Reducing Competition: The Cat and Mouse Game

Part of the Palgrave Studies on Chinese Education in a Global Perspective book series (CEGP)


Despite China’s educational accomplishment in reducing illiteracy, 1 educational inequality continues to be a major social problem and a major factor behind intense competition between schools and between students.2 At the turn of the twenty-first century, the central government began to issue new policies on a regular basis to narrow the gaps between schools and to reduce the competition between students. Unexpectedly, the policies created a bizarre situation in urban Chinese society. Schools and parents conspire to play a cat and mouse game with the government, trying to find ways to go around the regulations that aim at reducing competition and lowering the levels of pressure on students, families, and schools. To describe this situation, I here briefly review the new educational policies, unpack their underlying assumptions, and draw on empirical evidence from Shanghai to discuss how top-down policies have failed to change the educational practices that make academic competition the central focus of adolescent life.


Private School Chinese Student Ranking Position Educational Inequality CHINESE Education 


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© Xu Zhao 2015

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  • Xu Zhao

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