Free Challenges and Opportunities of Women’s Education in China Essay Sample
The 21st century is an era of the rapid development of scientific knowledge and economics worldwide. A special place is given to information technologies, which make profound changes in all spheres of life, which, apparently, is a necessary trend in future world progress. There is an increase in living standards, the pace of development of science, engineering, and technology. Under these conditions, in China, over the past 10 years, the volume of education has grown rapidly, the number of university students has increased many times. The increase in the number of graduates, being generally a positive phenomenon for the country, at the same time leads to a number of cultural and social problems. Among them, the main one is the employment of graduates in their specialty, and women are in a particularly difficult situation. Despite all the attempts and reforms of the government, there are still many critical issues that significantly impede the improvement of women’s education in China.
Inadequacy of Education to Labor Market Needs
Inadequate access to education does not mean that there is no work for female graduates in China. It should be said that the available vacancies do not always coincide with the specialty received, and even more do not meet the expectations of students, especially if they graduated with honors from prestigious educational institutions and are determined to have a good career. For women, this situation is exacerbated. Enterprises are reluctant to provide them with jobs, no matter how they study at the university, their promotion opportunities are limited. Women are offered a small selection of vacancies, and many graduates are at risk of unemployment. To get a highly paid and prestigious job, women must demonstrate a certain range of knowledge and skills, as well as personal qualities such as energy and patience. As it is possible to notice, gender equality has long been a critical issue in China and this problem remains relevant to the education system.
Graduates from prestigious, world-famous universities are 20% more likely to be hired; knowledge of foreign languages gives an advantage; a master’s degree is rated higher than a bachelor’s degree. Professions that require knowledge of foreign languages and literature (translator, teacher) are considered to be “female” in China, the competition with men for employment in this profile is small. But women who have received a legal, economic and technical education, who have studied management and banking, are perceived in China as intruding into the “male” sphere and are subjected to severe discrimination. It should be noted that as of 2016, 96% of rural female students have primary education, while 79% go to secondary education. In other words, the situation with education in rural China is much more critical than in big cities. Hence, the mismatch between the labor market and the education system (especially in rural areas) is a consequence of China's cultural background.
In addition, the division of professions into “female” and “male” is perceived by Chinese women as a limitation of their personal capabilities and at the same time as a brake on the social development of the country. Surveys show that, in their opinion, equal quality of education, talents, and abilities should give equal opportunities for employment and professional growt. In addition, problems in finding a job immediately after graduation force students (especially in technical specialties) to continue their education in graduate schools and research centers in China and abroad. This increases their chances in the future. For example, 80% of women studying at the University of Beijing plan to continue their education abroad in order to increase their competitiveness in the labor market. As it is possible to notice, education in China for women presents great difficulties.
The deteriorating position of women in the Chinese education system has two main reasons. Firstly, this is the destruction of the socialist system of distribution to enterprises after graduation and the government’s self-removal from employment issues for graduates. Secondly, these are gender stereotypes that prevail in society, including employers. It is generally accepted that in a market economy and fierce competition, men surpass women in all respects (physical strength, work efficiency, ability to quickly respond to difficult situations, easily adapt to changing conditions, work independently and proactively). Thus, the female gender a priori makes a woman uncompetitive in both education and the labor market, she simply does not have the opportunity to apply her education and prove her professional suitability. That is, the main problem of women’s education in China is not its inaccessibility but the lack of opportunities for applying the acquired knowledge.
Cultural Background of Educational Discrimination
As already mentioned, discriminatory gender stereotypes towards women are based in China on a strong cultural tradition. Zhao, & Jones write that it goes back to Confucianism, which shaped the nature of family and social relations in China, influenced the management system and the state, and was the basis of the education system. In traditional China, the destiny of a woman was a family hearth and complete submission to a man. Confucianism cultivated certain traits of a female character, namely humility, patience, restraint in the manifestation of feelings. These traditions cannot quickly recede into the past, despite the emergence in society of new trends and values. And even today, both in universities and family, women are encouraged to obey and conformism. A girl who dares to have her own opinion that does not coincide with the generally accepted one is condemned.
Studies show that gender stereotypes, deeply rooted in the cultural tradition, affect not only the minds of male employers but also the minds of women themselves, disorganize them when choosing an educational specialization and looking for work. Today, Chinese female students fluctuate between the traditional orientation toward marriage and family and the new values of professional and career growth. Still, Chinese law has not developed mechanisms to protect women from discrimination in obtaining education and employment, as well as in the process of work. There are a huge number of examples when enterprises, announcing recruitment for jobs in the competition and conducting special exams, employ men even if women showed better results. Guo, & Zhang write that 43% of employers in China consider the criterion for the attractiveness of a woman to be employed as important, while education is on the second place. In short, both the education system and the labor market in China pay more attention to external criteria than academic achievement or professional competence.
Alternatives to Women’s Education in China
Failures in employment, possible ambiguous and abusive situations often disappoint female students, deprive them of their will and self-confidence, generate a passive attitude towards life. On the opposite extreme, one can note the negative attitude that some female graduates of educational institutions have towards their roles, men and family, and the desire to compare with men in everything. Such women join the army. OECD writes that the number of female students wishing to serve in the army over the past 5 years in China is more than male students willing to devote themselves to military service. At the same time, Guo, & Zhang also writes that this is a consequence of the fact that military service in China has traditionally enjoyed less prestige than civilian activity. There is a stable stereotype of consciousness that military service is the destiny of dysfunctional and uneducated people. That is why there is an increase in the number of female graduates of educational institutions who decide to serve in the army. So, in 2015, among the graduates of the Beijing Technical Institute who decided to devote themselves to military service, there were 41% of girls and 49% of boys, and if students with high academic achievement prevailed among girls, then students showed low academic success.
In large cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Dalian, many female university students initially consider the time of study as a period of searching for suitable suitors and do not seek to fully acquire knowledge. The most desirable way is considered to be a marriage with a foreigner from developed countries of the West (the USA, Canada, Australia, Germany, etc.). Already during education, some female students draw up albums of their photos on the model of professional movie actresses and send them to prestigious companies, i.e. pre-rely not on professional knowledge but on appearance. Gender inequality in China leads to the opening of peculiar schools. So, in 2017, the Chinese authorities discovered and closed an institution that taught women to obey men. There is also a practice of joint employment, when a girl agrees with a graduate of a prestigious higher educational institution who has a diploma and, therefore, high chances of getting a profitable job, that he will insist on her hiring as his partner. Thus, it is easier for a woman to get a good job with the help of a man.
Educational Discrimination in China – Current State
The problem of women’s education in China has complex socio-cultural causes and is not limited to a lack of jobs. In China, there is no need to talk about the overproduction of specialists with higher education but rather the opposite. Chinese society as a whole is interested in improving the level of education and the quality of the workforce. The state is also interested in employing women by profession. Given the importance of the problem of education and employment of all graduates, including women, the Ministry of Education of the PRC began to develop a set of measures that, with the help of administrative, economic and legal levers, should lead to the creation of close ties between universities and enterprises. The Government of China at a new level seeks to create a system of production practice and the distribution of graduates to the country’s enterprises, which would allow the rational use of human resources.
Graduates of higher educational institutions are the potential for the development of the country. A particularly acute shortage of specialists with higher education is felt in rural areas of China, which, by the level of economic and social development, lag behind large cities by 20-30 years. The problem, however, is that graduates are reluctant to go to rural areas and small towns since the standard of living in them is much lower in all respects (cultural, domestic, economic ones). First of all, there are many times fewer wages. For the development of rural areas of China, government support is required, and above all, the provision of a number of benefits and social guarantees for young professionals who agree to move to crisis areas. These may be salary allowances, housing, vacations, etc. In recent years, such forms of education have begun to develop in China that are initially oriented towards the future employment of students, that is, specialists are being trained to order a certain enterprise, industry, district.
The education system is forced to adapt to a dynamically changing market economy but this creates a number of problems. Firstly, in China, there are many traditional professions that are still in demand by society. But applicants who do not have life experience and aspire to get a prestigious profession often choose an advanced specialty, leaving the question of employment open. Thus, professions based on typical traditional qualities and preserving the heritage of the ancient culture are not in demand among the younger generation, including women. Secondly, universities in an effort to attract as many students as possible to paid tuition open the most relevant specialties of a very narrow profile. In this case, there is a great risk that by the time of graduation, the acquired specialty will have time to become outdated, and narrow specialization will not allow finding application in education in any close field of activity. This situation puts graduates in a very difficult position. For women, it can become a real crisis in education.
To solve these problems, timely information support of universities, analysis of the near and long-term trends of the labor market, coordination of the education system with employment centers and enterprises are necessary. Recently, the PRC government, which has large information and organizational resources, has taken the initiative in solving the above issues. According to Xia, & Hyer, in the past five years, there has been a tendency toward a convergence of the education system and enterprises, including private commercial structures. Mutually beneficial cooperation between higher education institutions and enterprises is that employers provide graduates with places for work experience and subsequent employment while influencing the training program. They partially finance the training of students, getting the right to choose the most capable and successful graduates. Entrepreneurs consider investing in education as an investment in future development, which can improve product quality and make the enterprise more competitive.
The task of higher education is to help female students to master certain specialized and scientific knowledge, as well as develop modern thinking and behavior skills. Chinese traditional culture has been patriarchal and authoritarian for centuries and in many ways, these features are inherent in it even now. The regime of most Chinese educational institutions is not conducive to mastering the skills of independent thinking and activity, self-organization and individual responsibility. The will of students, especially girls, is often suppressed, the initiative is perceived negatively, character traits such as passivity, indifference, conformism, secrecy, arrogance, intolerance to other people’s opinions are fixed. The authoritarian stereotype of behavior comes in sharp contradiction with the modern type of scientific knowledge and gives rise to internal conflict among students, which can lead to personal drama, mental illness, and also significantly complicates education, employment, and professional activities.
At present, the education system is tasked with promoting the adaptation of female students to the realities of modern society. For this, it is necessary to develop a comprehensive program of socio-cultural and psychological support through various student unions, interest groups, women’s clubs, etc.. In these organizations, they will be able to acquire active skills, realize their leadership and mutual assistance abilities, gain confidence in themselves, which will significantly increase the chances of finding work in a specialty. In the last few years, working with information and computers, intellectual abilities have become a new area of application of female labor in China. In working with information, such as traditional female virtues as accuracy, concentration, perseverance, and mental flexibility find the application. Today’s computer networks are huge commercial companies and working in such companies, women contribute to the humanization of their activities, changing the corporate style to a livelier and softer one, introducing certain femininity into the world of the commercial technogenic environment.
In the PRC, new professions are rapidly developing, opening up a wide educational field for women (fashion designer, designer, make-up artist, a manager in the tourism and hotel business, etc.). More and more girls choose the profession of home economics consultants, find the information they need for the client, attend fashion shows, presentations of new products. With rising incomes in China, interest in quality of life has increased. For example, girls who have received a healthcare education additionally choose counseling in the field of dietetics, (they are called nutrition regulators), and are in demand both in hospitals and at home. For 15 million people, there are only 10 nutrition specialists, so there is an opinion that in patients with medical institutions many patients do not die from an illness but from an improper diet. The demand for this profession is growing, and it is becoming fashionable and prestigious. The rapid growth in demand for this and related professions forces Chinese female students to emigrate abroad (most often in the USA) to increase the competitiveness of their education.
Despite the fact that China is showing some success in overcoming gender inequalities in the education system, the current situation with the education and employment of women has attracted the attention of the international community. On the one hand, there is a significant increase in the indicators of education among women and work in key positions. On the other hand, there are a huge number of complaints about gender inequality, inaccessibility of education for rural residents. For example, even in 2018, women had to get a higher score than men in order to go to university. In 2010, Chinese universities began to respond to a growing number of applicants and began to increase requirements for women, thereby maintaining gender balance in educational institutions. Obviously, such unfair practice interferes with true progress and reduces the effectiveness of all government programs.
The education system in China is outdated and requires further updating and reform by the government. As of today, despite the reforms, there are still significant problems with getting an education for women as well as with further employment. As the study found out, these problems are related to the cultural background of China, namely Confucianism. As it is known, social problems caused by the cultural background and mentality of an individual nation require an integrated and comprehensive approach to solve. Experts predict an improvement in the situation on the educational system for women in the coming years, an increase in the number of female specialists with higher education both in traditional professions and in new areas for China. Chinese women have a lot of work to do to win their place in society and to change traditional gender stereotypes. As a result of China’s accession to the WTO, they get more opportunities to communicate with Western peers, including feminists, which will contribute to the development of new social roles characteristic of modern society.