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Role of rural education in poverty alleviation

Author  :  DAI YAN and CHEN WEIJIA     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2020-11-12

Middle school students in Rongshui Miao Autonomous County, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region walked to classrooms after playing reed-pipe wind instruments. These students gained a chance of studying at schools in and near resettlement, avoiding an arduous trek back and forth in mountains. Photo: Huang Xiaobang/XINHUA.

Poverty alleviation is a prerequisite for the national strategy of rural vitalization. Winning the battle against poverty through education is important to implementing and promoting strategies which bring vitality to rural areas.

Targeted implementation

The success or failure of poverty alleviation work depends on precision. Poverty alleviation through education is the most effective and direct targeted poverty alleviation approach. It can effectively meet the development needs of various impoverished people in different regions. It plays an important role in stimulating poverty awareness, improving people's ability to overcome poverty, and preventing the intergenerational transmission of poverty.

Since the reform and opening up, China has successively issued relevant implementation plans about poverty alleviation education policies, and launched a series of poverty alleviation education action plans, which specifically involve preschool education, compulsory education, high school education, vocational education, higher education, subsidies for poverty-stricken students, and investments in teaching staff for poor areas. Preferential poverty alleviation through education has gradually evolved to targeted poverty alleviation through education. At present, China's poverty alleviation educational initiatives have entered a sprint period. With a new focus on accurately identifying the needs of different poor areas and impoverished people, the government should implement their action plans and ensure that resources for education poverty alleviation are used correctly.

Precise implementation of action plans is the key to improving sustainability while eliminating poverty and advancing the capacity building of impoverished people. Based on differences within rural areas' geographic environments, resource endowments, economy, society, history and humanities, it is necessary to implement policies that adapt to each time, place, and person. Meanwhile, teaching resources in rural areas need to be enriched, the structure of rural education should be optimized, rural talent training models must be reformed, the self-development capacity of impoverished people should be enhanced, and human capital must be cultivated to rejuvenate rural areas.

Collaborative system

Poverty alleviation is a complex and huge systematic project that requires concerted efforts from all departments and fields. In retrospect, over 70 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China, poverty reduction efforts have been characterized by a vertical poverty governance structure centered on a responsibility (for poverty alleviation) system and a horizontal poverty governance structure centered on broad participation in poverty alleviation. The vertical poverty governance structure refers to the responsibility system of poverty alleviation where "the central government plans the project as a whole, provinces take overall responsibility and counties shoulder responsibility of implementation." The horizontal poverty governance structure features broad participation in poverty alleviation collaborated by the government, market and society, centered around industrial poverty reduction, special poverty reduction, and social poverty reduction.

Poverty alleviation education has a fundamental and strategic position as an important part of the Chinese poverty policy system. Under government leadership, the market, schools, social organizations, and citizens should fulfill their responsibilities, cooperate with, and complement each other, participating together to alleviate poverty. In order to win the battle against poverty through high-quality education, it is necessary to systematically improve vertical cooperation systems for poverty alleviation education. This means the education system should be facilitated by Party secretaries at all five levels (provincial, city, county, township, and village levels), and the horizontal cooperation system should include government, enterprises, communities, and school participation.

Evaluation work

A scientific and reasonable evaluation mechanism of targeted poverty alleviation and its operation can provide important feedback for poverty alleviation policies, plans and projects, to adjust and continue to ensure the orderly progress of poverty alleviation and development. At present, targeted poverty alleviation has gradually formed an evaluation mechanism which establishes a provincial evaluation system, an APP-data collection system, a standardized statistical analysis system, a platform of big data evaluation, and a system for training all staff. The evaluation work mainly focuses on the accuracy rate of impoverished people's identification, the accuracy rate of counting those who have been lifted out of poverty, and people's degree of satisfaction with the assistance work for each village and each household. Poverty alleviation through education is often regarded as a general consideration which fails to fully reflect the implementation effect of education poverty alleviation policies, plans and projects.

To ensure that poverty alleviation education will be successfully implemented and increase its accuracy, efficiency, and sustainability, we need to strengthen the construction of educational supervision and assessment systems, innovate with a third-party evaluation mechanism and optimize evaluation tools and methods to provide practical data and feedback for poverty alleviation through education and promote evaluation work.

To strengthen the construction of supervision and assessment systems for poverty alleviation education, it is necessary to establish a supervision and assessment department, establish and improve a dynamic follow-up observation and supervision mechanism, as well as an accountability mechanism. Then, evaluation work in the context of rural vitalization can proceed in an orderly fashion. With the innovation of a third-party evaluation mechanism, social forces can be involved in evaluation work, and the construction of an evaluation team can be strengthened. In addition, we should pay attention to follow-up visits and tracking surveys, explore and build an index system to evaluate the work of education poverty alleviation. The in-depth evaluation and analysis of actual effects will provide a realistic basis for how to adjust and upgrade rural vitalization strategies. Optimizing evaluation tools and methods will support construction of cloud computing platforms about poverty alleviation education, and provide reference data and policy suggestions for rural vitalization scientifically, quickly and effectively.

Long-term mechanisms

In order to improve the efficiency and quality of poverty alleviation, consolidate the achievements of poverty alleviation, and prevent a return to poverty, it is imperative to build a long-term mechanism for poverty alleviation. Poverty alleviation through education is the most sustainable and fundamental way to reduce poverty, and it plays a strategic, leading, and continuous role in the practice of poverty alleviation. The long-term mechanism of poverty alleviation education establishes an institutional system that maintains and guarantees the continuous, stable, and efficient advancement of educational poverty alleviation work in accordance with normal operation procedures and basic mechanisms of education poverty alleviation work. This can provide corresponding institutional guidance for different poverty alleviation educational initiatives.

Building a long-term mechanism for poverty alleviation through education requires a multi-dimensional, multitiered, and wide-ranging pattern to build precise identification mechanisms. These mechanisms include diversified financing mechanisms for educational resources, an efficient distribution mechanism, and a mechanism to enhance coordination and interconnection of subjects and objects. In this way, high-quality educational resources can be accurately, effectively and continuously distributed.

The construction of a long-term poverty alleviation education mechanism should not only recombine the elements of poverty alleviation education effectively, but also adjust and optimize the relationship between subjects and objects related to education. Meanwhile, it should ensure the sustainable and steady progress of educational poverty alleviation, and avoid the disconnection between education and rural vitalization.

In short, poverty alleviation through education is the priority and a core measurement for winning the battle against poverty. Education is also a livelihood project that helps poor areas enhance their "hematopoietic function." Through implementing the targeted poverty alleviation education plan, improving the collaborative system for education, promoting evaluation work for education and establishing a long-term education mechanism, we can win the battle against poverty through high-quality education. As such, this will cultivate human capital for rural vitalization, improve the organizational effectiveness of rural vitalization, serve to construct think tanks focused on rural vitalization, and strengthen the endogenous drive of rural vitalization.


Dai Yan and Chen Weijia are from the School of Ethnic Education at Shaanxi Normal University.

Editor: Niu Xiaoqian

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