Rural Education and Urbanization: Experiences and Struggles in China since the Late 1970s


  • Shuqin Xu Sun Yat-sen University
  • Wing-Wah Law The University of Hong Kong


Rural education, urbanization, rural migration, education policy, China


China has adopted an unbalanced development economic policy to improve its domestic economy and international competiveness for more than three decades. During this process, rural education has undergone a series of reforms. With reference to compulsory education, this article argues that rural education in China is a pragmatic instrument for the state to expand and improve the quality of urbanization. Rural education can be used to serve urbanization, is influenced by the rural-urban disparities brought about by urbanization, and receives urban aids and support in exchange for following state guidelines. Due to deep-rooted disparities and long-standing unequal institutions, rural education still faces challenges and difficulties related to effectively financing rural education, handling urban-based curricula and evaluation standards, recruiting qualified and stable teachers, and the outflow of original rural residents. This article concludes by offering an explanation of its policy implications for the functions and constraints of state-directed rural education in serving urbanization.

Author Biographies

Shuqin Xu, Sun Yat-sen University

Shuqin Xu is a lecturer in the School of Education at Sun Yat-Sen University. Her main research areas include school leadership and citizenship education, curriculum of citizenship education, education and social change in China.

Wing-Wah Law, The University of Hong Kong

Wing-Wah Law is professor in the Faculty of Education at The University of Hong Kong. His main research areas include education and development, globalization and citizenship education, education policy and legislation, education reform and Chinese societies, music education and social change, and culture and school leadership.