School Education, Political Ideology and Social Mobility: A Comparative Study of 1950’s Mainland China and Taiwan

Apr 27, 2015 | 12:00 PM

Osawa Hajime (Assistant Professor of Chinese Area Studies, College of International Studies, Chubu University, Japan; Visiting research fellow, Toyo Bunko; HYI Visiting Scholar)
Chair/discussant: Elisabeth Köll (Associate Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School)

Co-sponsored with the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

In 1950s Mainland China, there was a rapid expansion of school education based on the following reasons: (1) to enhance national productivity, (2) to increase the number of students from worker-peasant class origins who sympathized with Communism, and (3) to allow the PRC government to maintain political legitimacy through the school education system. Meanwhile, educational aspirations had risen and in particular village people had a strong motivation to use entrance into middle school as an expression of social mobility. Thus, the expansion of school education grew from a concurrence of the interests of the PRC government and those of the people, albeit for different reasons. This expansion subsequently led to problems with education standards, causing the PRC government to change its education policy and increase the level of difficulty to enter middle school, resulting in social dissatisfaction. This presentation will detail the above phenomenon and its implications based on archival materials, followed by a discussion of the role of school education under the party-state system through a comparison with the rapid expansion of the school education system in 1950s Taiwan, as both areas share a similar language, culture and political system.

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