China’s Rural-Urban Divide: 90% Top Gaokao Scorers are from the Big Cities

2017-07-12 18:35:33 Lu Qi

It used to be a commonly known fact that children from a poor background were more mature than their counterparts, because they experienced harsh difficulties in life and tended to be more hard-working to support the whole family. In ancient China, Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder and first emperor of Ming Dynasty, was born in a poor peasant family. He witnessed poverty, plagues and chaos at an early age which propelled him to decide to change his life and save people around him. Zhu is the archetype “Han Men Gui Zi” an outstanding child born from a poor family, which is becoming less of an occurrence in China today.

Zhu Yuanzhang,the founder and first emperor of Ming Dynasty

Historically the gaokao, the National College Entrance Examination in China was a meritocratic measure for individuals to move up the social ladder. Yet, this year’s top scorer in liberal arts in Beijing, Xiong Xuanang, explains to reporters it is more difficult nowadays for students coming from poor families to excel in gaokao.

“I come from a middle class family in Beijing, without worries of supply of food and clothes, and both my parents are diplomats. I enjoy many more educational resources than children who are from rural areas, it also means that I have many shortcuts too when studying.” he says. “Many top scorers are just like me, wealthy and have a good family background. Knowledge can't always change your destiny, but without it, there is no way you can change your destiny.”

Xiong Xuanang,this year’s top scorer in liberal arts in Beijing

It’s clear from the quote that one’s social class decides your social circle and the resources you can enjoy. Many people want to change their destiny by obtaining knowledge, getting enrolling into a prestigious university and finding a good job. Yet, one of the key problems lies in the ill allocation of educational resources leading to children from poor rural areas to be in an unfair starting point.

On Zhihu, the Chinese version of Quora, Xiao Wa Wa says, “The gaokao is a way to change one’s destiny, but it seldom changes one’s life completely. A poor kid, even lucky enough, gets enrolled in a good university; he still has heavy burdens.”

One of the writing exercise questions this year had a list of keywords which the students could select from, one of the words was ‘bike-sharing’ specifying the sharing system seen in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. The harrowing fact was that many living in deprived rural areas had never seen such a thing in real life.


Another user, Zhu Jiang holds a different opinion and he believes that personal motivation is a more important element in one’s development. He says, “We can’t put too much emphasis on a fixed social class or family background, because without self-motivation, no-one can achieve anything.”

Southern Weekly, a national newspaper reported that from 1978 to 1998, rural students in Peking University took up approximately 30% of the total students, while from 2000 to 2005 this number fell to 10%. Another survey also shows that in 2015, more than 90% of the top scorers nationwide are from non-agricultural families, with parents who have good education background.

Many are giving suggestions on how students from rural areas can get better resources on education, among which Internet is regarded as a solution. With the proliferation of the Internet, it could be a way to help rural students to gain a better education.



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