Should rural students go to university?

0 CommentsPrint E-mail CRI, March 15, 2011
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Wang Ping, a member of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), may feel aggrieved after her remarks about "not encouraging rural students to go to university" aroused uproar in the country.

Wang made the remarks in a panel discussion during the annual session of CPPCC this year, saying that people should not encourage rural kids to go to university because receiving higher education would be a tragedy for university graduates from the countryside when they can neither find desirable jobs nor buy houses in the cities. Unfortunately, most of them would stay in the cities as a second-class citizen rather than return to their hometowns.

In addition, they are unable to help their families which may have fallen into poverty due to increasing tuition fees, Wang said.

When these words were released in media reports, tens of thousands of web users voiced their discontent and anger online while many commentators wrote essays on papers to express their different opinions. They criticized Wang saying the comments were discriminatory about rural residents, with the intention of keeping farmers in the fields forever.

Wang Ping, the curator of the Chinese Ethnic Museum has many reasons to feel wronged. As a woman from southwest China's Guizhou province, a less developed region in the country, she asserted that personally she has not discriminated against people from rural areas. Most importantly, the CPPCC member, who never entered university, proved that receiving higher education is not the only way to success.

Furthermore, her remarks, which though sound harsh, revealed the reality in China today:

First, the tuition fees at college and university are unaffordable for most rural families. Last year, China's rural residents outpaced urban dwellers in per capita income growth for the first time since 1997. The per capita net income of rural residents was 5,919 yuan (US$898) in 2010, up 14.9 percent on an annual basis; while that of China's urban residents was 19,109 yuan (US$2,900), up 11.3 percent year on year, according to figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Despite the double digit growth, the per capita net income of rural residents cannot even raise one college student, whose tuition fee along with living expenses is about 10,000 yuan per year.

Second, the access to higher social status is very limited for China's farmers. When the whole nation is confronted with increasing employment pressure, college graduates from the countryside are facing more obstacles. For instance, the rigid hukou system prevents them from enjoying some social resources including pension funds and health insurance in the cities.

Additionally, their parents, all farmers who have no wealth or power, cannot exert any influence to help them to get some desirable positions such as civil servants or employees of state-owned large enterprises.

Based on the two facts, economically speaking, Wang Ping's remarks are a good-will and practical suggestion- obviously, it is not worthwhile to spend so much time in education and then earn a humble income.

Actually, Wang is not the only person who holds this point of view that people should not encourage rural students to go to university. Nearly 40 percent of 70,000 Chinese web users who participated in an online survey supported Wang's opinion, mainly because receiving higher education cannot secure a good job while the spending is high, according to previous reports.

Besides, we have read many reports about the ever-lasting decrease of rural students in China's colleges and universities.

The phenomenon even aroused the attention of Chinese premier Wen Jiabao. In a signed article published in early January, Wen recalled that over 80 percent of university students were born in the countryside when he was studying in the university. But he noticed that the percentage of rural students has drastically dropped in recent years.

However, as one of China's political advisors, Wang's remarks are still improper even though she has both numerous supporters and a solid ground to make them, since she only gave some practical suggestions to rural families but failed to raise any constructive proposal to the government.

When raising a university student leads a rural family into poverty, we should ask why the government does not offer a hand; when a college graduate fails to land a good job in a city we should urge society to create a fair employment market by excluding all the influences exerted by either the rich or the powerful; when farmers would stay in the cities as a second-class citizen rather than return to their hometowns, we should speed up our efforts to narrow the rural-urban gap in China.

In short, we need more efforts and spending from the government to solve these social problems instead of discouraging rural students to give up their studies.

If only the government allocated equal education resources to rural and urban residents, all the rural students would answer the question of 'whether go to university or not' according to their own interests and abilities, rather than being forced to make any decision according to tough reality. Before this goal is achieved nobody has a right to decide their fate.

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