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Author  :       Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2014-02-28

As professor Fan Xianzuo from the School of Education of Central China Normal University explains, pedagogical economics is an interdisciplinary subject, which focuses on the problems of educational development which arise during the process of economic growth. It aims to interpret the relationship between economic construction and educational development, as well as providing support for the allocation of human resources and economic decisions. In recent years, the development of this discipline has received increasing attention within China’s academia.

Five problems with pedagogical economics in China

Pedagogical economics has been seen as an independent discipline since the late seventies. Pedagogical economics in China has developed rapidly in terms of its research teams, theoretical framework and research methods, following the increasing recognition of the role of education in economic development.

Cui Yuping, a professor from the School of Education of Suzhou University, claims that the discipline is currently undergoing an important period of rapid development, and that the interaction of educational and economic reforms has created a beneficial environment for scholars, who are conducting empirical research on the basis of China’s experience. One of the main reasons why western scholars have taken the high ground in this field is that they possess a relatively complete and easily available database. In this respect, China still has a long way to go.

After conducting statistical research on a range of articles on pedagogical economics, Cai Wenbo, director of the Normal School of Shihezi University, has determined that there are five main problems with the way that this discipline is approached in China. The first problem is that experts and scholars are currently paying less attention to pedagogical economics than they were a decade ago. Secondly, pedagogical economics has little influence on other fields of study, and especially on economics, and this is not conducive to the mutual integration of pedagogy and economics. Thirdly, most scholars in this field only conduct short-term research, thus affecting the development of good research teams. Fourthly, the most important authors of essays on pedagogical economics publish mainly in the eastern region, while the central and western regions are under-represented. Finally, the scope of research in this field is relatively imbalanced, showing insufficient depth and breadth.

Focusing on the fiscal system of public education

“Fiscal expenditure on education accounts for 4% of GDP, and we should focus on the improvement of the fiscal system of public education”, said Professor Zhang Xuemin, from the Faculty of Education of Southwest University, at the 2013 annual meeting of pedagogical economics in China. Professor Zhang also expressed his view that it is necessary to deepen the reform of the fiscal and financing systems of education, and explore how the government and market can cooperate in the process of allocating educational resources.

“4% is actually not enough, and this figure needs to increase”, claims Chen Xiaoyu, professor of the School of Education of Peking University. He explains that as a national target for fiscal policy, the figure of 4% is always regarded as the main basis for the educational and financial divisions of government at all levels to increase investment, and also as a core index for the society to evaluate the performance of educational fiscal policy.

Chen feels that taking 4% as a target is very restricting. First of all, it ignores the changes in educational scale which are related to the age structure of population, thus affecting the utilization efficiency of public educational funds; secondly, the sources of government revenue do not necessarily link up with GDP, and this objectively restricts the government’s ability to balance public finances; and finally, national policies are difficult to implement due to the different levels of administration of educational finances.

Chen suggests that it is necessary to continuously increase expenditure per student, public funds per student and teacher’s salaries, rather than focusing on the proportion of educational expenditure within total fiscal expenditure.

Working for the reform and development of China’s education

It is important for scholars in this field to think about how to develop a school of pedagogical economics with Chinese characteristics, and also to reflect on how to enhance the efficiency of the use of educational resources, so as to fundamentally guarantee the quality of education and educational fairness.

In order to develop a school of pedagogical economics with Chinese characteristics, the things to focus on are creating a school of thought, promoting collaborative innovation and possessing an international vision,” says Professor Cui. When it comes to research methodology, Cui suggests utilizing previous experience and reviewing existing classical theories in order to determine new principles

Wang Shanmai, director of the Branch of Pedagogical Economics of the Chinese Society of Education and professor of the School of Economics and Business Administration of Beijing Normal University, also has some advice to offer for the field’s future development: first of all, research on pedagogical economics should pay attention to the theoretical and practical issues arising in the process of reform and development of China’s education; secondly, it is necessary to judge whether or not western theories are suitable for China, and in the meanwhile build up a school of pedagogical economics with Chinese characteristics; and finally, the research should provide support for the educational decisions and administration of the government.



The Chinese version appeared in Chinese Social Sciences Today, No. 554, 27th January, 2014.

Chinese link:



  Translated by Chen Meina

  Revised by Gabriele Corsetti

Editor: Du Mei

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