How China Popularizes Education
How China Popularizes Education
How China Popularizes Education
How China Popularizes Education
by Chun Pu
Source: Peking Review, No. 29, July 18, 1975
HUNDREDS of millions of people are receiving an education in New China. Last year 93 per cent of all school-age children were in school. Junior middle school education is universal in almost all the cities and towns and many rural areas, while senior middle schooling is basically universal in the larger cities.
Semi-colonial, semi-feudal old China's economy and culture were extremely backward due to oppression and exploitation by imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism. Upwards of 80 per cent of the population was illiterate. Before liberation, Pingshun County in Shansi Province, north China, had a population of more than a hundred thousand, but there was only one primary school in the county seat, with an enrolment of less than 60 pupils, all sons and daughters of landlords and capitalists. Even more culturally backward were the areas inhabited by minority nationalities. Thousands of Tibetan herdsmen lived in Mato County in Chinghai Province, northwest China, but there were no schools at all. Illiteracy among those poverty-stricken herdsmen was 100 per cent. Some minority nationalities living in the mountains did not even have a written language of their own. They kept records with the aid of knotted strings.
The People's Government inherited an awful mess from the reactionary Kuomintang government when the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949. The regime was politically decadent, economically very backward, with the people living in wretched poverty, and illiteracy was common.
Under the leadership of Chairman Mao and the Communist Party, the People's Government, while carrying out socialist economic construction to continuously raise the standard of living of the people, has gradually developed culture and education. Schools have been set up in large numbers in the urban and rural areas to enrol children of working people. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the movement to criticize Lin Piao and Confucius have given added impetus to the development of education. Primary school enrolment for the whole country in 1974 was 145 million, or 6.1 times the pre-liberation figure; middle school enrolment was 36.5 million, a 24.4-fold increase over the pre-liberation figure.
Schools have been established everywhere today, in the mountains and on the plains, in the interior and in the frontier areas inhabited by the minority nationalities, in cities and towns and on the grasslands of the nomadic herdsmen. Junior middle schooling in Hsiyang County, Shansi Province, is now universal and senior middle schooling is being popularized there. Ninety-eight per cent of all school-age children in Shansi Province today arc attending school, and junior middle school education is gradually becoming universal. Education also has developed rapidly in the minority nationality areas. In the Kwangsi Chuang Autonomous Region 97.7 per cent of all school-age children are in school. In the Tibet Autonomous Region, where there were only two schools which trained only clergy and officials, there are now 3,600 primary schools and a number of middle schools, teachers' training schools and colleges.
Education is not confined to schools only. There are various kinds of educational set-ups organized by factories, rural people's communes, P.L.A. companies, offices, shops and streets, such as short-term courses and political evening schools attended by people after or during working hours where they learn how to read and write, study revolutionary theory as well as scientific and technical subjects. In fact, the whole of society is one vast school.
The reason why education has developed so rapidly is that Liu Shao-chi's revisionist line in education was criticized during the Great Cultural Revolution and Chairman Mao's proletarian line in education has been implemented, the Party's leadership has been strengthened and the masses of workers and peasants now take a direct part in the management of the schools. Chairman Mao pointed out in 1968: "To accomplish the proletarian revolution in education, it is essential to have working class leadership. . . . The workers' propaganda teams* should slay permanently in the schools and colleges, take part in all the tasks of struggle-criticism-transformation there and will always lead these institutions. In the countryside, schools and colleges should be managed by the poor and lower-middle peasants — the most reliable ally of the working class."
The workers and peasants, who make up the preponderant majority of the population of China, form the main body of the country. As China is a state under the dictatorship of the proletariat, the political and cultural level of the workers and peasants has an important bearing on the consolidation of the proletarian dictatorship and the development of the socialist economy. Following their political and economic emancipation after liberation, the workers and peasants yearned for cultural emancipation too. Before the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, however, the revisionist line in education pushed by Liu Shao-chi and his gang discriminated against the workers and peasants and their children, with the result that a large number of them could not get an education.
The workers and peasants know full well what it is like to be without an education. Since the start of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, the workers and peasants have, under the leadership of the Party, taken part in exercising leadership over the schools and colleges and have pushed hard for universal education and done their best to train worthy successors to the revolutionary cause.
Walking on Two Legs
Apart from the state setting up schools, it is also necessary to energetically call on the masses to set up schools themselves. Only by mobilizing the people to pay attention to education and getting them to take an active part in establishing schools can education be developed with greater, faster, better and more economical results. This is the application in the field of education of a whole series of policies known as "walking on two legs" in developing the national economy.
Most primary and middle schools in China today are set up and financed by the state. In addition to these, however, there are schools (mainly in the rural areas) which, while receiving some help by way of funds and personnel from the state, are financed by the collective economy of the rural people's communes.
Rural population makes up 80 per cent of the total in China. Popularization of education will have little meaning if the peasants are not taken into account. Using the pretext that schools should be set up according to the required standard. Liu Shao-chi and his gang opposed the establishment of schools by the masses before the Cultural Revolution, and this held back the development of education. To illustrate: of the 1,900 villages in the 20 people's communes in Pingshun County, Shansi Province, before the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution only 26 per cent of the villages had put up schools themselves so that only 37 per cent of the school-age children were in school. Many children of poor and lower-middle peasants were unable to attend.
After the start of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, Liu Shao-chi's revisionist line in education was criticized and schools collectively set up and managed by the rural masses were vigorously pushed ahead so that education developed very swiftly. The number of state-financed primary schools had risen from 70 in 1965, the year before the start of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, to 361 in 1974. In addition, there are also schools set up collectively by the peasants. Together these schools have enrolled 99.5 per cent of all school-age children.
Primary and middle school tuition is free. In some schools there is no payment to cover textbooks and ancillary expenses. Where some payment is required, students whose families are not so well-off are exempted. Consequently, every child now can afford to go to school.
Chairman Mao has pointed out: "We must have not only regular primary and secondary schools but also scattered, irregular village schools, newspaper-reading groups and literacy classes." This puts schooling within easy reach of the peasants and their children and helps popularize education.
However, Liu Shao-chi and his gang demanded that village schools should be regular like those in urban areas. If only such schools were set up and no scattered, irregular village schools were established, many rural children would be denied an education, since the villagers live in widely scattered areas, particularly those living in the mountains, pastureland or lake districts. For example, the pastoral county of Mato, which is on the average 4,200 metres above sea level with a very capricious weather, has less than two persons per ten square kilometres. It did not have a single school before liberation. Distances between production teams are anywhere from 10 to 60 kilometres. So if scattered, irregular village schools are not established, where can the children get schooling?
Acting in accordance with Chairman Mao's directive, the county Party committee of Mato mobilized the masses to set up schools collectively while at the same time doing a good job in the regular schools. Within a short time every production team had set up its own mobile primary school which accompanies the herdsmen as they move about the pastures. School is where the herdsmen arc camped. Hours are mid-day, thus leaving the mornings and afternoons free for the students to work. When the students are out pasturing, the teachers follow thorn on horseback. When the pupils arc herding in the daytime, the teachers hold classes in the evenings, so that work and study do not clash. The county's four primary schools in 1965 have multiplied almost ten times and nearly all children can go to .school.
Boat schools have been set up in areas where there are many rivers and lakes. The floating school is a large barge which moves with the boat people so that children living on the vessels with their parents receive an education as they travel on the waterways. Teachers in the mountainous areas call on the widely scattered hamlets, visiting several a day, to hold classes. In some villages pupils bring their younger brothers or sisters to school with them, leaving the younger, pre-school-agers in a nearby creche while they study.
Source off Teachers
State-run schools are staffed by state-trained teachers whereas most teachers in the schools set up collectively are mainly selected and trained from among commune members, with a few trained and assigned by the state, China has large numbers of middle-school graduates who have settled in the rural areas. Some have been chosen to teach in these schools. Ex-servicemen also are selected to teach. Commune members, too, are assigned to teach part time.
Kuanling County in Kweichow Province, southwest China, has picked more than 300 local commune members to teach in its collectively run schools. They have a high level of political consciousness and the necessary level of education, and are keen on teaching the peasants. To raise the ideological and professional standards of these teachers the county has adopted many measures, among which are running training classes during the winter and summer vacations and making arrangements for experienced teachers to tour the schools to give guidance.
The teachers are loyal to the educational cause of the Party and work hard to serve the people. Wu Hsiu-chen. a woman teacher in a mountain hamlet in Shansi Province, is an educated youth who settled in the countryside after graduating from a middle school in 1964. On becoming a teacher, she has called and collected her pupils and seen her charges home every day, regardless of the weather. Another teacher, Chang Fu-chuan, who teaches in a mountain village inhabited by people of Miao nationality in the Kwangsi Chuang Autonomous Region, asked his wife to leave the county town to teach with him and bring their children along as well. In order to do a better job of teaching, he has diligently studied the Miao language. The local people have praised him highly for this.
Bringing Up Workers With Socialist Consciousness and Culture
Since the start of the Cultural Revolution, middle and primary schools throughout the land have implemented Chairman Mao's directives that "education must serve proletarian politics and be combined with productive labour" and that it "must enable everyone who receives an education to develop morally, intellectually and physically and become a worker with both socialist consciousness and culture."
Middle and primary schools are trying out a shorter period of schooling: five years for primary school, and four or five years for middle school. Experiments are also under way in streamlining the curriculum and reforming teaching material. For the students, their main task is to study and at the same time learn other things, that is to say, they should not only learn book knowledge, but should also learn industrial production, agricultural production and military affairs. They also should criticize and repudiate the bourgeoisie.
Many middle and primary schools have established ties with nearby factories, rural people's communes and P.L.A. units, turning those places into classrooms. Where conditions permit, middle and primary schools have set up their own small factories or farms and workers, peasants and soldiers are invited to teach. The number of such factories and farms set up by schools in Liaoning Province in northeast China has passed the 37,000 mark. Schools In Yuyao County in Chekiang Province on the eastern seaboard have over the past few years experimented with 27 types of superior paddy-rice strains, 10 kinds of good strains of barley and 21 kinds of fine cotton strains. Through working together with workers and peasants, the students' love for the working people has grown and they have learnt knowledge by integrating theory with practice.
The quality of students in both state-run and collective-run schools is going up. Of the more than 200 graduates in the last dozen years or so from the primary school run by the Fufeng Brigade of the Minchu People's Commune in Wuyuan County in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, most have gone back to work in their production teams. Some are engaged in experiments to breed new seed strains, some have become water conservancy technicians and accountants and some have become barefoot doctors. More than 100 have been commended and cited as advanced workers. Of the 70 cadres at the brigade and team levels, 49 are graduates of this primary school. The commune members say that the school turns out successors the poor and lower-middle peasants like.
* Workers’ propaganda teams have been sent to schools and colleges in accordance with Chairman Mao's directive that it is essential to have working class leadership to accomplish the proletarian revolution in education.
Source: Peking Review, No. 29, July 18, 1975
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