Zhao Jing     Guo Yaling

China won the battle against absolute poverty in 2020, in which education plays a fundamental role. Each provincial government has formulated specific implementation plans aligned with the central government policy.

In Hebei province, surrounding the capital, Beijing, by the end of 2020, 2.32 million impoverished rural residents living under the current poverty line have all been lifted out of poverty. All 62 impoverished counties and 7746 villages have been removed from the poverty list.

The Hebei government has developed diversified measures for poverty alleviation through education. This article mainly discusses five characteristics of Hebei’s anti-poverty policy in education.

Improving basic education

China implements a nine-year compulsory education system from the first grade of primary school to the ninth grade of junior high school, according to the Law of Compulsory

Education, Presently, however, the high cost of preschool and high school education is difficult for families in poor areas to bear.

As for preschool education, the provincial government focused anti-poverty efforts on expanding resources by establishing more public and government-subsidized kindergartens.

For example, in Yuxian county, a state-level poverty-stricken county before 2020,up to 2021 the proportion of public kindergartens has reached 51%, and universally beneficial kindergartens,81%.

Besides these measures, Handan, a city in Hebei province, reduces 500-1000 yuan per school year for kids from poor families and provides free lunches for them.

For high school students, the central government has increased subsidies based on local government spending and introduced preferential policies guiding social forces to provide grants and scholarships for students from poor households.

Namely, in addition to exemptions of textbook fees, tuition, and sundry charges, the provincial government has adopted flexible and diversified policies to subsidize accommodation, transportation, and nutritious meals, and financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants, and loans is available to eligible students who need assistance to attend school.

Still, take Handan as an example; high school students from poor families enjoy the grants, with an average of 2000 yuan per student per academic year.

Increasing the employment skills

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) advocates vocational education to reduce poverty, promote economic growth, and increase competitiveness, which is the strategic priority of China’s education.

According to the white paper “Poverty Alleviation: China’s Experience and Contribution.”, favorable policies have been leveraged to enroll more poor students from designated areas, expand employment for graduates, and help students shake off poverty through vocational education.

Fuping, a small county in Hebei, is located in the Taihang mountain area with barren farmland. Due to a weak industrial foundation and few employment opportunities, the poverty rate once exceeded 50%.

Many young people had to work far from home after graduation from junior high school. And most of them earned meagre wages by doing low-skilled jobs.

Since 2013, Fuping County Vocational Education Center has established an automobile training base with well-known automakers in China, prioritizing recruiting children from poor families.

Yue Jilong, a young man graduated from this base in 2018 and is working in a large-scale automobile Co., Ltd. with a salary of 5000 Yuan, which has changed his life.

In 2016, the Department of Education of Hebei Province issued Pilot Work Plan for Training Professional Farmers. Ten million yuan each year was allocated to vocational schools in 17 poverty-stricken counties in order to train farmers.

Employing the training mode of “company + base + farmers” and “vocational school + cooperative + farmers,” the vocational schools tried to develop vocational farmer training packages, including tailor-made technical skills, theoretical knowledge, industrial chain information, etc.

Since 2016, the province has held 116 vocational farmers’ training classes on 23 specialties and benefited 50000 farmers.

Supplementing quality teachers

The construction of educational infrastructure is another measure taken by the government to eliminate poverty, particularly building more schools in remote areas and improving the conditions of classrooms, dormitories, and facilities such as laboratories, playgrounds, canteens, etc. But the most difficult is the lack of teachers in poverty-stricken areas.

Faced with this problem, the Hebei government provides extra subsidies for opening contractual programs in local normal universities and colleges.

This way, students from a poverty-stricken backgrounds in rural areas can study and graduate.

This aligns with other policies, such as increasing the teachers’ salaries of poor areas, encouraging outstanding teachers in the urban regions to support teaching the poor areas, and employing retired teachers to work in poverty-stricken rural areas.

Financing college students

Regular poverty-alleviation measures taken in Hebei’s colleges and universities include free tuition, free accommodation, free textbooks, and all-level scholarship and grants programs; student loans whose interests are fully subsidized by the government during their study and interests paid by the loan students themselves after graduation.

In addition, in response to the urgent needs of the poverty-stricken areas, the targeted enrollment plans of Hebei are scientifically prepared, with emphasis on majors of agriculture and forestry, water conservancy, geology and mineral resources, machinery, normal education, medicine, etc.

Furthermore, Colleges and universities in Hebei assign special personnel to take charge of the employment of students from poverty-stricken households– “one policy for one student” They also set up employment and entrepreneurship assistance funds for graduates from poor areas.

Encouraging social forces to participate

Social forces can make up for the lack of government targeted poverty-alleviation through education. For example, college-enterprise cooperation is one of the important ways for society to promote poverty alleviation.

Generally speaking, excellent managers, engineers, or technologists of enterprises come to the school to teach, and vice versa, the teachers, help train employees of the enterprises, promoting mutual employment between the schools and the enterprises.

The above-mentioned Fuping automobile training base is the effective mode in practice. Hebei Province is encouraging more social forces to participate in poverty alleviation through education

Children in poverty-stricken households getting access to good education is an important task of poverty alleviation and economic development, as well as an important way to block the transmission of poverty between generations.

Moreover, poverty alleviation through education can not only produce economic benefits but also produce motivation.

Helping with both ambition and wisdom can stimulate the internal impetus of the poor, form a sustainable development power, then effectively combine internal impetus with external impetus, government, and social support, and “endogenous power”, to realize the transformation from “blood transfusion” to “blood-making.”

Therefore, in the long run, education is indispensable for eradicating poverty.

*The writers are working at Hebei Normal University, China. 

** The views and research expressed here in this article are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the position of the institutions and our staff.