After 30 years of societal reform and opening-up policy, China has made tremendous achievements in economic growth and education expansion. In the meantime, China has made nine-year compulsory education virtually universal, and the average years of schooling (AYS) has a sharply increased from 6.794 years in 1996 to 8.28 years in 2008. (Yang, Huang, Liu 2014) China now has the largest primary school system in the world, with an enrollment of 135 million primary school students and 5.9 million teachers in about 582,000 primary schools in 1999. (World Bank, 2002) In the secondary school level, China now has various types of education such as general secondary schools, specialized schools, and adult secondary schools etc. Meanwhile, scale of higher education has also expanded. In 2000, there exist 1770 higher education institutions, with 5.56 million students enrolled. (Minster of Education, China, 2001) Although policies promoting education have led to remarkable progress in educational attainment, also effectively decreasing educational inequality, yet inequalities in educational still remain. In this literature review, I will focus on presenting related articles documented the current situation and essential factors cause inequalities in education such as unbalanced development of regions, rural–urban divide in the household registration system, uneven allocation of high-quality universities and social stratification division. And meanwhile I will propose some plausible solutions to solve inequalities in the police perspective. 

Literature Review

Main factors

  1. Regional disparity

Recently, there are more and more literatures trying to explain the factors cause education inequalities. Hannum (1999) summarized the political change in China and drew a comparison between urban and rural areas from 1949 to 1990; the main finding was children in rural area are lack of education compared to those in urban area. Similarly, Qian and Smyth (2005) used Gini coefficient decomposition to study the educational gaps between rural and urban areas, and the coastal and inland regions of China. The result suggests that the major cause of education inequalities are disparities in access to education between rural and urban areas. As a result of unbalanced development between areas, developed areas have more educational funds and higher educational development. Meanwhile, owing to the disparity in resource allocation between urban and rural, over a long period of time, the urban area achieves greater social and economic development than the rural area. In fact, the largest part of educational investment is present in cities so that teachers with higher degrees and modern equipment for teaching are common in cites, while rare in rural areas. (Fu and Ren, 2010) 

Uneven development of education among regions and regional disparities under current admission played important roles in widening education inequality in China. After China central government conducted the decentralized funding policy, the amount of funding a university can generate is closely related to the economic development of the region it is located in. In general terms, governments, social organizations and individuals in the prosperous coastal areas are much more generous in funding universities than their inland counterparts. With 41.4% of the whole population, the coastal region received 55.8% of the education budget and raised 67.2% of the non-government education income of the whole nation in 2004 (Mok and Lo, 2007)

It has been observed that education for urban students is better than that for rural students in terms of quality and opportunity for further studies (Bao, 2006). First of all, the governments provided less funding for education in rural regions than in urban cities. This directly resulted in lower education quality in rural schools. In 2006, public funding for secondary schools in rural areas was 69.5 billion yuan (USD 9.2 billion), which was only half of the total expenditure on urban secondary schools (126.7 billion yuan, or USD 18.1 billion), but the population in rural areas was 1.3 times larger than that in urban regions in the same reporting year (NBSC, 2008). The underdevelopment of school education in rural areas seriously undermines successful progress from school to university and therefore challenges the equal access to higher education for rural students.

In addition, Bao (2006) states that the tremendous gap between the urban and rural areas exists not only in the unbalanced distribution of compulsory education funds but also in teachers’ levels. He further mentions the supply of academic-qualified and ability-qualified professional teachers of science, mathematics, English, and arts, a must for rural compulsory education, is very small, which then becomes a “bottleneck” that prevents the rural schools from implementing quality-oriented education and improving educational quality. Meanwhile, the problem of the aging of rural teachers is also very serious, such as in Anhui. In 2001, its rural primary teachers under the age of 35 accounted for 31% of the rural teachers, while it is up to 50% in urban primary schools (not including counties and towns), 19% more than that in rural primary schools. In Shandong Province, this proportion is larger: the teachers under the age of 35 in urban primary schools accounts for 55% of the total, and only 28% in rural primary schools, about a half of the former. (Bao, 2006)

Moreover, there is a huge gap in the higher education admission rates between urban and rural students. The higher education enrollment rate for rural students in 2002 was 2.37%, contrasting with 19.89% for urban students. Moreover, in the decade from 1990 to 1999, HE admission rates in rural areas increased by 4.33%, whereas the figure soared by 147.13% in urban areas. (Guo, 2005) Students in rural areas have been experiencing apparent disadvantages in competing with their urban counterparts. It would appear that the urban–rural disparity is evident that passive exclusion exists in China’s education. 


  1. Rural–urban divide and hukou system

Another driven factor leads to educational inequality is the unique Hukou system in China. The Hukou system, which registers urban and rural households separately, leads people to seek education where one’s residence is registered. Consequently, rural students are disadvantaged regarding educational attainment, especially with regards to good quality education which benefits the achievement of a higher degree. (Fu and Ren, 2010) Due to the rural–urban divide in the household registration system, students from rural areas cannot move to cities to acquire good-quality education, despite the fact that most of their parents are doing business and seeking jobs in cities. Moreover, unequal distribution and scarcity of good quality education cause those students who want to get a high-quality education but are not qualified for the exam to pay extra expense when selecting schools. According to Yang, Huang and Liu (2014), such fees are approximately 35,000 RMB, while annual per capital disposable income of urban household and annual per capital net income of rural households are only 15,781 yuan and 4761 yuan respectively. In fact, expenses for selecting a school place a heavy burden on a normal household. Scholars believed that the hukou system greatly influenced people’s social mobility, educational attainments, employment opportunities, and labor-market return. And more specifically, a person’s hukou status is a long-lasting label that represents his or her duty and rights to the state, and is determined by his or her place of birth and parental hukou status, rather than by his or her location or occupation (Cheng and Selden, 1994; Mallee, 2006). Consequently, the hukou system promotes inequality by favoring one individual with a certain status (nonagricultural hukou) over another with a different status. (agricultural hukou) (Fu and Ren, 2010)


  1. Gaokao issue and uneven allocation of high-quality universities

In addition to unevenly regional education development, inequality is simultaneously and deliberately widened by the highly differentiated policy on university admission. As we all know, most Chinese high school students need to take NCEE (National College Entrance Exam), which also named “Gaokao”, to enter universities, but the requirement for admission of each university varies from province to province. For instance, in 2009, the “yibenxian” (minimum requirements for admission into key universities in China) for examinees on the area of science in Shanghai was 455, while in Shandong and Hebei it was 586 and 569, respectively. (Li Wang, 2011) In order to solve this situation, government reforms the NCEE in 2002. However, this policy has not eliminated this issue fundamentally since it does not touch on the key factor leading to the different requirements – the uneven allocation of universities. (Zhou, 2006) Individual institutions develop their own admission plan and decide how many students they would recruit from different provinces. For example, Peking University and Tsinghua University, two prestigious universities in China, recruited 286 and 270 students in Beijing in 2009. These numbers were approximately 5 times the number in Henan province, whereas the population in Henan was 6 times as large as that in Beijing. Similarly, Fudan University, a top university in Shanghai, recruited 1259 students from the city, while only 57 students from Shandong were enrolled by the university in 2004. Consequently, due to the large number of high-quality universities located in the cities, students from other areas will face much higher admission standards than students in Beijing or Shanghai. (Zhou, 2006). 

Given the situation that most universities are located in developed regions such as the eastern costal area and top universities are concentrated in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, the disproportionate allocation system of university is severely criticized by people from disadvantaged regions. Additionally, the Hukou system in China has made the situation even worse. Controlled by the rigid Hukou system, people in China are not allowed to move freely among regions. Students are only allowed to apply universities in the province where their Hukou is registered (which is usually where they are born). Thus, for a vast majority of students, they are born with unequal opportunity to access quality higher education institutions. Disparity in higher education resource allocation has reinforced regional inequality in education. Therefore, in this case of active deprivation, the vulnerable group are students in provinces with less higher education resources, where resources are defined not just as HEIs but also high quality HEIs, and the direct cause for exclusion is the quota allocation mechanism. (Li Wang 2011)


  1. Social stratification division and income inequality 

As mentioned before, China has made compulsory nine years education universally, which has decreased the educational attainment gap both in urban and rural areas. The rising income inequality, however, may reduce the positive effect from education expansion, even leading to more education inequality (Yang et al., 2009). Moreover, owing to the scarcity of high-quality educational resources, such income inequalities enable advantaged groups to receive a disproportionate amount of the available high-quality education compared to the poor students. This kind of education inequality originating from severely uneven income is becoming a new rising factor, which causes inequality in the process of urbanization and industrialization. For instance, Yang, Huang, and Liu(2014) conducted an investigation of a respondents’ father’s work unit in each income level, and they found that people whose father worked as a peasant comprises the majority of the lowest 20% income group (first quintile), while offspring from the state-owned sector takes at least 40% of the fifth quintile group. The results demonstrated a tendency that if one’s father works in a state-owned sector, he would have more opportunity to enter the high-income group, which is always accompanied by higher educational attainment. Actually, the father’s work unit represents the inequality of educational opportunity and resources, and such gaps come from family background and social power which not only denominates one’s educational achievement but also affects one’s work and income in the long term. 

Yang, Huang and Liu (2014) stated that in China, although the government has taken some measures to reduce education inequality such as scholarship, financial aid, and transfer payments to less developed areas, education inequality based on family background has not yet been solved fundamentally. Households with social stratification advantages translate their social power and economic resources into better chances of education for their children. Nowadays in China, with the situation of deep income inequality and some employment discrimination based on family background, many students from disadvantaged groups abandon opportunities for higher educational achievement when considering opportunity cost. This kind of pattern seems not to build a barrier for disadvantaged groups, but forces disadvantaged groups to draw a ‘rational choice’ under huge pressures from economic or institutional factors. As a result, social stratification division has an important impact on one’s educational attainment, and the division between urban and rural makes such an effect deeper. (Yang, Huang, Liu 2014)


To sum up, we can conclude that even though Chinese government has achieved tremendous success in expanding education universally and improving the average year of schooling, yet there still exist inequalities caused by unbalanced regional development, increasing income inequality, Hukou system and unequal distribution of good quality education. Although most of the literatures have documented the inequalities exist in China education system, yet seldom of them specifically mention how to design effective solutions to address and improve this situation. Designing a scientific and reasonable mechanism is most needed and it should focus on the disadvantaged group’s educational desire and emphasize balanced development in education in all areas.

Some possible solutions

As proposed by Yang, Huang and Liu (2014), Chinese government should increase educational transfer payments to less developed provinces, especially for some poverty-stricken areas mainly located in the west. In addition, increasing the availability of higher education in central and western provinces will give students there a better chance to be enrolled in colleges. (Liu, 2015) Qian and Smyth (2005) suggested more financial aid should be offered to local governments in the form of direct subsidies from central government and inter-regional transfers from economically developed areas, which targeted at universalizing compulsory education in poor rural areas and assisting in equalizing access to education for children living in those areas. And government should establish national wide curriculum, teaching materials and textbooks in some subjects, standardize teacher qualifications and offer training programs for both teaching staff and administrators from rural areas. (Qian and Smyth, 2005)


The section explains how the research was carried out in accordance with the context of the study. The framework for research includes the various techniques used in the collection of information and the representation of the findings. As the study anchored on an extrapolated assessment of the inequalities and issues on the current educational system in china, a mixed method research was applied, since it incorporates mixed methods into data collection and describes data accessibly. A survey, document analysis by literature review and a sampling of the stakeholders ‘ population were considered as a qualitative method by creating a light to collect and interpret data.

Methodology is a way through which researcher conduct a study. The purpose of this research was to identify education inequalities issues in china. This chapter explains the type of research, population, sample size, tool of data collection, and procedure. 

Research questions 

  1. What are the educational inequalities prevail in higher education system in china? 
  2. Does the region of rural and urban affects the higher education system in china? 
  3. What kind of issues students and teachers has to face in higher education level of china?


H1:  There is a significant difference in education inequalities of male and female

H2: There is a significant difference in education inequalities of rural and urban higher education system

H3: There is a significant relationship between education inequalities and higher education system. 

Research method 

The research was performed using a mixed methodology. The researcher used both qualitative and quantitative methods. The data collection researcher used the survey process. After authorization data were collected from teachers in different institutions, the researcher visited educational institutes and got permission for data collection from the administration of institutes.

Type of research 

This is a descriptive type of research. It was carried out using the questionnaire through a survey. Gay L.R (1987) notes that the “description method is a system for collecting data to check or answer questions about the appropriate status of the subject of the research. A description of the process requires gathering data.


         Teachers of students of educational institutions were the population. Population refers to a group as a whole or to elements with common features.

Sampling technique 

         The data were collected through purposive sampling technique. 

 Sample size

        The sample size of this study was 50 teachers, consisting of 25 men and 25 women. Teachers working in various educational institutions provided requirements for the study. The teacher’s age range started at 25.  Nevertheless, higher school teachers were only selected. Teacher credentials differ between the matrics to M.Phil.

 Tool for data collection 

The researcher constructed a self-administered questioner under the supervision of the supervisor focused on a literature review. The questioner was developed and carried out in English. Only 25 questions were included, both close and open, finished as if yes or no. Many questions are structural, while others are split in two, the first is based on educational disparities that usually prevail in the higher education system. While others are based on issues of higher education policies. All these problems were classified at a 5-point scale Likert, and there was strongly disagreement between the choices.

3.11 Demographic description

















40 and above
















The sample of both  males and females are selected for this research. Through purposeful sampling technique, the investigator chose the sample. The sample  size included 50 participants, 25 men and 25 women. The sample was 25-45 years of age and older. The researcher selected teachers, whose qualifications vary from matric to m.phil. 

Sample description 

Graph 3.1:  Depicts the sample size and division according to gender. 

Graph 3.2: Depicts the sample size and division according to qualification. 


Graph 3.3:  Depicts the sample size and division according to age.

Test analysis 

The SPSS (Statistical Social sciences Package) version 24 was used for the quantitative analysis. Two independent t-tests and Pearson correlation were applied in order to analyze the hypothesis and to measure the differences. While the researcher used bar graphs in descriptive evaluation. The thematic analysis was used for the qualitative analysis research.


          First, the researcher created a self-administered questionnaire which the supervisor accepted in light of the literature review. Therefore, for data collection, the researchers visited various educational institutions. Eventually, at the specified point, the researcher reached the institutions. It was spread in Chinese rural and urban areas amongst teachers at private and public schools. The research aims at the respondents was clarified. The researcher assured the participants that their information would be used only for the purposes of the study and guaranteed privacy. The respondents answered questions.Using SPSS version 24 to analyze the data after data collection has been completed. And the researcher used thematic analysis for open-ended answers and identified three major themes.  


The chapter provides the basis for deliberation of the data obtained by means of the survey questionnaire and the sample population interviews. This is a description of the survey questionnaires. Since teachers collect the data, a description of the details given by the sampled population without affecting its validity is included in the analysis phase. Apart from the demographic factors and characteristics of the respondents, the approach ensures that a large number of the responses and input from the literature examined are incorporated into the overall result. As such, the chapter plays an important role in the way the knowledge gathered serves as an informative resource for recognized issues, which include help for the incorporation of students with special needs into contemporary education environments. 

Questionnaire findings 

The analysis consisted of a total of 50 questionnaires, distributed among teachers and returned the questionnaires by all teachers. The study was attended by all the teachers.

Qualitative analysis 

Table 4.1: Types of inequalities

Type of inequalities & Issues

Number of Students

Regional inequality 


Rural & urban differences 


Hukao system 


Gaoko issue 


Social stratification 


Income inequalities 


Lack of access to higher universities 



The table provides an overview of issues students has to face while getting higher education in china. Among the identified inequalities in the sample population,  teachers reported that students having major inequality is regional disparity, after rural and urban difference which could be in regional. Lack of access to higher rank universities, income inequalities, Gaoko & hukao system and social stratification in general. 

The researcher after analyzing all the data, three major themes/ factors were generated that if these issues would be resolved the inequality can be solved. Further survey would be require to check the extent, from students and teachers to which inequality prevails more and whats the reason behind. 

Factor 1: Indicates a regional disparity ( a disparity of rural & urban, long distance). 

Factor 2: Hukao system 

Factor 3: Indicates the Gaoko system

Graph 4.1 Major themes 



Quantitative analysis 

This research has been carried out in order to access the issues and inequalities in Chinese education. For the data collection the researcher has selected 50 participants, 25 males and 25 females. T-test and correlation were employed to test the hypotheses by the analysis researcher. Descriptive statistics were used by the researchers in all questions.

Table: 4.2

H1:  There is a significant difference in education inequalities of male and female

Independent sample t-test was used for measuring the difference in education inequalities of male and female.











Education inequalities 








Independent sample t-test was used to test the education inequalities male and female has to face in access to higher education. Results revealed that there was a significant difference in male inequalities (M=27.6, S.D=2.82) as compared to female (M=28.3, S.D=1.37), t (48) =.000. The outcomes suggests that female have to face less issues. They are less prone towards issues and inequalities as compared to males. 

Table: 4.3

H2: There is a significant difference in education inequalities of rural and urban higher education system

Independent sample t-test was used for measuring difference in education inequalities of rural and urban higher education system.











Education inequalities 








            Independent sample t-test was used for measuring the difference in education inequalities of rural and urban higher. Results revealed that there was a significant difference in rural and urban education inequalities (M=1.08, S.D=.277) and urban(M=1.00, S.D=.000), t (48) =.003. The above results showed that there are more issues and inequalities prevails in rural areas as compared to urban higher education universities. 

Table 4.4

H3: There is a significant relationship between education inequalities and higher education system. 

Pearson correlation is used to measure the relationship between education inequalities and higher education system..


Education inequalities 

Higher education system 

Education inequalities 





Higher education system 




There is a no relationship between education inequalities and higher education system (r=.612, n=50, p<0.05) was found. It means that there is no issues exists in system of higher education rather than other factors contribute to inequalities in education like regional disparity. 


China’s urban / rural educational divide is very severe and has already become a huge barrier to achieving sustainable and equitable academic, economic and social growth, which has hindered people’s pursuit of equal education. The citizens in the disadvantaged groups are not only keen to reduce the gap between urban and rural areas, but needs a comprehensive and general change of government and social policies. It is also an unwavering responsibility of all citizens.

The quality of rural teachers is a key factor in reducing the educational gap between urban and rural areas. But the problem is double-sided by modern rural teachers. Rural schools criticize high-quality, vocationally educated young teachers on the one hand, while excellently young graduates are rarely employed for rural work on the other. This means that rural areas do not have enough teachers.

It is therefore recommended that some special funds be allocated to a national’ One million rural teaching jobs ‘ project by the central government, to send graduates who have qualifications for teachers and good teachers into urban elementary and secondary schools into rural schools through a certain procedure, while specifying their working time and the appropriate treatment they will be able to receive.

In addition, China’s rural ^ urban dividing relationship between hukou status and return to education. First, the effect of hukou status on income is best explained by specific labor market characteristics such as education and employment. Hukou status ‘ independent partial impact on income is trivial. Second, the status of hukou mainly affects income by returning to education, though employment affects more income determination. Second, the gap between people with different hukao status is in return for education. The gap is also increasing with reductions in school years, and this disparity in primary education is approaching its height. In general, a return to education in China is affected by an individual’s education, just like in the US where foreign educated Asian immigrants earn less than US educated Asian immigrants.  While difficulties such as downward social mobility, fewer years of education and employment in the informal sector are an adverse reality for farm hukou workers, this paper illustrates an additional source of disparity between education and the hukou system. Two competitive theories will generally help us understand the social exclusion of people with hukou status in agriculture. Psychologists say the urban population must find a scapegoat or a minor party, who is responsible for the problems of urban life. Researchers also claim that the status of hukou acts as a indication of the significance of an individual to society and therefore, because of their relatively low human capital, individuals whose agricultural huku status identifies are discriminated against. While our empirical results support the latter view of labor market return, both theories play a role. Results from this study show that disparity in education quality plays an important role in deciding the return of the labor market in rural China.

An ideal admission system should also take into account things other than the range of standardized tests, including intellectual capabilities, innovative potential and leadership. But for modern Chinese society it is not feasible. In the beginning the majority of reforms and changes, including the recommendation policy and the autonomous registration, have been suspended or cancelled because of their vulnerability to corruption and fraud. While Gaokao is perhaps the Chinese Government’s most effective and fair practice, it will never be perfect to safeguard equity in admission against the influence of maneuver. We therefore suggest the government establish a faculty-wide and other academic community in higher education, where everybody is responsible for their suggestions and any decisions on admissions.

In addition to the Gaokao system, many other social factors contribute to equal treatment of access to higher education. Substantially, the unbalanced level of development among different regions and regions of China reflects the unbalanced Gaokao system. Moreover, restrictions on the system of household registrations have linked people to their registrations, depriving people of the right of free domestic immigration and, by impeding social mobility, exacerbating regional inequality. The political conflict over different periods may be another aspect that might result in the current situation. In the first stage of the growth of high education, the Chinese government was eager to keep up with the western countries through its spending, especially in some of the leading universities like “985” “211.” Education authorities are now considering eliminating the distinction between the funding of “211” and “non-211.” The main concern is the insufficient access to higher education. Reforms of the system itself would therefore be too simplistic to address the real problems. Politicians should be more forward-thinking to change the Chinese higher education system’s cultural and social context. In order to ensure higher education accessible to students from all regions and socio economic context, we propose that the government put its focus on the bridging of the differences in the number of EIS and the regional quotas between the different provinces and communities.


The purpose of the analysis is to examine Chinese educational disparity situation and development process. The results show that in recent decades, the strategy of education reform has helped to significantly reduce educational disparity and to strengthen the university system. There is a universal law that stipulates that the higher the level, the lower the gap in education. Overall, there are still significant educational differences between regions.

The findings are that the educational difference between urban and rural areas is so substantial, as there is more potential for people in urban areas to get better education. While the educational gap of men and women has dropped dramatically, the differences between men and women remain unchanged and should be taken into account, especially in rural poor areas. Educational transfers to less developed provinces should develop as a central government, and a financial system should be established under the governance of a provincial institutions. It should be noted further that the intergroup aspect is most important to achieve total educational disparity when the social stratification division involves influences. In particular, the distinction between strata deepens academic disparities between groups with income inequality history. Ultimately, age differential findings show that rising young people’s academic accomplishments play a major role in reducing educational disparity.

In order to know which of the above factors contribute most to educational inequality. The results show that urban-rural split contributes most to education inequality, and social stratification, age, gender gap, and regional gaps are increasingly important. It should be noted that the hukou system has created a disparity in education and development opportunities between urban and rural regions. In addition, the division of social stratification will intensify this already detrimental impact with the backdrop of rising income inequality. A relatively dominant class enjoys greater educational opportunities and good educational resources by combining system discrimination and power, but those with disadvantages are excluded. In China, this is a growing increase in educational inequality. The Chinese government has unfortunately devoted minimal attention to such inequalities in education and has not taken certain possible remedial measures.

China is now experiencing rapid economic development, because during the process of urban development and industrialization the government is trying to eradicate urban-rural division. In the coming decades, increasing numbers of farmers and their descendants can predict swarm into cities. Inadequate investments in education and unequal distribution of quality education, however, could be a primary cause of migration, causing further education inequality over the long term. In addition, however, increased income inequality and deepening differentiation of strata will challenge education reform. The design of a scientific and reasonable mechanism should focus on the educational desire of the disadvantaged group and highlight balanced development in all areas of education.



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