Conference on Inequality and Diversity: Learning from the Chinese Education System
China is not only one of the world's economic leaders, it is also becoming a more and more attractive place for students to pursue higher education. What is so special about Chinese education and how do universities maintain a high level of quality? Liudmila Veselova, Associate Professor at HSE — St. Petersburg, academic supervisor of the graduate programme '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', explains the importance of this topic and discusses the upcoming the Conference on Inequality and Diversity.
What is the idea behind your 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). In the discussion, 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 that 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. China has a highly advanced system of support, and we need to consider this. It is important to learn from the 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 programme 'Business and Politics in Modern Asia', which focuses on the study of Asian countries. Most of my colleagues work in this field as well. When we started to invite our colleagues to participate in the conference, it so happened that most 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', and others. These projects provide additional opportunities for universities to develop. That is why it is 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 implementing similar projects in the Russian educational system.
Why is the topic of Chinese education important for society and the academic community?
More and more Russian students decide to study in China each year. If we look at the statistics, since the 2000s, there has been a growing trend among Russian students to study abroad or complete their Master's studies in China. It is also worth remembering that Chinese and Japenese universities are quite popular among graduates coming from Russia's far east. And there are multiple reasons for this trend. First, the quality of education there 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', which include a lot of different countries. The question of the importance of education is undoubtedly crucial for everyone: it is about the future. Even if you are not a sinologist, it is still interesting to know why studying in China is prestigious. As for scholars, this topic is important in the context of governmental work with talented youth. There was a high rate of brain drain from China to the US and Europe before the 1990s, but now the trend is reversed: Chinese graduates who get education and degrees in universities around the world are coming back to China. This is what the Chinese government does – attracts talented people. This is a valuable experience for our government and universities, as Russia experienced similar brain drain in the 1990s. Maybe the Chinese model can provide ideas for our own educational system.
What topics will be discussed and who are the speakers?
The panel that I moderate will have six presentations. First, we will have a presentation 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 paper by Zhi Jichao on 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 also the transformation of Chinese society. Also, my colleague from St. Petersburg State University Liubov Lebedintseva will discuss the networks and values of the universities within the framework of the Chinese 'One Belt, One Road' initiative. And I will discuss the labour force in China and Russia and discuss issues such as graduate employment challenges and labour shortage. 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 held the ID Conference for the first time, and this year it is especially important to keep in touch with colleagues and discuss the issues we are interested in despite the restrictions. I hope that this conference will open up new opportunities in Russian-Chinese research collaboration 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,
graduate of the programme 'Political Science and World Politics'