Academic achievement comparison between private and public


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Academic achievement comparison between private and public

  1. 1. European Journal of Education and Learning, Vol.3, 2007 ISSN(paper)2668-3318 ISSN(online)2668-361X Academic Achievement Comparison between Private and Public Schools in Rural Gansu Province, China Qiang Liu and James Tooley School of Education, Communication, and Languge Sciences, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, Newcastle upon Tyne, United KingdomAbstract: This paper aims at analysing the quality of teaching among different school management types. Itemerged from the initial survey that there were two types of private school - proprietor-managed and villager-managed private schools. These two types were compared with public schools. The Ding Xi region, one of themost underdeveloped regions of Gansu Province was chosen. The paper also looks at and compares differentfactors influencing the performance of the students in the public and private schools in that area.Key words: Gansu Province, Academic Achievement Comparison, Private and Public Schools1. Introduction1.1. BackgroundThis paper looks at the private school sector in Gansu Province, China as part of an international research projectcarried out at the University of Newcastle. It provided new evidence concerning the efficiency and effectivenessof private schools. It also gives details about rural private schools in that area that had not been gathered before.Private schools are becoming increasingly widespread and important in China, offering an alternative to thepublic schools. This issue is seldom presented in detail, and this paper tries to fill this gap as it provides newdata and analysis about public versus private schooling in remote rural China.Such research has been carried out in other developed and developing countries to examine the relativeeffectiveness and efficiency of private schools, compared to public ones. Some of this demonstrates that privateschools provide a better education than public schools. For example, in the United States, Coleman, Hoffer, andKilgore (1982) show that ‘attending private schools increased the performance of students as measured bystandardized tests for verbal and mathematical skills’ (Coleman et al, 1982, p. 65-76). Lockheed & Jimenez(1994, p. 9-10) quoted Hanushek (1990) as saying that ‘the average student does better in private than in pubicschools in widespread’. However, some research claims the opposite after detailed studies. Take Lassibille &Tan (2001)’s research in Tanzania for an example, after using longitudinal data from a 1994 retrospective surveyof students in some 150 schools to measure the school effects, it is found that both type of private schools(Christian and Wazazi schools) are inferior to both types of public schools (government and community schools).Dixon (2003) summarises the research that has been conducted in various developing countries. The studiesinclude those undertaken by Jimenez et al (1988) in Thailand, Jimenez and Cox (1989) in Colombia andTanzania, Alderman et al (1996) in Pakistan. The general conclusion of the research, after comparing privatewith public sectors is that ‘private schools are not only more effectively, educationally, but when controlling forsocio-economic factors and the possible bias that parents choose private education for their more motivated andable children, they are also more cost efficient’ (Dixon, 2003, p. 6).Very little research however has been conducted in China to examine the nature, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of private schools and there are few official reports pertaining to the number of private schools. Lin(1999) conducted a comprehensive study of development, context, characteristics, problems, issues, and futureprospects of private schools in China, stating that ‘there are no official reports on the number of the rural privateschools in the country’ (Lin, 1999, p. 76). Moreover, Chinese researchers have traditionally shown much lessinterest in education in rural than in urban areas, as the former are deemed less important and less prestigiousthan the latter. In addition, there is little attention that has been given to private schools in China although thelittle research that has been carried out provides parallel findings to the research in other developed anddeveloping countries. There is some limited evidence to show that in China private schools are more cost-effective and efficient than the state schools. For example, Liang (2001) mentions that ‘rural private schoolscharge much lower fees (about 300 to 700 Yuan), and these are natural outgrowth of the desperate state of ruralpublic education: low quality and high charges’ (Liang, 2001, p. 22). Lin (1999) finds that ‘the tuition feescharged by rural private schools tend to be low and affordable for most peasant families’ (Lin, 1999, p. 79) and 27
  2. 2. European Journal of Education and Learning, Vol.3, 2007 ISSN(paper)2668-3318 ISSN(online)2668-361X‘the rural private schools open doors to the people who need the education most’ (Lin, 1999, p. 85). And Xu(2002) states that ‘the teaching quality in the private schools is much better than a great proportion of publicschools’ (Xu, 2002, p. 39).1.2. Brief Intorduciton of Ding Xi MuncipalityThis research was conducted about the Ding Xi region, located in the middle part of Gansu province, China. Thewhole region comprises of 1 area and 6 counties. The total area is 20,300 km2. Ding Xi region is one of thenational poor regions.In 2001, there was a total population of 2.9 million in Ding Xi region. Farmer’s average net income per personwas 1,180 Yuan.In the area, the schooling–age enrolment rate is officially reported to be 98.52%. As mentioned previously, thedata could be unreliable because ‘errors in the data have been found, showing some data are not reliable’ (Chow,2005, p. 2). The total number of elementary and middle schools in the entire area is 2,927 (2,754 elementaryschools, 136 independent junior middle schools, and 37 complete middle schools), and the total number ofregistered students in these schools is 487,452.1.3. Research QuestionExperimental research study from September – December, 2004 shows that in Gansu province, China; privateschools exist. During that research, 696 private schools were found, out of which over 85% are located in theremote and impoverished villages. This particular research research tried to examine student achievements tomeasure teaching quality in both types of schools – private and public. There are two research questions thatwere tried to be investigated. How do private schools in rural Gansu (if they exist) compare with public schools? What factors influence student academic achievements in rural Gansu Province?2. Methodology2.1. Methods and instrumentsThe paper uses mixed methods. The data information in the second research was collected from school managers& teachers, students, and parents respectively using different tests, questionnaires and surveys. In order toexamine teaching quality, a structured and stratified sample of students took tests in Chinese and mathematics.An IQ test was also taken by all of the students as IQ could influence achievement and this would have to becontrolled for. The teachers also undertook the IQ test as the teacher’s IQ level could also influences studentachievement.SPSS 12.0 statistic software was employed to analyse the data. The technique of crosstabulation was employedto identify a ‘statistical’ relationship between categorical (nominal) variables, which take on one of a set ofdiscrete values, such as Gender = {Male, Female}. At the same time, in order to assess whether the means of twogroups statistically differ from each other, the Independent Sample T-Test and Nonparametric Analysis were alsoutilised. The T-Test was carried out on the continuous variables, such as student age, family income, parent’seducation years etc.2.2. SampleClass/ level 3 was selected from all the schools. 212 schools with 2,544 students were selected for the sample(82 villager-managed private schools with 984 students; 20 proprietor-managed private schools with 240students; and 110 public schools with 1320 students). 28
  3. 3. European Journal of Education and Learning, Vol.3, 2007 ISSN(paper)2668-3318 ISSN(online)2668-361X www.BellPress.org3. Findings3.1. Comparisions of Public and Private Studnets’ Scores in Maths and ChineseBy comparing student’s raw mathematics and Chinese scores between public and private schools, it was foundout that in both subjects, the students in the public schools achieved higher scores than those in the privateschools. The data show that the mean student percentage scores in public schools is 65.78 (maths) and 57.25(Chinese), while the means in the private schools is 61.85 and 54.83 respecitively. The independent T-Test resulttells that there is significant difference between them in both subjects (scores on maths: T=5.541, df=2446,p<0.05; scores on Chinese: T=3.791, df=2446, p<0.05).However, in order to examine the differences in Chinese and maths between different types of private schoolsand public school, the dataset was split into three categories in terms of school types: villager-managed,proprietor-managed, and public schools. This analysis indicated that students in the proprietor-managed privateschools achieved highest scores compared to those in the villager-managed and public schools. Moreover, thestudents in the public schools attained higher scores than those in the villager-managed private schools. Thescores in the proprietor-managed private schools are 61.58 (maths) and 67.56 (Chinese), while those in thevillager-managed private schools are 53.23 (maths) and 60.48 (Chinese) and in public schools are 57.25 (maths)and 65.78 (Chinese). There is significant difference among them (scores on maths: χ2 = 65.039, df=2, p<0.05;scores on Chinese: χ2 = 64.549, df=2, p<0.05).3.2. Other Studnets’ VariablesIt could be argued that the higher test scores in those schools might be attributed to better student IQ than theschool management system. To control that studnets’ IQ test was taken, it tells that there is no positivecorrelation between students’ IQ and their academic achievements as public school students showed better IQbut not scores (on average: public school students’ IQ 29 with score 57.25 (maths) and 65.78 (Chinese); villager-managed school students’ IQ 24.02 with score 53.23 and 60.48; properieter managed private school students’ IQ28.12 with score 61.58 and 67.56 respectively).Among the three different school types, students in the proprietor-managed private schools are, on average, olderthan the other two school management types with the mean age of 10.93. Students in the public schools are theyoungest with a mean age of 10.64. There is significant difference among them in the aspect of student age (χ2 =13.972, df=2, p<0.05).The school distance from home to different school types might influence achievement. Parents were requested toanswer the estimated amount of time it would take for students to walk to the nearest government and privateschools respectively. The results indicated that that the students in the public schools would spend the least timewith the mean of 23.53 minutes, followed by the villager-managed private schools with the mean of 62.19minutes and the proprietor- managed schools with 34.643.3. Economic StsatusIt could be assumed, a priori, that families’ economic conditions potentially influence student academicachievements positively. The research show that the economic situation of the family of the students in theproprietor-managed private schools is typically poorer than that of the other two school management types. Oneway of measuring wealth is by looking at the possessions of the household. Data were gathered on whether ornot the family owned a car, motorcycle, TV, telephone, fridge, tape recorder, etc. It was known that in all but onepossession, the ownership of a car / van, the proprietor-managed private school pupils came out to be the poorestin the three school management types. That is to say, the students in the proprietor-managed private schools havethe least of the following items: motorcycles, colour television, telephone, fridge, tape recorder, gas cooking,bicycle, and computers. Students in the villager-managed private schools have the most cattle (N.B. in the ruralareas of Gansu Province, families with cattle would be regarded as the low-income families). The difference inownership of these items was statistically significant between the three management types in all cases.Therefore, it can be concluded that the family economic situations in the proprietor-managed private schools aresignificantly worse than that in the villager-managed and public schools.The family economic situation can also be measured using the indicator ‘parent’s occupation’, since theiroccupation can influence the family economic situation. The data shows that 1.8% of students’ mother are self- 29
  4. 4. European Journal of Education and Learning, Vol.3, 2007 ISSN(paper)2668-3318 ISSN(online)2668-361X www.BellPress.orgemployed, which is more than in the proprietor-managed (0.0%) and villager-managed-managed (0.1%) privateschools. The result is signficant (χ2 = 19.117, df=2, Significant, p<0.05). Furthermore, 92.89% of students’mothers in the public schools are peasants, compared to 94.2% in the villager-managed and 96.9% in theproprietor-managed private schools. There is significant difference among them (χ2 = 6.207, df=2, Significant,p<0.05).With reference to the father’s occupation, it is revealed that more students’ fathers in the public schools are inmanual wage employment (10.4%), self-employed (1.8%), wage employment (1.0%), or professional (2.7%)than those in the villager-managed (5.9%, 0.3%, 0.0%, 0.9% respectively) and those in the proprietor-managedprivate schools (9.6%, 0.0%, 0.4%, 2.2% respectively). There are statistically significant differences amongthem. However, concerning father’s occupation as a peasant, more students’ fathers in the villager-managed(92.6%) and proprietor-managed (84.2%) private schools are doing this kind of job than those in the publicschools (80.9%). The result is significant (χ2 = 63.316 Significant, p<0.05). To sum up, parents in the publicschools are undertaking better jobs than those in the proprietor-managed and villager-managed private schools.Family income is a very powerful index in judging family wealth. Information was gathered concerning theannual family income from the parents themselves. 2,448 parents provided this information. It can be seen fromthe data that families in the proprietor-managed private schools have the lowest annual family income among theschool types. The mean value of household income per year in proprietor-managed schools is RMB 2556.78(£180.69), which is statistically and significantly lower than that in villager-managed (RMB 2670.03 / £180.69)and public (RMB 3337.65 / £235.88) schools. The difference is significant (χ2 = 12.781, df=2, p<0.05). It can bejudged that student’s economic situations in the proprietor-managed private schools is poorer than that in thevillager-managed and public schoolsFigure 1: Family household income annually in school types Total h ou seh old in com e p er year 4 00 0 0 2 00 0 0 0 villa g e rs p ro prie to rs p u b lic m a n age m en t ty p e of sch oo lsThe parents were asked to comment upon whether or not the family receives any financial support from others.This data were gathered because it was considered that this could help explain the student’s family economicsituations. 70% of parents in the proprietor-managed schools stated that they borrowed money from outsidecompared to only 65% in the villager-managed and 57% in the public schools. The difference is significant (χ2 =24.192, df=2, Significant, p<0.05)The number of rooms in the family home can also be a good indicator of wealth. The greater the number ofrooms the more wealthy the family. It can be seen from the results that the mean number of rooms of students inthe proprietor-managed private schools is 4.12, which is less than that in the villager-managed (4.41) and public(4.68) schools. The difference is significant (χ2 = 23.669, df=2, p<0.05).Besides examining family possessions, the student’s home and how it was constructed were also investigated. 30
  5. 5. European Journal of Education and Learning, Vol.3, 2007 ISSN(paper)2668-3318 ISSN(online)2668-361X www.BellPress.orgStudents were asked about the type of floor, wall, and roof of their home. The choices for the type of floor weremud or cement, wood or other, the type of wall was mud, cement, wood, stone, iron sheet, or other, and the typeof roof was grass, iron sheet, or china. It is one way to examine the family economic social status. If the family’shome has a cement wall, it could be judged the family is wealthier, since cement is more expensive than mud inthe rural areas. However, it was found that it was too complicated and not easy to make judgement during thedata analysis, so only floor with mud, wall with mud, and roof with mud were chosen for analysis. The resultsindicate that compared with villager-managed private schools and public schools, more students in theproprietor-managed private schools live in a house with a mud wall and mud floor and the result is significant(the type of floor in the building is mud: χ2 = 50.007, df=2, p<0.05; the type of wall in building is mud: χ2 =27.474, df=2,, p<0.05).In conclusion, after analysis of family possessions, parental occupation, family income, number of rooms andtype of building at home, and whether the family get any financial support from outside; it can be summarisedthat the household economic situations in the proprietor-managed private schools is significantly poorer than thatin the villager-managed and public schools. Therefore, it appears that students attending proprietor-managedprivate schools in the rural areas are from the poorest families.3.4. Educaitonal background/ environmentIn order to consider whether the parents’ education influences student achievement and to test whether this canbe one reason why one school type outperforms another. Data were collected on the educational attainment ofthe pupils’ parents. It can be shown that in both the number of father’s education years and the number ofmother’s education years, the parents in the proprietor-managed private schools are the lowest among the schooltypes. Concerning the number of children’s father’s education years, the mean in the proprietor-managed privateschools is 5.04 years, compared to 5.33 in the villager-managed and 6.35 in the public schools. The result issignificant (χ2 = 70.781, df=2, p<0.05). Regarding the number of years of the children’s mother’s education, themean in the proprietor-managed private schools is 2.30 years, while that in the villager-managed private andpublic schools are 2.61 and 3.72 years respectively (χ2 = 85.072, df=2, p<0.05).A priori it could be stated that the greater the number of books at home, the more of a positive effect onoutcomes; assuming that family has more interest in academic and literature. It is found out that the meannumber of books at home in proprietor-managed private schools is 37.35, which is more than that in the villager-managed private schools (34.80) and less than that in the public schools (43.20). There is significant differenceamong them (χ2 = 49.442, df=2, p<0.05)Whether parents help their students or not with homework potentially might influence student learning. Thefindings demonstrate that more than half of the parents in the proprietor-managed private schools report that theyhelp their children with their homework, compared to 39.3% in the villager-managed private and 48.1% in thepublic schools and there is significant difference among them (χ2 = 19.120, df=2, Significant, p<0.05).Another aspect that could influence a child’s ability is the ability of an elder member of the household to read orwrite fluently in Chinese. The data shows that only 68.9% of elder members in the proprietor-managed privateschool’s families can read or write in Chinese fluently, compared to 76.5% in the villager-managed private and85.2% in the public schools and there is significant difference among them (χ2 = 46.489, df=2, p<0.05).In summary, among the three school types, the students’ parents in the proprietor-managed private schools havethe lowest education level, the family has the least number of books at home and the children have fewersiblings, and a lower percentage of elder members can read or write fluently in Chinese. Therefore, the student’sfamily education environment in the proprietor-managed private schools is worse than that in the villager-managed private schools.3.5. Educational and Occuptational ExpectationsA priori the parent’s expectations for their children could have an effect on the child’s achievement. That is thehigher the expectations, the higher the achievement owing to positive influences from the parent. Thereforeparents were asked to provide the answer to the following question: what were their highest aspirations for theirchild in Class 3? The findings revealed that 14.0% of parents of children in the proprietor-managed privateschools wanted them to take a diploma, compared to 12.6% in the villager-managed and 9.5% in the publicschools. The result is significant (χ2 = 7.327, df=2, Significant, p<0.05). On the other hand, there are no parentswhose children are in the proprietor-managed schools that want their children only to be able to read and write. 31
  6. 6. European Journal of Education and Learning, Vol.3, 2007 ISSN(paper)2668-3318 ISSN(online)2668-361X www.BellPress.orgThis is not the case in the other school management types where 2.7% of parents in the villager-managed and 1%of parents in the public schools have as their highest aspiration that their child should be able to master readingand writing. The difference is significant (χ2 = 13.840, df=2, Significant, p<0.05). There is no statisticaldifference among the three school types in other options of parent’s educational expectations: the highestaspiration by the parents for their class 3 child is to compete up to primary education level (χ2 = 2.354, df=2, NotSignificant, p>0.05); the highest aspiration is to complete up to vocational training level (χ2 = 4.367, df=2, NotSignificant, p>0.05); the highest aspiration is to complete up to secodnary level (χ2 = 4.543, df=2, NotSignificant, p>0.05); the highest aspiration is to compete up to take a degree (χ2 = 4.570, df=2, Not Significant,p>0.05); and the highest aspiration is to become a professional engineer or doctor (χ2 = 3.521, df=2, NotSignificant, p>0.05).The child’s own expectations regarding education and occupation may also influence, positively or negatively,their academic achievement. In this research, pupils were invited to give the answer about their expectation ofoccupation and education. Concerning the expectation of occupation, the data indicates that compared to theother two types of schools, the pupils in the proprietor-managed private schools have the highest occupationalexpectations. The lowest percentage of pupils in the proprietor-managed private schools have not thought abouttheir future occupation, or their occupation expectation is to be housewife or self-employed, while the highestpercentage of pupil’s in the same type of schools want to be a manager or administrator, or to be a professional,or working in the government. For instance, only 8.3% of pupils in the proprietor-managed private schoolsreports that they have not thought about their occupation yet, compared to 23.7% in the villager-managed privateschools and 20.2% in the public schools (χ2 = 28.084, df=2, p<0.05). Only 0.4% of children in the proprietor-managed private schools chose that they want to be a housewife, compared to 3.9% in the villager-managed and2.2% in the government schools (χ2 = 11.192, df=2, p<0.05). By contrast, 15.4% of pupils in the proprietor-managed private schools want to be a manager or administrator, compared to 8.8% in the villager-managed and10.3% in the government schools (χ2 = 9.111, df=2, significant, p<0.05). Furthermore, 15.0% of children in theproprietor-managed private schools mention that they want to work in the government, compared to 9.6% in thevillager-managed and 10.9% in the government schools (χ2 = 6.012, df=2, significant, p<0.05). Higheroccupational expectation of children in the proprietor-managed private schools is shown by the fact that nearlyhalf (47.9%) of pupils report that they want to be a professional, such as an lecturer, or doctors, compared to39.3% in the villager-managed and 45.4% in the public schools (χ2 = 8.877, df=2, significant, p<0.05).Pupil’s expectations regarding education were also surveyed. Pupils were asked about their expectationsregarding their own education. The findings tell that more students in the proprietor-managed private schoolswant to pursue undergraduate or master education level, compared to the other two types of schools. Forexample, 17.5% of pupils in the proprietor-managed private schools want to undertake further study atundergraduate level, compared to 14.0% in the villager-managed and 11.5% in the public schools (χ2 = 7.405,df=2, significant, p<0.05). The other example is 7.9% of students in the proprietor-managed private schools wantto receive Master education, compared to only 4.4% in the villager-managed and 4.5% in the public schools (χ2= 6.694, df=2, significant, p<0.05).By comparing the pupil’s education and occupation expectations among different school types, it is revealed thatthe students in the proprietor-managed private schools have the highest occupation expectations.3.6. Home – number of siblingsAnother background variable was also collected: the number of siblings at home. The data shows that proprietor-managed private schools have the least number of siblings, compared to other two school types. The meannumber of siblings in the proprietor-managed private schools is 1.20, compared to 1.41 in the villager-managedand 1.32 in the public schools. The result is significant (χ2 = 15.590, df=2, p<0.05).3.7. School VariablesIt would be expected that the child’s school will negatively or positively influence their achievement. Data weregathered about the activities in schools as well as how the school functioned. The findings illustrate differencesexisting in the school types.The total number of hours the student spends in school differ depending upon the school management type.Students in the proprietor-managed schools spend most time at school in a week. The mean amount of time is42.23 hours, compared to 39.79 hours in the villager-managed and 39.89 hours in the public schools. The 32
  7. 7. European Journal of Education and Learning, Vol.3, 2007 ISSN(paper)2668-3318 ISSN(online)2668-361X www.BellPress.orgdifference is significant among the three school types (χ2 = 47.225, df=2, Significant, p<0.05Some schools have classes where children of different ages sit together to learn from one teacher. This might bethe case where there is a shortage of teachers or even a shortage of students. The data gathered regarding multi-grade teaching and whether this is carried out on a regular basis or not concludes that more proprietor-managedprivate schools use the form of multi-grade teaching on a regular basis, compared to the other two school types.Nearly half (49.2%) of proprietor-managed schools adopt multi-grade class teaching methods, while this is onlythe case in about one quarter of villager-managed schools - 24.4% of them and a very small proportion of publicones - 8.9%. The difference is significant (χ2 = 250.094, df=2, p<0.05). In addition, 60% of the proprietor-managed private schools adopt multi-grade teaching regularly, compared with only 24.4% in the villager-managed and 10.9% in the public schools. The result is significant as well (χ2 = 310.454, df=2, p<0.05).The stability of the schools may impact on student attainment. Therefore data were collected concerning thenumber of times the headteacher had changed in the last 10 years and when the school itself had beenestablished. It can be seen that the proprietor-managed private schools change headteachers the least number oftimes (with the mean of 2.09) than in the villager-managed (with the mean of 2.97) and public (with the mean of2.91) schools. The result is significant ((χ2 = 37.675, df=2, p<0.05).Whether the school has vital equipment may be important concerning the children’s achievement. Therefore itwas noted whether the school had chalks, dusters and desks for the children to sit at. The teachers were asked toprovide the answer for this question rather than the headteachers. As far as dusters, chalk, and desk provision isconcerned the proprietor-managed schools all had dusters and chalk and in 95% of them the children had desks.The public schools all had chalks, with only a handful not having dusters. Also 94.5% had desks provided forstudents. The villager managed schools also had high provision with 95% having dusters, 97.6% having chalksand 91.5% having desks. The difference is statistically significant (Dusters: χ2 = 44.964, df=2, significant,p<0.05; Chalk: χ2 = 38.411, df=2, significant, p<0.05; Desk: χ2 = 9.788, df=2, significant, p<0.05).Finally, the number of times a headteacher observes their teacher’s lessons could also influence student academicachievement – monitoring by headteachers has been found to be significant in other studies. This informationwas answered by the current teachers in the school. The data shows that compared to the other two school types,the headteachers in the proprietor-managed private schools observe their teacher’s teaching most frequently. Forinstance, only 0.4% of headteachers in the proprietor-managed schools never observe their teachers lessons,compared to 4.9% in the villager-managed and 8.6% in the public schools. The result is significant (χ2 = 27.175,df=2, Significant, p<0.05). Furthermore, 20.6% of the headteachers in the proprietor-managed schools observeteacher’s lesson on a daily basis. In the villager-managed private schools the figure is 6.4% and pubic schools6.7%. There is significant difference among three school types (χ2 = 56.804, df=2, Significant, p<0.05). Inaddition, 21.5% of headteachers in the proprietor-managed private schools observes teacher’s teaching activitytwo times a week, compared to 11.1% in the villager-managed and 9.6% in the public schools. (χ2 = 27.235,df=2, Significant, p<0.05). On the contrary, 32% of headteachers in the proprietor-managed private schoolsobserve their teacher’s teaching once a week, while nearly half of headteachers in the villager-managed and37.1% in the public schools do so. There is significant difference among them (χ2 = 10.801, df=2, Significant,p<0.05). A very small proportion of headteachers in the proprietor-managed private schools (9.6%) observesteaching activities once in two weeks, compared to 19.2% in the villager-managed and 16.7% in the publicschools. The result is significant (χ2 = 12.656, df=2, Significant, p<0.05).3.8. Teacher VariablesIt could be hypothesized that one of the greatest influence on student attainment is the actual teacher one has inthe classroom. First what is set out here is whether there are any differences between the type of teacher thatteaches in the three management types. Data were collected from the teacher of Class 3 in all of the schools.The data shows the results of teacher’s age and IQ. It can be seen that compared to villager-managed and publicschools, teachers in the proprietor-managed private schools are the oldest with the most teaching experience, butthe teacher’s IQ in the proprietor-managed private schools is the lowest.Pertaining to the teacher’s age, the teachers in the proprietor-managed private schools (with the mean age of38.24 years) are older than that in the villager-managed (with mean age of 36.54 years) and public schools (withthe mean of 34.09). The result is significant (χ2 = 57.289, df=2, significant, p<0.05). Concerning the teachers’ 33
  8. 8. European Journal of Education and Learning, Vol.3, 2007 ISSN(paper)2668-3318 ISSN(online)2668-361X www.BellPress.orgIQ, the mean teacher’s IQ in the proprietor-managed private schools is 54.21, while that in the villager-managedprivate schools and public schools are 47.61 and 49.61 respectively (χ2 = 42.746, df=2, significant, p<0.05).There is a significant difference among them. The teacher’s working experience is similar to the teacher’s age.The teacher in the proprietor-managed private schools (with the mean of 15.52 years) has more teachingexperience than that in the villager-managed (with the mean of 14.68 years) and public schools (with the mean of12.11 years) and the result is significant (χ2 = 54.647, df=2, significant, p<0.05).The frequency of teachers using textbooks in the class potentially influence student learning. The teachers wereasked the question: “do you use textbooks every time in the class or not?” The teachers were also asked whetherthey use textbooks during every lesson. It can be seen from the data set that the majority of teachers in theproprietor-managed private schools use textbooks every lesson. 90.4% of teachers in the proprietor-managedschools use textbooks every time in class, compared to 76.9% in the villager-managed and 88.2% in the publicschools. There is a statistically significant difference between the management types (χ2 = 61.283, df=2,Significant, p<0.05).3.9. Summary of FindingsThe findings so far revealed that in both subjects, the students in the proprietor-managed private schoolsperforms significantly better than those in the villager-managed and public schools. Furthermore, it is found thatalthough the pupils in the public schools are younger and have higher cognitive abilities (measured by higherIQ), they did not get the highest academic achievement among three school types. Moreover, differences amongthree school management types were analyzed from four perspectives: pupil, parents, school, and teacherrespectively, with data gleaned from questionnaires filled in by pupils, their parents, the school manager andclass teacher, and by tests for the children and their teachers.It is illustrated from the research findings that compared to the other two school types, the student’s householdwealth in the proprietor-managed private schools is significantly poorer than that in the villager-managed andpublic schools, while the student’s family education environment in the proprietor-managed private schools isworse than that in the villager-managed private schools. Students in the proprietor-managed private schools havethe higher occupation expectation than those in the villager-managed and public schools.Regarding the different school management types, it is found that pupils spend more time in class in theproprietor-managed private schools and more proprietor-managed private schools adopt multi-grade teaching ona regular basis than another two school types. What’s more, in the proprietor-managed private schools, theheadteacher post is more stable and teacher’s lessons are observed more frequently by the head than in the othertwo school types.Finally, as far as the teacher is concerned, compared with villager-managed and public schools, the teachers inthe proprietor-managed private schools are the oldest with the most years of teaching experience and the lowestIQ. It is presented that more teachers in the proprietor-managed private schools use textbooks every time inclass than those in the villager-managed and public schools.4. DiscussionThe official view is that “rural education serves as the foundation, the driving force and important factor thatinfluence the overall building of a well-off society in an all-round way” (People’s Daily, 2003). In a bid to reducethe gap between rural and urban education in China and improve education quality in rural schools, the newChina Compulsory Education law requires teachers in the urban schools to work in rural ones for a certain timeto make up for the inadequate rural educational resources. However, can rural education quality be improved bydoing so? Our research findings suggest that the above method may not work in the rural areas – it might notimprove education quality, but might make rural education worse. Our findings go against those, for instance,from the USA, which find that ‘quantitative analyses indicate that measures of teacher preparation andcertification are by far the strongest correlates of student achievement in reading and mathematics, both beforeand after controlling student poverty and language status’ (Darling-Hammond, 2001). One of the significantfindings of this research was that in the villages, the teachers with high education qualifications do not make apositive impact on student learning, while those teachers with junior or senior education qualifications, born inthe rural areas can positively and significantly effect student academic achievement.The research also suggests if the government is concerned about the education quality in rural areas, oneimportant channel to do so may be that the school should provide regular teacher in-service training to teachers 34
  9. 9. European Journal of Education and Learning, Vol.3, 2007 ISSN(paper)2668-3318 ISSN(online)2668-361X www.BellPress.orgso that help improve and enhance student learning, which complies with Angrist & Lavy (2001)’s study findingthat ‘… in-service teacher training provided a cost-effective means of increasing student test scores’ (Angrist &Lavy, 2001, p. 343). Moreover, the Chinese government recognise the importance of teacher training, especiallyfor those teachers in the remote areas, and launched a teaching resource network to offer a long-distance trainingfor teachers nationwide.It is known that China is one of the developing nations with the world’s highest population with the majority ofits citizens residing in rural areas. Therefore, rural education gains attention from the Chinese government - ‘theChinese government regards promotion of education in poor areas as an approach to poverty reduction’ (Zhang,2006, p. 265). Furthermore, Zhang (2006) suggests that the promotion of rural education can effectively reduceeducational disparity, regional disparity, gender disparity, and ethnic disparity; it can also increase economicgrowth rates and farmers’ income; and contribute to the reemployment of redundant rural labourers. At thecurrent rate, ‘over 80% of primary school and 64% of junior high schools are located in the rural areas’ (Zhang,2006, p. 262) to provide education for those children in the rural areas.Zhang (2006) concludes that the Chinese government has dedicated itself to promoting the expansion ofcompulsory education nationwide and has sought to cater to the needs of disadvantaged population groups in therural contexts. The Chinese government has launched a special aid program to help the disadvantaged children.These programmes include: the National Compulsory Education Project for Poor Area (1995-2000 with 12.46 billion RMB investment and 2001-2005 with 7.25 billion RMB investment), the State-Subsidized Stipend for Students from the Poor Families (1997 with 130 million RMB investment and 2001-2005 with 100 million investment per year); the Special Aid for Free Textbooks (2001-2003 with 700 million RMB investment); the Allowances for Teachers’ Salaries (since 2001 with 5 billion total investment per year); the Reconstruction of Dilapidated Building (2001-2003 with 3 billion total investment and 2003-2005 with 6 billion total investment); the Distance Education Program for Rural Schools (2003-2007 with 9 billion total investment).In addition, ‘reform in China has led to unprecedented economic expansion since 1978. The costal area hasexperienced higher growth rates than the hinterland, which has enlarged income disparity between the tworegions’ (Chen & Yi, 1999, p. 1). If uncorrected, the uneven growth not only threatens the ultimate success ofChina’s economic reform, but will also bring about serious social and political problems. The Chinesegovernment thinks that it is a positive relationship between education and growth and regard education,especially basic education, as a way to stimulate economic growth of the hinterland so that it allocated 10 billionRMB (£0.7 billion) to improve basic education in the western area of China, including Gansu Province.Furthermore, another 10 billion RMB (£0.7 billion) will be invested to establish 7, 730 boarding schools for 2.03million students in 955 counties in the western and poverty-stricken areas, including Gansu. The motivation ofbuilding boarding schools might be that the government is aware of that existing public schools are too remote toserve some of the poorest communities and so move children to the larger villagers with public boarding schools,which is one way to improve accessibility for the most disadvantaged. However, such a policy will clearly haveother implications for rural and family life – particularly if young people contribute to the economy in terms ofhelping around the home and farm after school. For example, it is very good idea to send children to receiveeducation in school, but it will bring troubles to those families relying on children to help doing housework, suchas farming, raising cattle, and other domestic works, so that the family economic situations in those familiesmight be becoming poorer than before. Thus it will enter a non-virtuous circle or a spiral of decline. The familybecomes poorer, so then they will need more labours to help them to make more money, and then parents will bereluctant to send their children to go to school. 35
  10. 10. European Journal of Education and Learning, Vol.3, 2007 ISSN(paper)2668-3318 ISSN(online)2668-361X Policy: children from the remote areas go to public boarding schools Family will lose main labour for domestic and farming works The family will become poorer The family will have to ask their children not to continue to go to school and help family with farming workHow could we solve this problem? The problem could be solved by those private schools located in the remoterural areas. As mentioned earlier, compared with the public schools, the private schools are located in the moreremote rural areas and the majorities of these private schools are not paid attention to by the government, simplybecause they are not in the official list. Therefore, private schools currently existing to serve the most remotevillagers should be recognised. Furthermore, development funding could be channelled to help these schoolsimprove, through grants or loans, to facilities access to the poorest children through targeted scholarship, and / orto assist other villagers to open school in areas not served by public schools. It was found that a limited amountof local government subsidy was already directed towards private school, which is suggested that this assistancemight be extended. In this way, the poorest might be assisted without having to engage in a mass movement ofchildren away from their home villages, with its possible disadvantages, as outlined above.Apart from the nationally funded projects, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has also organized regional projectsthat mobilize resources from developed Provinces to help poor Provinces, and similarly, from urban cities to helprural townships in the form of staff training, human resources, and material support using a contract-basedoperational mechanism. The Non-government organizations (NGOs) also carry out projects to improve basiceducation in rural areas. These NGOs include the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation; China CharityFunds; All-China Women’s Federation; China Youth Foundation, Guangcai Charity Foundation, CommunistYouth League.The international community also provides support to help promote basic education, including UNESCO, theWorld Bank, UNICEF, UNDP, the Asian Development Bank, DfID, and many other international donors. It isnotable that European Union has provided large financial aid over a five-year period (totalling Euro 15 million orabout 10 million pounds) to improve education in Gansu Province, similar to the British DfID (totalling £12.5million) over a six-year period. All these financial aid effort aimed at developing public schools exclusively.With the intention of reducing education inequality (EU-China Gansu Basic Education Project, no date, p. 4), theEU project consists of teacher training, facilities improvement, and provision of scholarship to ‘disadvantagedbut excellent student’ (EU-China Gansu Basic Education Project, no date, p. 2). Similarly, the DfID project alsoaims to ‘reduce the inequalities which exist in the education system’ (Gansu Basic Education Project, no date, p.1) through the introduction of school development plans (SDPs), teacher training, and scholarships for the‘poorest and most disadvantaged pupils, especially girls’ (Gansu Basic Education Project, no date, p. 5).However, it was notable in our research that we came across public schools under these programmes that weresituated in the less remote and larger villages. It was discovered from the research that in those remote and poorareas, the number of public schools is scare, concentrating only at the centre of the areas and children in otherareas, if they wish to attend have to walk some two or three hours to go to the nearest public schools. Therefore,the establishment of private schools in those regions caters for the educational needs of the local residents andcreates more educational opportunities for children, especially those from very poor families, which comply withthe demands of the society development.The initiatives set out above all concentrate on government schools. This research found that the private sectorare playing a role in providing education for the poorest in the rural areas therefore it should be suggested that in 36
  11. 11. European Journal of Education and Learning, Vol.3, 2007 ISSN(paper)2668-3318 ISSN(online)2668-361X www.BellPress.orgthe future private schools might usefully be given support to further the government’s aims. These schoolsshould be allowed to play a more positive role in the economic development of the Province. In order to achievethis the governmental organizations, business associations, domestic and international enterprises and individualscould be encouraged to support the development of private education in rural Gansu Province. Private schoolssituated in the most remote and inaccessible villages did not in general receive any assistance or support – and itwas suggested by our respondents that the public schools, including those receiving development aid, were tooinaccessible to pupils in these remote villages to be of any benefit to them. One implication of the researchfindings is that, if reaching the poorest is a development goal for the Chinese government and the internationalcommunity, then using at least some funds to raise the quality of, and improve access to, private schools may bemore effective than targeting only public schools.However, due to the national funding deficiency, the Chinese government reformed the rural compulsoryeducation administration and clarified the various levels of the government’s responsibility. The core of thereform is that the county government1 is chiefly responsible for promoting and providing compulsory education,since ‘farmers are able to provide the majority of the necessary funding for education in rural areas’ (Zhang,2006, p. 264). Unfortunately, because of economic difficulties, those counties don’t provide or invest enoughfunds in education in order to meet the basic learning needs of school-based children and can barely provide allschool-aged children with full access to education. Under such circumstances, in order to sort out the financialconstraints, two major strategies have been employed by the Chinese government. One is an initiative formobilizing community resources, and another is one incorporating international aid. Therefore, Zhang (2006)mentions that ‘the provision of basic education for rural areas has been a joint effort of the society through themobilization of all social sectors’ (Zhang, 2006, p. 268).It is very important to stress the existence of fee-charging private schools in the rural areas of Gansu Province,which is long-term being ignored, neglected, or unnoticed by the local government. It was reported by the schoolprincipal that the most important motivation of establishing the private schools was to overcome problems ofchildren travelling great distance to public schools, thereby eliminating worries of parents and it was found fromthe research findings that the reasons of parents sending their children to the private school is because the privateschool is near to their home, compared to the public one. Therefore, the emergence of private schools in the ruralareas is to make up for the insufficiency of public schools and satisfy the educational need of the localcommunities. Moreover, concerning the fees charged by the schools, it was found that there is no statisticaldifference between public and private schools in charging fees from students. Even more, in Long Nan and LingXia region, the school fees charged in the private schools is significant lower than that in the public schools,which breaks many people’s assumption that the private schools charge higher fees than public ones. In additionto the school distance and fees, another reason of parents sending their children to the private school might bebecause their students can have better and higher achievement than attending the public school. Therefore, theexistence of the private schools in the rural areas of Gansu Province is to satisfy the educational needs of thelocal community and provide better teaching quality for students with a fraction of costs.In China, the issue of profitability of private schools is always highly debated in academic and official levels.According to the 1995 Education Law of the People’s Republic of China (Ministry of Education), Article 25states that ‘any organization or individual may not establish schools or other educational institutions for thepurpose of making profit’. Furthermore, article 37 of the Regulation on Schools Run by Social Forces states that‘accumulation and savings from private school operations can be used only in increasing educational investmentand improving the conditions of a school. They cannot be distributed or invested outside the school’.It is indicated obviously from the above regulations that investors or entrepreneurs shall regard their investmentin private schools only as a kind of voluntary and non-for-profit contribution to the public good, instead ofexpecting any return. One of the reasons why the government does not allow private schools to make profit isthat the government fears that ‘some individuals or organisations might use the name of running a school to reaphuge personal gains or to shield their business profits from taxation’ (Lin, 1999, p. 160). Some experts agreewith it, stating that education is a ‘public welfare’ undertaking and not a business, while others insist that thecommercial operation of schools is beneficial to the increasing demand for socio-economic development. Evenmore, some people hold the belief that without being profitable, private schools cannot survive and expand. Tian1There are five levels of local government in the People’s Republic of China: province, prefecture,county, township, and village. Among them, the prefectures are under provinces and the villages areunder the townships. 37
  12. 12. European Journal of Education and Learning, Vol.3, 2007 ISSN(paper)2668-3318 ISSN(online)2668-361X demonstrates that ‘It is true for any business that without profit there cannot be development and expansion. Big profits allow for big development, small profits allow for small development, and no profit for no development and bankruptcy ensues. Profit is the driving force of the market economy and private schools are the outcome of the development of a market economy in our country. Lacking any investment from the government, we are just fooling ourselves to reject profit.’ (Tian, 1995, p. 22).In this research, in the economically underdeveloped rural areas of Gansu Province, it is found that aftercontrolling student background, the predicted student academic performance in both subjects of maths andChinese in the proprietor- and villager-managed private schools are significantly better than that in the publicschools and the private schools charge similar tuition fees to the public ones. It can be summarised thatcompared to the public counterparts, the private ones are more cost-effectiveness. One possible explanation ofacademic superiority of proprietor-managed private schools is that because of profit. The private schools aresurviving by receiving fees from students. In order to compete with government schools, they have to be moreincentive to improve teaching quality in the local region than public schools without charging more. Thegovernment should consider this profound significance and allow private schools to make reasonable profit.5. ConclusionComparison of students’ maths and Chinese attainment scores of Grade 3 students among proprietor-managedprivate, villagers-managed private and public schools were made. Initially, comparing the raw scores of student’smaths and Chinese between private and public schools, it is indicated that the private school is worse than publicschools in both subjects of maths and Chinese. The mean of student’s maths and Chinese in the private school is61.85 and 54.83 respectively, while that in the public school is 65.78 and 57.25 respectively. The differences arestatistically significant. Then, in order to further explore the detailed differences in student raw achievementsbetween different management types of private schools and public schools, the database was split into threecategories: proprietor-managed private school, villager-managed private school and public school. Aftercomparing the student’s maths and Chinese raw scores again, it was discovered that the students in theproprietor-managed private schools perform significantly better among the three school types with the mean ofmaths and Chinese being 61.58 and 67.56 respectively, followed by public schools (57.25 in maths and 65.78 inChinese) and villager-managed private schools (53.23 in maths and 60.48 in Chinese). The villager-managedprivate schools came out worst among three school types. Even after controlling for student innate ability, suchas IQ, and social-economic background, it is found that the students in the proprietor-managed private schoolsstill achieve best among the three school types. More importantly, the villager-managed private school’s positionimproved relative to government schools in student scores of both subjects. The students’ predicted scores ofboth maths and Chinese in proprietor-managed private schools are 60.85% (maths) and 84.98% (Chinese), whilethat in villager-managed private schools is 56.14% (maths) and 76.21% (Chinese) and that in public schools is55.96% are (maths) and 67.16% (Chinese).Moreover, the research evidence shows that the family economic situation of students attending private schoolsis generally poorer than those in the public schools. Generally it was found that the facilities and state of theschool buildings of the private schools were lower than the government alternative, with a couple of exceptionsconcerning inputs.It was also realised that the private schools exist in the villages of the Gansu Province serving the educationalneeds of low-income families. The Chinese government is devoted to providing free education for every child bythe year 2008 with special attention to children in rural areas. One implication arising from this research is that,if the Chinese government can recognise the role and the existence of private schools, this target may beachieved much more easily and in a much shorter time.6. ImplicationsWhat are the implications of these findings? The private schools in the rural areas seem to be serving what theparents want. The research has revealed that after controlling for student and family background, both types ofprivate schools (proprietor-managed and villager-managed) are leading to higher standards in both subjects ofChinese and mathematics with similar charges. Therefore private schools that are operating in the rural areasshould be brought to the attention of the national and international communities. Moreover, it would seem that 38
  13. 13. European Journal of Education and Learning, Vol.3, 2007 ISSN(paper)2668-3318 ISSN(online)2668-361X www.BellPress.orgthe existence of this sector has implications for development policy, both for the Chinese government and forinternational development agencies.The findings of this research might have huge implications for the government’s objections to the profit motivein education. Bringing profit to education might be a good thing. There is a growing recognition that privateschools are operating in a competitive environment and more efficient than public ones. For example, within thepublic schools, under the present education system, there is little incentive or encouragement for them to deliverservices more cheaply or effectively, while within the private ones, because of incentive of profit (such asmaking more surplus), they are always anxious to ensure to keep costs as low as possible and keep standard highAnother implication is that Provision of professional in-service training to rural teachers could improve studentlearning performance, and should be seen as a possible policy intervention to help raise standards in rural privateschools.It also implies that Local and rural teachers with education level from primary to senior high school can advancerural academic achievement, and it may not be necessary for the Chinese government to send in teachers fromoutside to help promote educational quality improvements. Also, in order to let children from the poorest receiveeducation, investment in ways to improve the quality of private schools might be a very effective way.7. Suggestions of expansion of private schools for the poor in rural Gansu ProvinceThe recognition and active development of private schools in rural areas need to be stressed. The development ofrural private schools can reduce poverty in the economically underdeveloped regions as well as promoteeconomic growth. Furthermore, China learned a great deal about the worldwide “Education for All” movementfrom the World Conference on Education for All in Jomtien in 1990 and the International Forum on Educationfor All (EFA) in Dakar in 2000. With the best development of private schools, this target may be achieved moreeasily and more quickly. Therefore, the recognition and active development of private schools in rural areas needto be stressed.How can those rural private schools for the poor be developed and expanded, and how can the government andsocial entrepreneurs be involved in this process? As far as the local government is concerned they could give theprivate schools support and administration advice. Furthermore, the sound, complete, and smooth mechanism ofteachers transferring from public to private schools or from private to public schools should be set up, whichsafeguards the private schools can attract suitable teachers from time to time. In addition, local, national andinternational entrepreneurs could assist and invest in private schools in order to improve them through updatingand perfecting teaching facilities and school buildings. On the other hand, they could design or introduce newand innovative curriculum and teaching methods for those schools to further enhance their teaching quality.Moreover, in the rural areas of China, in order to change the situations of funding deficiency, various forms ofrunning the schools should be advocated and supported, making full use of outside capital, such as ‘shareholders’private schools, schools set up by the enterprise(s), and schools run by foreign capital.References:Coleman, J., Hoffer, J., and Kilgore, S. (1982) Cognitive Outcomes in Public and Private Schools, Sociology ofEducation, Vol. 55 (April/July), pp. 65-76Lockheed, M., & Jimenez, Emmanuel (1994) Public and Private Secondary Schools in Developing Countries:What Are the Differences and Why Do They Differences and Why Do They Persist? Washington: the World Bank,Education and Social Policy Department, pp. 9-10.Lassibille, G. and Tan, J. (2001) Are Private Schools More Efficient Than Public Schools? Evidence fromTanzania, Education Economics, Vol. 9 (2), pp. 145-172.Dixon, Pauline (2003) Regulation of Private Schooling for Low-Income Families in India: An Austria EconomicApproach, Unpublished PhD Dissertation, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.Jimenez, E., Lockheed, M., and Watanawaha, N. (1988) The Relative Efficiency of Private and Public Schools:The Case of Thailand, The World Bank Economic Review, Vol. 2 (2), pp. 139-164.Jimenez, E., Lockheed, M., and Watanawaha, N. (1988) The Relative Efficiency of Private and Public Schools:The Case of Thailand, The World Bank Economic Review, Vol. 2 (2), pp. 139-164.Jimenez, E., and Cox, D. (1989) The Relative Effectiveness of Private and Public Schools: Evidence from TwoDeveloping Counties, Washington D.C.: The World Bank. 39
  14. 14. European Journal of Education and Learning, Vol.3, 2007 ISSN(paper)2668-3318 ISSN(online)2668-361X www.BellPress.orgAlderman, H., Orazem, P. F., Paterno, E. M. (1996) School Quality, School Cost, and the Public/Private SchoolChoices of Low-Income Households in Pakistan, Working Paper Series on ‘Impact Evaluation of EducationReform’ Paper No. 2, Washington D.C.: the World Bank.Lin, Jing (1999) Social Transformation and Private Education in China, London: Praeger Publisher.Liang, Xiaoyan (August, 2001) China: Challenges of Secondary Education. Secondary Education Series 22856,Humane Development Network, Washington D. C.: the World Bank.Xu, Zeyu (2002) An Overview of Private Education Development in Modern China, Vol. 10 (47). USA: TeachersCollege, Columbia University.Chow, G. (2005) Are Chinese Official Statistics Reliable? Munich, Germany: CESifo. Prepared for CESifoEconomic Studies Conference on Understanding the Chinese Economy.People’s Daily (2003) China Promotes Education as Key to Solving Rural Problems (September 21). Availablefrom:, Linda (2001) Teacher Quality and Student Achievement: A Review of State Policy Evidence,Education Policy Analysis Archives, Vol. 8, No. 1, (January 1).Angrist, J. D., & Lavy, V. (2001) Does Teacher Training Affect Pupil Learning? Evidence from MatchedComparisons in Jerusalem Public Schools, Journal of Labour Economics, Vol. 19 (2), pp. 343-369.Zhang, Tiedao, and Zhao, Minxia (2006) Universalizing Nine-Year Compulsory Education for Poverty Reductionin Rural China, Review of Education (2006), No. 52, pp. 261-286.Chen, Baizhu, & Yi, Feng (1999) Determinants of Economic Growth in China: Private Enterprise, Education,and Openness, China Education Review, Vol. 11 (2000), pp. 1-15.Education Law of the People’s Republic of China (1995), The Eighth National Peoples Congress.Tian, Xin (1995) On Profit, World of Education Run by Social Forces, NO. 4, 22. 40