Women, Gender and Rural Development in China

Women, Gender and Rural Development in China

Edited by Tamara Jacka and Sally Sargeson

This multidisciplinary book explores gender politics in the discourses and practices of development in rural China. The contributors – scholars in political science, anthropology, gender, development and Chinese studies – examine how differently positioned women are shaping rural development, and how development is affecting women’s capabilities and gender power relations.

Chapter 6: Challenging the Gendered Dimensions of Schooling: The State, NGOs and Transnational Alliances

Heidi Ross

Subjects: asian studies, asian social policy, development studies, family and gender policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, family and gender policy, social policy in emerging countries


* Heidi Ross INTRODUCTION: THE ‘WICKED’ CONTEXTS OF GIRLS’ SCHOOLING Schooling may be a subversive or a conservative activity, but it is certainly a circumscribed one . . . The faith is that despite some of the more debilitating teachings of culture itself, something can be done in school that will alter the lenses through which one sees the world; which is to say, that nontrivial schooling can provide a point of view from which what is can be seen clearly. (Postman 1996: ix–x) This chapter presents a modest attempt to reveal the ‘what is’ of gender discrimination in China by exploring how it is (re)produced, maintained, and sometimes countered primarily through schooling.1 The context for analysis is a ‘Spring Bud’ partnership begun in 2000 between an international non-governmental organization (INGO) and the Shaanxi Province Women’s Federation (SWF). This Spring Bud project, which has funded the primary and secondary education of 1000 out-of-school girls, sheds light on what Sutton (1998: 382) has called the ABCs of girls’ education: access to schooling; benefits of schooling; and constraints to full participation in schooling. The project has aimed for educational equity rather than equality. If equality is the same education, equity is the right education. This definition contrasts sharply with the Chinese state’s deficit model of girls’ education, in which achieving gender parity in participation in schooling has been seen as key to poverty alleviation. The project helps us answer two questions critical to understanding the gendered project of Chinese schooling. What discourses of female...

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