955-1962 when Singapore separated from the Malaysian merger and Lee Kuan Yew became the head of the new Republic calling for a universal education system that would prepare for “self governance.” The industrialization program started. The bilingualism policy in schools was officially introduced in 1960, making English the official language with the mother tongues. The first Junior College was opened in 1969.

In 1980s, Singapore’s economy started to prosper. Education system shifted from quantity to quality, such as revamping vocational education under the new Institute of Technology and splitting secondary schools into Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) streams. Lee’s son Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong continued the “ability driven system.” Preschools are run by private sector, including community foundations, religious bodies, and civic or business groups. Primary education is compulsory and free for all, though there is a fee of up to SGD13 monthly per student to help cover miscellaneous costs.

Streaming after Gr. IV is quite different and complicated since pupils are divided as Primary 5 to the EM1, EM2 and EM3 (English and mother tongue). This includes the “Subject-based banding” where students take subjects at different levels depending on their scores in the respective subjects. To get promoted to Secondary School, students sit for the national Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE)

“Special” and “Express” are four-year courses leading up to the Singapore-Cambridge GCE “O” Level examination. This is complicated with obligatory “higher mother tongue” Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. There are ongoing debates about the effectiveness of streaming with some arguing that it should be abolished due to its detrimental psychological effects. The Integrated Programme, which leads to either an International Baccalaureate Diploma or to an A-level exam.

Polytechnics in Singapore provide three-year diploma courses. They accept students based on their GCE “O” level, GCE “A” level or Institute of Technical Education (ITE). Polytechnics offer a wide range of courses in various fields, including engineering, business studies, accountancy, tourism and hospitality management, mass communications, digital media and biotechnology. There are also specialized courses such as marine engineering, nautical studies, nursing and optometry. About 40 percent of each Secondary 4 cohort would enroll in Polytechnics.

Asia’s mad rush to become globally competitive

The parents and teachers of all Asian countries eagerly anticipate the sustainable future of their children with the “best” system of education, to the extent of entrapping them within a “pressure cooker” lifestyle without recognizing the hidden treasures of infancy to adolescence.
(http://www.philstar.com/education-and-home/2015/03/12/1432648/korean-chinese-indian-and-singaporean-systems-education#ixzz3UE5N0roA)