Shanghai Education

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Chinese Metropolis | Shanghai in Comparative Perspective

Chinese Metropolis | Shanghai in Comparative Perspective First semester 2012/2013

Education in Shanghai and London.

3,000 words

Department of Sociology. Fudan University, Shanghai, China.


Chinese Metropolis | Shanghai in Comparative Perspective

What does education get you? Education empowers people to take an active role in their society yet at the same time facilitates discrimination and divisions. Education can be prohibitively expensive to the point where your family needs to sacrifice everything to afford it and yet it is often spoken as the most valuable investment you can make. It can drive people to tears of happiness and allow us to move the human race forward with breakthrough innovations and groundbreaking discoveries. However the same process can just as easily lead others to take their own life under a cloud of depression and unbearable pressure. Although no one can doubt the importance of education, the struggle of trying to control a process so influential to society is an important challenge that policy makers face today. Whether you are a country, a city or an individual, being ‘competitive’ seems to matter a lot to the extent where people see learning as a way to achieve success rather than for pursuing a curiosity or fascination with what you are really passionate about. Education, it seems, is merely a tool to be used rather than a process to be enjoyed.

This paper will focus on the issue of education in two cities - Shanghai and London. These two cities have vastly different education systems built upon on different values and traditions but still maintain a reputation for excellence in this area. In the 2009 Pisa tests run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Shanghai was ranked first in reading, maths and science. Two of the top 10 universities in the world as ranked by QS (2012) are from London - University College London (4th) and Imperial College London (6th). From these rankings we can see Shanghai excels in secondary education while London’s strength is in higher education. What is interesting is that London 2

Chinese Metropolis | Shanghai in Comparative Perspective

does considerably worse in secondary education (the United Kingdom is 24 places below Shanghai) while Shanghai similarly does significantly worse in higher education rankings (the highest ranking university in Shanghai, Fudan University, is ranked 90th in the world). This paper will discuss the reasons as to why these cities perform the way they do in these two tiers of education by analysing the situation from the viewpoint of parents and students. Each of these actors play an important role in the provision and direction of education. Their differing motives and perspectives on this matter will hopefully allow us to find ways to anticipate what the future holds for students in Shanghai and London.

As a child starting your studies in a secondary school, your decision to study what subjects and how much effort you put in is often out of your hands. Whether you are a student in Shanghai or in London, your parents are likely to have a substantial influence over which school you attend and your attitude towards learning.

In Chinese culture, parents often teach their children that their future depends on how much effort they invest and that they can succeed if they study hard (Coughlan, 2012c). From a young age, students in China have the idea that education is the key to mobility and success ingrained in their minds. Surveys show that this is true for provinces across China whether they are poor, middle-income or wealthy (Coughlan, 2012c) and hence the findings are assumed to be representative of the situation in Shanghai too. This culture instilled by parents is further illustrated by their approach to homework and private tuition. More than 80% of Shanghai’s older secondary students...
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