On July 31st, the CCTV show “Dialogue” did a show on the growing concern Chinese citizens have over the privatization of their education system. Since the post-Mao era, free market reforms have been put into effect all across the country. The vast majority of state enterprises were deliberately bankrupted and sold to private businessmen. Almost all of the public services in China have had the same done to them. The reactionary policies that began with Deng Xiaoping have not left education untouched.
The Chinese public, students especially, are becoming concerned that commercial incentives are threatening to erode the ethical fibre of academic integrity. Various educational institutions are competing for grants to study various fields and to work on new projects. As they vie for research dollars the threat of dishonest reporting of results has become more and more prevalent. Competition it seems is destroying the ability of researchers to do their job properly.
The host of the program, Yang Rui, made it clear that it was important to have an independent ranking of universities. Jim Wolfston, a guest on the program agreed that it was necessary, so that students could find the best school to apply to. He also said that it was necessary for universities to properly compete.
History has shown us that with technical and medical innovation, competition has been a hindrance not a motivation. All too often various groups working on the same project are unable to share information on a particular development because some investor is concerned about who will have the selling rights to the final “product”. This secrecy keeps parts of the final picture away from others who have parts. Imagine trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle with only a few of the pieces. The rest of the image you have to draw yourself without being able to look at the box cover. (This is one of the great advantages astrophysics and string theory has, no one can own anything, thus information can be exchanged freely.)
The program then went on to express that an unbiased method of ranking of universities was important so people could determine which universities were “prestigious” universities. The current affairs commentator Xie Tao explained that such a ranking is needed to determine things like student teacher ratio and how hard it is to get into a particular school. (Humorous here to see the market in action, more people want to go to a particular school therefore it MUST be a better institution.)
In practical terms this ranking, whether based on superfluous, or material conditions, is a promotion of class stratification. The fact is not all universities are equal when it comes to placing education in a competition system. Obviously the more affluent and wealthy customers, not student, will be able to pay more into a particular school. That school gets its academic and resource advantage attracting even more wealthy students. What this creates is an education system with the resources directed towards the wealthy class.
In the ideal, all educational institutions should be given resources based upon their need. Obviously a university with a greater number of students requires a greater allotment of resources. In creating a stratification of educational resources, and therefore opportunities, people with great ability but limited financial resources are unable to reach their true potential. A great mind or skill has gone to waste, not by a lack of resources, but a lack of opportunity.
Interestingly they fail to notice another one of capitalism’s many contradictions. They’re promoting a more honest and open way of judging the universities in China so that the market may take its full effect on deciding which universities are best. Yet at the same time they acknowledge that universities are manipulating the data given to be judged. For example, they subtract the academic scores of athletes who are on sports scholarships in order to bring up the GPA of the school, making it more attractive to students. Like a capitalist they all believe in the market, but try their hardest to manipulate it in horrible dishonest ways. Yang Rui literally says in the interview that they are seeking a “guarantee they are free from commercial incentives.”
The whole discussion was an exercise in free market promotion. I believe the point of this edition of “Dialogue” was to broadcast the message that despite all the problems caused by privatizing the education system, the elite and its puppets in the fake Chinese Communist Party remain committed to keeping it that way. This drive for an impartial way of measuring schools is a promise to the upper classes that the endemic corruption inherent within the system will be sorted out so that they may make sure that their children go to the “right” school. The university that will grant them the proper connections once they have finished. It will become more transparent to the upper class families which schools they must send their children to in order to keep up the advantages they have and maintaining them in the wealthy ruling class circles.
In my view the proper solution is the most radical one. A return to Maoism to solve this education problem would be the best solution. In the promising years of Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, schools were democratized. The students themselves chose what subjects they wanted to learn and how they wish to be taught. Students regularly held teachers up for review and decided if they were meeting the criteria or not.
It was students who lead the way in developing new technologies, not some private company shelling out cash to universities trying to make them do the work for them, only to turn around and profit from the work of those researchers and students. The students themselves saw the need and actively took up the task of solving problems.