Conference on Inequality and Diversity: Learning from the Chinese Education System

China is not only one of the global economic leaders, it is also becoming more and more attractive for students to reach for higher education. What is so special about Chinese education and how do universities maintain a high level of quality?
Liudmila Veselova, associate professor at the HSE-St. Petersburg, academic supervisor of the masters’ program «Business and politics in modern Asia», and the moderator of the panel session «University education in China and future employment of graduates: opportunities and challenges»,explained the importance of this topic and shared her expectations about the Conference on Inequality and Diversity.

Photo courtesy of Liudmila Veselova

Photo courtesy of Liudmila Veselova

The program of the Second Conference on Inequality and Diversity is available here. The attendee registration is open till November 1, 2020.

- What is the idea behind the panel and the topic?
- First of all, as an associate professor at the university, I always think about the value of education, its changing role in modern society and how it is affected by certain social phenomena (like COVID-19, for instance). This is what the discussion will be about: we will try to unpack and understand the role education plays in people’s lives and what impact it has on the development of society. Moreover, we would like to discuss the evolution of higher education in China and try to compare it with the situation in Russia. I think that the progress in each country heavily depends on the talented young people who will be future employees. Universities need government support for their effective work. In China this is carried out at a very high level, and we need to consider this. It is important to learn from Chinese experience and understand how the education system works there.

- Why has China been chosen as a focus of discussion?
- I am a sinologist and have been studying China for many years. Furthermore, I am the Academic Director of the master’s program «Business and Politics in Modern Asia», which is focused on the study of Asian countries. Respectively, the majority of my colleagues are related to this field as well. And when we started to invite our colleagues to participate in the conference, it happened so that most of those who decided to apply were from Chinese universities. And it seemed logical to create a special panel dedicated particularly to China. Moreover, the education system of China is strongly supported by its government which runs a number of unique projects like «Project 211», «Project 985» etc. And these projects provide additional opportunities for universities to develop. That is why it important to understand what is happening in China and try to learn from their experience. Maybe we will even evaluate the possibilities and perspectives of applying similar projects to the Russian educational system.

- Why is the topic of Chinese education important for ordinary people and the academic community?
- Each year more and more Russian students decide to study in China. And if we look at the statistics, starting from the 2000-s there is a growing trend among the students to go to China for master’s degrees or an exchange. Also, the majority of students who live in the Russian Far East traditionally enter Chinese and Japanese universities. And there are multiple reasons for this trend. First, the quality of education is quite high. Secondly, nowadays the Chinese language and Chinese market are one of the most attractive. And thirdly, the Chinese government supports several initiatives like «One Belt, One Road» that include a lot of different countries. And the question of importance of education is undoubtedly crucial for every person: it is about the future. And even if you are not a sinologist, it is still interesting to know why it is prestigious study in China.
As for scholars, this topic is important in the context of the governments’ work with the talented youth. Before 1990s there was a heavy «brain drain» from China to the US and Europe, but now the trend is reversed: Chinese graduates who get education and degrees in universities around the world are coming back to China. And this is what the Chinese government does – attract talented people. This is a valuable experience for our government and universities, as Russia experienced a similar «brain drain» in 1990s. Maybe we can borrow ideas for our own educational system.

- What topics will be discussed and who are the speakers?
- The panel that I moderate will have six reports. First, we will have a report from Wei Hongfa from Jilin University on the role of the government in the elimination of inequality of education in China. Then we will have a report by Zhi Jichao on the rural migrant workers, and a presentation by Li Jing on the theory and practice of China’s targeted poverty alleviation. These issues are not only connected to the higher education system but the transformation of Chinese society. Also, my colleague from St. Petersburg State University Liubov Lebedintseva will discuss the networks and values of the universities in the framework of the Chinese «One Belt, One Road» initiative. And I will cover the topic of the labor force in China and Russia and discuss the difficulties in the employment of graduates and the shortage of labor. Finally, Dong Shubin will report on the Chinese Wisdom in tackling the contradiction between inequality and diversity

- What are your expectations about the conference and the panel?
- Last year we had the ID Conference for the first time, and this year it is especially important to keep in touch with colleagues despite the restrictions, to discuss the issues we are interested in. I hope that this conference will open up a new stage in the Sino - Russia scientific relations by proposing new projects and ideas to work together on. And hopefully, participation in this conference will become a good tradition.

Interviewed by Angelina Silaeva