Handbooks of Research on Contemporary China series
Edited by Yingjie Guo
Chapter 9: The high school entrance exam and/as class sorter: working class youth and the HSEE in contemporary China
The question of educational inequality in China has drawn tremendous scholarly and popular attention over the years. Sociologists, economists, and educational experts each approach the question from a different perspective. Some seek to understand problems such as differential access to education among different sectors of the population (e.g. rural or urban; Han or minority; male or female); others examine how educational resources are inequitably allocated. Recently, a great deal of scholarly and popular attention has focused on rapid growth in the tertiary education sector, and how this has created new inequities by simultaneously expanding opportunities for some youth to enter the growing urban middle classes, while also creating a new group of under-employed and unemployed university graduates (Lian 2009). My own recent research has studied the social and educational inequities associated with the secondary vocational sector (zhiye xuexiao). In previous work (Woronov 2011, 2012) I have argued that vocational schools are an institutional site for producing a new segment of China’s urban working class. Just as housing provided Zhang Li (2010) with insight into the spacialization of class among the new middle classes, and factory-based dormitory regimes serve as a privileged site for Pun and Smith (2007) to study the formation of a new working class, so too do vocational schools provide an institutional site to explore the ways that education produces new working class formations.
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