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2.4 Drop-out rates have been effectively curbed

To prevent pupils from dropping-out in the course of their schooling has always been an important issue concerning the promotion of compulsory education attracting the attention of the public and the government. The level of drop-out rates not only have a bearing on the effectiveness of educational provision, but also have a bearing on the quality of enrollment ratios. In the 1990s, in parallel with efforts made to mobilize school-age children to attend school, a lot of work has been done to curb the dropping-out of enrolled pupils.

--Creating a sound legal basis. Subsequent to the promulgation of the Compulsory Law of the People's Republic of China by the National People's Congress in 1986, the Law on Protection of Juveniles of the People's Republic of China was promulgated in 1991. Other important regulations include: "Suggestions on Strictly Controlling the Dropping-out of Pupils in Primary and Secondary Schools" issued by SEdC, and the "Circular on Continuing to Do a Good Job of Curbing the Dropping-out of Primary and Secondary School Pupils" issued by the General Office of SEdC. These laws and regulations provide the legal basis for controlling dropping-out from schools.

--Practicing division of labor and a contract responsibility system. The usual practice is as follows: a school undertakes the responsibility of urging the drop-outs living within the school district under its jurisdiction to return to school, while a teacher in charge of a class undertakes the responsibility of urging the drop-outs of his or her class to return to school, and a grassroots or higher level government undertakes the responsibility to persuade all school drop-outs under its jurisdiction to return to school, and the success of failure to fulfil this responsibility will be taken as an important indicator of his performance, affecting decisively his commendation and promotion.

--Taking steps to address actual problems in the light of the specific cause of each case of dropping-out. The causes of dropping-out are quite complex: some pupils drop-out because they are weary of studying, some because of poor familial conditions, some owing to the prejudice of regarding men as superior to women, and a large number of people do not take seriously their obligation to observe the compulsory education law. For underachieving pupils and those weary of studying, the main solution is to encourage schools to implement the Party's educational policies in a comprehensive way and reform the content and methods of teaching and strengthen the education of shuangchasheng (pupils who are underachievers and disruptive in their behaviors). For pupils from vary poor families, besides taking advantage of available governmental grants-in-aid and discretional reduction or exemption of the payment of miscellaneous fees by the school, steps should be taken to assist these families to tackle their problems. For parents who are negligent of their lawful obligations to send school-age children to school out of inadequate understanding, the usual practice is to interview the pupil's parent(s) and custodian or pay home visit to conduct explanation and persuasion. For parents and custodians of school-age children who fail to sent their children to school without justifiable reasons, administrative penalty may be meted out by the local government. Some local authorities resort to filing a suit against those parents and custodians of school-age children who fail to observe their obligations. For instance, in Dandong City of Liaoning Province and in Fusui County of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, 23 and 3 parents violating the provisions of the compulsory education law were sued against respectively, and consequently fines were imposed on these parents through court decisions. Although these cases are still rare in China, they have been widely publicized by the mass media, creating great impact in society at large, making many people to become aware of the legal implications of failure to send their school-age children to school.

Box 2.5 Shalizhai Town of Fengcheng City, Liaoning

Meted Out Administrative Penalty to a

Parent Who Refuse to Send His Child to School

Decision of the People's Government of Shalizhai Town on Meting Out a Penalty to .sb...for His Violation of the Compulsory Education Law.

Reason of the penalty: You are the custodian of pupil ...., and after a number of explanations and persuasions you still fail to send ...under your custody to school in violation of the "Rules for Implementing the Compulsory Education Law of the People's Republic of China".

Legal basis of the penalty: In accordance with the provision of Article 40 of the Compulsory Education Law of the People's Republic of China, for parents or custodians of school-age children failing to send their children or children under their custody to school to receive compulsory education, in case they are urban residents, it is incumbent upon the district government or an agency designated by it to criticize them, in case they live in the countryside, it is incumbent upon the township government concerned to criticize them. After such criticisms, those parents and custodians of children still refusing to sent their children or children under their custody to school may be imposed a fine or other sanction measures in the light of specific conditions so as to enforce the compulsory education law, resulting in sending their children or children under their custody to school.

Decision on the fine: Since you refuse to send a school-age child to school, you have violated the provisions of the Compulsory Education Law of the People's Republic of China, you are imposed a fine of 1000 yuan. You are obliged to send the fine to the Office of Judicial Affairs of the Government on 28 April, 1997. In case you fail to pay the fine in time, the Government will ask the People's Court to enforce it.

People's Government of Shalizhai Town
25 April 1997

Fine Enforcement Notice of the People's Court

of Fengcheng City

The decision on imposing a fine to you made by the People's Government of Shalizhai Town has become legally valid, you are obliged to fulfil the obligation determined by the legal instrument within three days upon receipt of this notice. In case you fail to pay the fine within the time limit set, its payment will be enforced.

People's Court of Fengcheng City
7 May 1997Source:
Archive of the People's Court of Fengcheng City.

It is noteworthy that a number of NGOs have made important contributions to enable drop-outs to return to school besides the efforts of governmental bodies concerned. Among the projects sponsored by these NGOs, the Hope Project initiated by the Children's Foundation of China (CFC) and the "Spring Buds Program" sponsored by the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) are outstanding. CFC initiated the Hope Project in October 1989 and by the end of 1998 donations totaling 1.6 billion yuan have been received, and the money available has been used to support the construction of over 7000 "Hope Primary Schools" and to set up over 10000 "Hope Libraries", and to provide grants-in-aid to 2,090,000 drop-outs from poor families to enable them to return to school. The "Spring Buds Program" sponsored by ACWF in collaboration with the Children's Foundation of China aims to help girls from poor families to attend school, and its implementation has enabled 750,000 out of school girls to attend or return to schools. In China during the 1990s a lot of work has been done to curb the dropping-out of school pupils, the general trend is a gradual decline of drop-out rates, with ups and downs in the course of advance. Figure 2.20 indicates the steady decline of drop-out rates at the primary stage and the changes in drop-out rates at the lower secondary stage. It can be seen that the drop-out rates at lower secondary stage are much higher than those at the primary stage and are characterized by fluctuations, and any relaxation in effort will bring about rebound of the drop-out rates. The findings of other studies indicate that the drop-out rates in rural lower secondary schools are far higher than that in urban schools, and the drop-out rates of girls are much higher than that of boys, and the drop-out rates in poor areas are higher than that in economically developed areas. As to the cause of dropping-out, economic difficulties faced by poor families constitute the main cause in rural and poor areas; in economically developed areas, population mobility and the need for help in home-based production or in household chores contribute to dropping-out.

Figure 2.20 Changes in the Drop-out Rates at Primary and Lower Secondary Stages

2.5 Pupil-teacher ratios and the percentage of qualified teachers

The quantity and quality of teachers are crucial factors affecting the timely provision of facilities for the education of school-age children and the quality of education provided. In the 1990s, in the course of promoting compulsory education, besides efforts oriented to the construction of new school buildings with a view to expanding capacity, we have striven to develop teacher education and in-service teacher training programs to ensure an adequate supply of qualified teachers.

2.5.1 Pupil-teacher ratios are increasing

In the period 1991-1998 the number of full-time primary teachers increased from 5,530,000 to 6,446,000, indicating a net increase of 916,000 or 16.6%; full-time teachers of lower secondary schools increased from 2,517,000 to 3,055,000, indicating a net increase of 538,000 or 21.4%. The pupil-teacher ratios at both primary and lower secondary stages increased from 1991 to 1998, with the former increasing from 21.9 to 24 and the latter increasing from 15.2 to 17.6. Pupil-teacher ratios in schools located in rural towns and county seats are higher than that in urban schools, and pupil-teacher ratios in village schools are higher than that in town or county-seat schools. The increase of teachers and the increase of pupil-teacher ratios tend to relieve significantly the pressure on the supply of teachers engendered by the expansion of educational provision, and the supply of teachers can basically meet the needs of educational development.

2.5.2 The ratio of qualified teachers has significantly increased

In China two indicators are used to assess the ratio of qualified teachers. The first one entirely depends on the formal academic qualifications of teachers, and is calculated by the number of teachers meeting the requirements set by the state on qualifications divided by the total number of teachers. The second indicator is less stringent, a teacher whose academic qualification is inadequate but can fulfil his or her job-related functions is also regarded as qualified, although only partially. According to the first criterion, primary school teachers should have at least completed their education in secondary teacher training schools (normal schools) or other category of secondary schools; lower secondary school teachers should have at least completed junior teachers' colleges.

In the period 1991-1998 the ratio of qualified full-time primary teachers increased from 80.7% to 94.5%, indicating an increase of 13.8 percentage points (from 89.3% to 99.1%, indicating an increase of 9.8 percentage points, if the partially qualified are added); the ratio of full-time lower secondary teachers increased from 51.8% to 83.4%, indicating an increase of 31.6 percentage points. Figures 2.21 and 2.22 indicate the improvement of the ratio of qualified primary teachers and the ratio of qualified lower secondary teachers respectively.

2.5.3 Weight of community-paid teachers lowered

By their status and remuneration, full-time teachers may be divided into two categories: public-paid teachers and community-paid teachers. For public-paid teachers, their salaries and fringe benefits are borne by the state, while for the community-paid teachers, their salaries are borne by the community (where surcharges on certain taxes are levied, their salaries are to be drawn from these surcharges). Since the pay of community-paid teachers is rather low (usually 1/3 of the salary of a public-paid teacher), and there is no secure fringe benefits, these teachers often cannot devote their energies to school work and teaching, and are highly mobile. This has been an important cause of the disparities of qualifications between rural and urban teachers and of the disparities of the quality of education between rural and urban schools. Since the late 1980s the state has adopted a policy of gradually phasing out the recruitment of community-paid teachers. Specifically speaking, the first measure is to "close the door" to community-paid teachers, when new teachers need be recruited; the second measure is to gradually change the community-paid teachers into public-paid teachers. By 1994 there were still 2,014,000 community-paid primary and secondary teachers in the country. Of which 1,817,000 were primary teachers, accounting for 90% of the entire body of community-paid teachers, and 32.4% of the entire contingent of full-time primary teachers; 199,800 were lower secondary teachers, accounting for 10% of the entire body of community-paid teachers and 7.4% of the entire contingent of full-time lower secondary teachers; 859 were upper secondary teachers, accounting for 0.16% of the entire contingent of full-time upper secondary teachers.

Accordingly, when the CPC Central Committee and the State Council convened the National Conference on Education in 1995, it was stressed again that local authorities should make determined efforts to basically solve the problem of community-paid teachers by the end of the century. In recent years, local authorities have intensified their efforts to tackle the problem, and with the exception of Tibet and Hainan Province, the weight of community-paid primary teachers in all other provinces and autonomous regions has gradually lowered. In the period 1994-1998, the total number of community-paid teachers in the country decreased from 1,817,000 to 803,000. It indicates a decrease of 1,003,000, and their weight in full-time teachers decreased from 32.4% to 13.8%; the total number of community-paid lower secondary teachers decreased from 199,800 to 65,400, indicating a decrease of 134,000, and their weight in full-time teachers decreased from 7.4% to 2.1%. Figure 2.23 provides information on the gradual decline of the weight of community-paid teachers in recent years.

2.5.4 The number of substitute teachers is increasing

Since the government decided that the practice of recruiting community-paid teachers should be gradually phased out, some areas, especially the poor areas, defying state regulations, continue to recruit community-paid teachers labeled as substitute teachers. Although these substitute teachers are not recognized as legitimate by the state, their existence is widespread and their number tends to increase. In the period 1994-1998, the total number of substitute teachers in the country increased from 652,700 to 841,900, indicating a net increase of 182,000, and their weight among the entire body of full-time teachers increased from 10.4% to 12.7%. In some provinces and autonomous regions this problem remains conspicuous. For instance, in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, in the period 1994-1998, the number of community-paid teachers decreased from 28,000 and their weight decreased from 21% to 6.5%, but in the meantime, the number of substitute teachers increased from 104,000 to 126,000, indicating an increase of 22,000 and their weight increased from 34.9% to 39.2%, indicating an increase of 4.3 percentage points. Thus it can be seen that the large decrease of community-paid teachers has to a certain degree offset the decrease of community-paid teachers. The causes of this phenomenon are rather complex. There is a problem of policy understanding, but the main cause (especially in the poverty-stricken areas) lies with educational finance, that is, local financial resources are not adequate to pay the salaries of normally recruited public-paid teachers. If the recruitment of substitute teachers is not permitted, it will be hard to promote the progress of universalizing 9-year compulsory education. There are two problems related to the issue of substitute teachers which need be tackled. First, to gradually phase out the recruitment of community teachers is an important policy measure related to the development of a contingent of qualified teachers, and therefore must be adhered to. However, in view of the realities prevailing in various areas, it is advisable to adopt differentiated approaches to address the problem by setting different time limits for phasing out, allowing economically difficult areas to continue to recruit community-paid teachers within a certain period to make policy measures better fitting in with local realities. Second, since only two categories of full-time teachers (public-paid and community-paid teachers) are recognized by the state, while the legitimate status of substitute teachers is not recognized by the state, it follows that the calculation of the ratio of qualified teachers does not take into account the substitute teachers, giving rise to a distorted picture of the qualifications of school teachers and the pupil-teacher ratios. In provinces and autonomous regions, where the weight of substitute teachers is large (their percentage weight in Guangxi is 39.1%, in Shanxi--28.1%, in Hubei--25.5%, in Yunnan--21.5%) the pupil-teacher ratios and the ratios of qualified teachers must be seriously distorted. Figure 2.24 provides data on the weight of substitute teachers as a percentage of total full-time teachers, and the weight of substitute teachers as a percentage of total school teachers. Figure 2.25 provides data on the weight of non-public teachers (community-paid teachers plus substitute teachers) by province (autonomous region, and municipality).

2.6 Repetition rates by grade , Survival rate to grade 5,Coefficient of efficiency

2.6.1 Repetition rates by grade

The repetition rate by grade is defined as the proportion of pupils enrolled in a given grade in a given school-year who study in the same grade the following school year. This indicator embodies to a certain degree the internal efficiency of a school. However, in recent years, some local authorities have imposed a ceiling on repetition rates, and some even explicitly abolish drop-out as an institution. Accordingly, to use repetition rates alone to assess the quality of school education is not justifiable. However, information on repetition rates still reveal some interesting regularities.

Figure 2.26 indicates that despite the fact that in 1992 the repetition rates in primary schools suddenly rose, the general trends of repetition rates in primary and lower secondary schools tend to drop significantly.

Figure 2.27 indicates the gender disparities in repetition rates, and it can be observed that boys usually have higher repetition rates than girls.

Figure 2.28 indicates the data on the repetition rates in 1994 and 1998. The general picture is that repetition rates at the first grade are very high, and they tend to drop with promotion to higher grades.

2.6.2 Survival rate to grade 5

This indicator indicates the percentage of a pupil cohort actually reaching grade 5. It is an important indicator used for assessing the efficiency of a school or an education system. However, its reliability depends on the consistency of data on enrollment and repeaters in terms of coverage over time and across grades. However, the existence of school transfers disturbs this consistency and makes calculation complicated for a specific school. Assuming that for a region or a country as a whole, the number of transfers-in and the number of transfers-out offset each other, we may reasonably pass judgment on the internal efficiency of an education system by using the survival rate to grade 5. It remains difficult to obtain data on the actual pupil flow across the grades. Therefore, the methods of data processing have to change with the scope of assessment.

For assessment at the national level, the simplified method can be used to advantage. We may carry out the calculation of the rate by dividing the total enrollment of pupils in the 5th grade of a specific year by the number of pupils enrolled in the first grade five years ago. This method is of course not rigorous. However, the general tendency can be observed. See Figure 2.29.

It can be seen that both survival rates gradually improved during the 1990s in Chinese primary and lower secondary schools.

On principle, this method cannot be applied to calculate the survival rates of individual schools nor can be used to make comparisons across regions, because of the imbalances in the number of students transferred in and transferred out. In the period 1992-1996, rural-urban migrations were significant in all parts of the country as a result of economic development and rural-urban disparities. Many children of the migrants moved together with their parents to urban areas (including cities and rural towns). If the same method is used to a city or town, we may get survival rates over 100%, an absurd result without any congruity to realities. in the last few years, rural-urban migrations tend to slow down somewhat because of the slower growth rates of the national economy, and as a result, the disparities in survival rates between rural schools, schools in county seats and rural towns, and schools in cities tend to become smaller. See Table 2.7 for detail.

Table 2.7 Comparison of Survival Rates to Grade 5

in Urban and Rural Primary Schools

 

National average

Urban

County states & rural towns

Countyside

1995

90.5

113.8

121.9

73.4

1996

85.4

113.5

114.2

76.9

1997

88.5

111.5

112.2

80.4

1998

90.5

110.0

112.3

82.3

2.6.3 Coefficient of efficiency

Coefficient of efficiency refers to the ideal number of pupil years needed for a cohort to complete the primary cycle, expressed as a percentage of the actual number of pupil-years. The ideal or optimal number of pupil-years is built on the assumption of no repetition and drop-out in the full primary cycle, while the actual number of pupil-years must consider the effects of repetition and drop-out and other wastage. In 1999, the National Research Center for Educational Development conducted a sample survey of primary grade 5 pupils in 35 counties, which yielded a coefficient of efficiency of 88% (90% for girls and 86% for boys) for primary grade 5. The findings of this survey are reported in a Report on the Effectiveness of Primary Education published by the National Research Center for Educational Development.

2.7 Learning Achievement and Outcomes

Among the 18 core indicators proposed by the EFA Forum, Indicator 15 is used to measure learning achievement and it is defined as "the percentage of pupils having reached at least grade 4 of primary schooling who master a set of nationally defined basic learning competencies."

Over the years measurement of the achievement of pupils and students in Chinese schools mainly depends on the findings of a variety of tests and examinations conducted at different times and for different purposes, including mid-term tests, exams conducted at end of a semester or school year, regionally unified examinations, school entrance examinations (for entry to upper secondary schools and universities and colleges). The assessment exercises conducted by the educational departments at various levels in connection with educational inspection also provide valuable information on the learning achievement of students. These tests and examinations focus on the learning achievement of academic subjects and the results are used as a basis to decide on grade promotion, transition to higher level school, and award of credentials. Highly synthetic assessments were rarely conducted with the purpose of facilitating macro-level decision making. In the 1990s, the Chinese governmental agencies and research institutions concerned, with the support of international organizations, conducted several inter-provincial surveys, and these surveys were more synthetic and took an integrated approach, and therefore provide valuable information on the learning outcomes of students. Following is a brief account of these surveys.

2.7.1 Sample surveys of the learning achievement of rural primary school pupils

This sample survey was conducted at a time when primary education in China had reached a fairly large scale, and the priority of educational development was shifting gradually from the expansion of educational provision to the enhancement of quality. It was conducted by the National Research Center for Educational Development as a cooperative project conducted by the Chinese government and UNICEF. The objectives of this survey were as follows: exploring proper approaches for assessing the quality of UPE and suggesting the normative schemes for organizing the learning activities of primary school pupils at different stages; studying the methods of describing the current situation of primary education in China and the methods of conducting factor analysis, diagnosing structural defects, and assessing educational quality. Stratified sampling was used to select the schools in Hebei, Sichuan and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Grade investigated and surveying time: Primary grade 6, schools in Hebei and Sichuan surveyed in 1992, schools in Ningxia--1993.Subjects tested: Chinese language and mathematics. Methods of inquiry: written examinations and questionnaires. Figure 2.8 provides information on the distribution of townships, schools, classes and students based on stratified sampling; Figure 2.9 provides basic data on scope of tests and number of samples. Table 2.10 gives a summary of the findings of the sample survey. Based on the findings of the tests administered and the assessment of a team of experts, the following picture of the learning achievement of the graduating class of the primary schools in the country was given: in the year of the sample survey, "the total number of graduates of rural and urban primary schools is about 20 million, and about 16 million or 80% of the total have completed the study of all subjects taught in primary schools in compliance with official syllabi. With regard to the quality of learning achievement, about 12 million can meet the basic requirements of these subjects, the learning achievement of about 4 million is unstable, and another 4 million cannot complete the study of all subjects in compliance with official syllabi, and 2-3 million (10-15% of the total) cannot ensure the quality of their study." (Note: based on Quality of Learning and Its Basic Criteria edited by the National Research Center for Educational Development of SEdC, published by Guangxi Educational Press, p. 180)

Table 2.8 Distribution of Samples In Field Survey Based on Stratified Sampling

 

No. of townships

No. of schools

No. of classes

No. of pupils

Total

22

113

143

4794

Hebei

8

48

66

2127

Sichuan

9

50

56

1870

Ningxia

2

5

8

250

Table 2.9 Scope of Tests and Number of Samples

 

Total

Hebei

Sichuan

Ningxia

Single item tests

(SITs)

No. of schools

48

24

24

 

No. of classes

48

24

24

 

Samples of SITs in Chinese

Aural comprehension

1480

788

672

 

Charater recognition

614

286

328

 

Reading aloud

346

502

344

 

Speaking

346

502

344

 

Samples of SITs in mathematics

1460

788

672

 

Written tests

No. of schools

113

48

50

5

No. of classes

143

66

56

8

Samples of Written tests in Chinese

4807

2127

1884

250

Samples of written tests in math

4784

2127

1842

249

Table 2.10 Comparison of Pupils' Learning Achievement in Chinese Language and Mathematics

in Hebei, Sichuan and Ningxia

 

Chinese Language

Mathematics

Mean

S.D.

No. of Samples

Mean

S.D.

No. of Samples

Hebei

67.2

9.0

2322

86.9

11.9

2326

Sichuan

64.0

13.3

2203

73.1

1706

2175

Ningxia

4603

45.0

249

47.4

3105

250

Note: S.D.= standard deviation

Sources: The data of Tables 2.8, 2.9 and 2.10 are quoted from p. 3, p. 14 and p. 27 respectively from Quality of Learning and Its Basic Criteria edited by SEdC's National Research Center for Educational Development.

2.7.2 Study on the Learning Achievement of Pupils of Grades 4 and 6 of 6-year Primary Schools

This study was organized in 199 soon after the conclusion of the 1990 Jomtien Conference. The Chinese government in accordance with the World Declaration on Education for All and the EFA Monitoring Program sponsored by UNESCO and UNICEF decided to conduct this study and the Department of Basic Education of SEdC was responsible for its organization and execution.

The essential points of the study are as follows:

Objectives of investigation: Scientifically assessing the learning achievement of primary school pupils in China by conducting a large scale sample survey; making preparations for designing a quality monitoring system for compulsory education suitable for China's realities and congruent with international practice.

Target groups of investigation: Pupils of primary grade 4 should be the target group investigated in accordance with the EFA Objectives Monitoring Program sponsored by UNESCO and UNICEF. In view of the fact that in China 5-year and 6-year primary schools coexist, the target groups selected were the pupils of primary grades 4 and 6 of 6-year primary schools.

Sample design: The 21 provinces and autonomous regions in which over 80% of their primary schools have a duration of 6 years were selected and divided into 6 groups geographically, and from each group one or two provinces were selected, resulting in the following 8 provinces: Jilin, Hebei, Shaanxi, Jiangsu, Hunan, Yunnan, Guangdong and Sichuan. Within each province the schools were selected according to the internationally used PPS method, and in each school 20 pupils were selected from primary grades 4 and 6.

Samples: 24580 pupils of primary grade 4 in 1229 schools were investigated, and 24400 pupils of primary grade 6 of 1231 schools were investigated.

Instruments of testing: Separate examination papers for Chinese language, mathematics and life skills; questionnaires for the background information of pupils and teachers; a manual for school investigation. The items of the examination paper for life skills were selected from the syllabi on nature studies, physical education, social studies, manual labor, and moral studies, focusing on items related to health care, safety, household chores, and social skills.

The tests conducted were criterion-referenced, and the percentage of correct answers was used to evaluate the learning achievement of pupils with reference to items listed in the syllabi. The acceptable standards in terms of ratio of correct answers are set as follows: mathematics: 75%, Chinese language: 70%, social skills: 60%. The results of these tests are given in Table 2.11.

Table 2.11 Results of Tests for Chinese Language,

Mathematics,and Life Skills Conducted among

Pupils of Primary Grades 4 and 6

 

Chinese language

Mathematics

Life skills

G4

G6

G4

G6

G4

G6

No. of pupils

24580

24440

23884

23361

24582

24443

Mean score

8206

82.26

54.55

54.26

17.38

16.91

Standard deviation

13.15

11.76

5.14

5.45

4.08

3.51

Percentage of accoptable answers

83.15

85.08

94.00

87.54

79.10

79.8

Notes:

1. The full marks of Chines language, mathematics and life skills are set at 100, 60 and 25 respectively.

2. Source: Research Report on the Learning Achievement of China's Primary School Pupils, edited by SEdC's Department of Basic Education, UNICEF and UNESCO, published by People's Education Press, p. 9.

The data in Table 2.11 indicate that the basic knowledge and basic skills in Chinese language and mathematics were fairly well mastered by primary school pupils, and most pupils were up to the requirements set by the syllabi of the relevant subjects, and over 85% of the examinees were up to standards. The performance in mathematics was even better than that in Chinese language, and the result is understandable in view of the characteristics of written tests and actual practice of teaching and learning. 80% of the examinees of life skills was up to acceptable standards, an achievement lower than mathematics and language, a result perhaps influenced by a number of factors, including the characteristics of written tests, the level of economic, cultural and educational development of various areas. [This is confirmed by the fact that the relative standard deviation of the achievement test of life skills is significantly greater than that of mathematics and language. The relative standard deviations of life skills tests conducted among pupils of primary grades 4 and 6 were respectively 23.5% and 20.8%, while the relative standard deviations of mathematic and language test were respectively 10% and 15.9% (primary grade 4 pupils) and 10% and 14.3% (primary 6 pupils)]. This survey covered a wide area, and the number of samples was quite large, and the methods used were normative. The work done not only contributed to the improvement of methods of monitoring the quality of learning achievement of pupils and accumulated valuable experiences for establishing testing standards, but also provided a lot of valuable information for improving educational management by the feedback of pupils' performance.

2.7.3 Monitoring the Learning Achievement of Primary School Pupils in Poor Areas

SEdC's Department of Basic Education reached agreement with UNICEF through consultation that from 1992 onward, a program of actions for monitoring the learning achievement of primary school pupils in poor areas be conducted. This cooperative project was twice incorporated into the Cooperative Program sponsored by the Chinese government and UNICEF, and SEdC's Department of Basic education was responsible for its implementation.

The first survey. It was conducted in June and July of 1995. The areas covered: 40 counties and cities in the following 8 provinces: Jilin, Hebei, Shaanxi, Jiangsu, Hunan, Yunnan, Guangxi, and Sichuan, involving 91,180 pupils. Target groups and subject tested: target groups included pupils of primary grades 1-6 of 6-year primary schools and grades 1-5 of 5-year primary schools. Subjects tested included Chinese language (comprising three aspects: basic knowledge, reading and composition), mathematics (comprising four aspects: basic knowledge, computing ability, problem-solving ability, and spatial concepts), and life skills (comprising heath care, safety, labor skills and social skills). Written tests were resorted to, and the examination papers were prepared by a special team with members drawn from the People's Education Press, Beijing Normal University and other relevant institutions invited by the steering group of the project. The test items were designed in the light of the requirements set in the "Syllabi of Primary School Subjects Provided in 9-year compulsory Schooling".

The results of these tests in terms of the percentage of examinees up to acceptable standards were as follows:Mathematics: In 6-year primary schools, with the exception of 4th graders (75.6%), the results of all other grades were over 85%. In 5-year primary schools, with the exception of 1st graders (86.7%), the results of all other grades were under 85%. The performance of the pupils of all grades of 5-year primary schools was invariably lower than that in 6-year primary schools; and the performance in language was less satisfactory than mathematics, with the highest attained by 2nd graders (82.36%), and lowest by 3rd graders (58.6%). A comparison of the indicators by separate items indicates that the percentage of pupils with reading ability meeting acceptable standards was rather low. The performance of pupils of grades 4 and 6 of 6-year primary schools in life skills was less satisfactory than in language and mathematics, being 65% and 44.5% respectively. Among the life skills tested, the performance of manual labor skills was better than other items. A comparison of the findings of this survey with the results given in paragraph 2.7.2 tells us that the sequential order of the performance of pupils tested in different subjects remains the same, that is, language ranking lower than language, life skills lower than language, but the numerical values were all lower the previous ones. These differences can largely be explained by the fact that this survey was conducted in economically relatively backward areas, and perhaps partially affected by the difficulty of examination papers set.

The second survey. Its purpose was to monitor the learning achievement of pupils of primary schools located in 102 state designated counties scattered in the following 11 provinces, municipality and autonomous regions: Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, Sichuan, Chongqing, Shaanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, Neimenggu, and Xinjiang, all involved in an educational project receiving aid from UNICEF. The target groups investigated were pupils of primary grades 3 and 5 in the school year 1996/97, and the subjects tested were mathematics, Chinese language and life skills. The actual size of the sample was 25858 pupils. It was conducted in May-June 1997. The findings of this survey indicate that the pupils tested performed significantly better than the pupils in the first survey, partly owing to the fact the threshold of minimum standards was lowered with consideration of the realities of the poor areas; and that the difference between the 5th graders and 6th graders in their performance was significantly narrowed. Gender disparity in performance was insignificant, but regional disparities were very large. Performance differences between minority pupils and ethnic Han pupils were more significant at the middle grades, and became significantly smaller at higher grades.

2.7.4 Findings and Recommendations

* In the 1990s, with the assistance and support of IGOs, several surveys were conducted to monitor the learning achievement of primary school pupils. Since they were designed for different purposes, with different emphases (the survey described in paragraph 2.7.1 was oriented to rural areas, and that in paragraph 2.7.3 was oriented to poor areas), with different criteria used in assessment of achievement (standards were lowered in the survey conducted in school year 1996/97) and conducted in different geographical areas, their findings show much fluctuations and are hardly comparable. Relatively speaking, the survey conducted in 8 provinces and autonomous regions in 1993 involved a larger size of samples, and the work done was more rigorous, and the target groups all were pupils of 6-year primary schools, and consequently, the findings are of higher comparability and credibility and more representative. Based on the data given in Table 2.10 on the percentages of 4th grade pupils meeting acceptable standards in three subjects (mathematics: 94%, Chinese language: 93.15%, life skills: 79.1%), the conclusion may be drawn that the percentage of 4th graders of 6-year primary schools meeting acceptable standards is generally over 80%. The 1995 survey involving Hebei, Sichuan and Ningxia covered smaller geographical areas. The two surveys conducted with UNICEF aid were oriented to poor counties mostly located in the western part of the country, and their findings are not representative of the conditions of the whole country. Thus, the findings of these surveys cannot reflect the conditions of the whole country. However, they are of great significance in helping us to have an in-depth understanding of areas investigated, and have provided a lot of valuable information conducive to the improvement of educational management, to the determination of minimum learning standards, and to the perfection of methods of testing and assessment through structural analysis.

* It can be seen from the results of the above-mentioned surveys of the learning achievement of pupils, such exercises are still at an infantile stage in China. It should be noted that the Chinese government has mapped out the directions and requirements concerning further educational development, however, for some objectives no monitoring programs have been envisaged, and for some other objectives, monitoring activities have been contemplated, yet they have not been systematically carried out under the guidance of scientific methodologies. Even the limited experiences accumulated have not received the attention they deserve, and have not been disseminated. At present, the scale of primary education has significantly expanded, and the net enrollment ratios have reached quite high values, the broad masses of people are increasingly concerned with the quality of school education provided. With these developments as the backdrop, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council jointly made the "Decision on Deepening Educational Reforms and Promoting EQO Education in a Comprehensive Way". In view of these circumstances it is desirable that national and provincial-level educational departments should strengthen work in monitoring the learning achievement and outcomes of pupils.

* Monitoring and assessment of the quality or learning achievement of education is a complex task. Continued accumulation of experiences is a must in the process of perfecting their practice. Even the findings of a relatively well-designed testing and evaluation exercise are subject to queries from various perspectives. Nevertheless, the weak links revealed and the valuable information feedback to the improvement of educational management are even more important than the ranking order arranged according to the absolute value of certain indicators. It is highly desirable that both governmental agencies at various levels and schools surveyed or not surveyed, and other stakeholders all pay greater attention to the findings of these surveys and assimilate the lessons useful to them.



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