Search
  • Zhiyao Xiao

Rural China's Parent-Teacher Communications

Updated: Aug 6, 2020


The number of rural Chinese kids graduating high school is decreasing. One reason may be that there is little to none teacher-parent interactions in the classroom.


In fact, 37% of students finish middle school. A fraction of that percentage enter high schools. Only 5% of those continue to college. The fact that 95% of rural Chinese students are not pursuing higher education is concerning. To investigate this issue, we will investigate how the addition or lack of teacher-parent communication factor in.


Parent teacher communication is undoubtedly important. With many kids spending half their days in a classroom, teachers take on the role of a secondary parent. Educating children is also one of the most powerful and important tasks because what they learn in the classroom will be cemented as the child grows into adulthood. Additionally, children could act differently in home environments compared to those of a classroom or playground. Thus it’s important to bring both perspectives to best suit a child’s success. Usually, parent teacher communication is enforced when there are disciplinary issues. But it is important to also keep progress checks for best progression. (Usually in US context this is measured in a student’s academic scores and participation. If one is lacking, teachers and parents should promote that skill.) Especially if a teacher is in the know about a particular tough life situation, they are able to empathize with the child and validate their feelings.

It’s a common misconception that rural kids are dumber or care less about education than those who live in the cities. Like most kids in developed cities, rural kids are pressured with academic entrance exams and standardized tests. However this anxiety is added on top of other home-life responsibilities that students in cities never had to encounter. As in my last blog about the Left Behind Children of Rural China, there are around 60 million LBCs in China alone. Many of these LBCs can be single or both parent migrations. Many of those who are left alone will have to assume a parental role that is much more mature than for their current age. Because of the lack of technology accessibility in rural areas, many parents are unable to meet physically with their kids’ educators to discuss how they can improve. Most communication, if any at all, happens at the beginning and end of the school year. These meetings are usually to bring the kids to school and say hellos or goodbyes.


However, in the context of a parent in rural China, they may feel that their children’s education is not affordable beyond junior high school. Some parents want their kids to take over their jobs and/or businesses instead of pursuing higher education. Many rural parents are also uneducated and may be biased towards the benefits of a good education, seeing it as an unnecessary financial burden. Some simply do not have the financial resources.


Conversely, the rural classrooms are not equipped with sufficient resources. Many primary and junior high school teachers do not have teaching credentials. In fact, only 33% of rural teachers have graduated from a 4 year college or university, most of which did not study for a degree in Education. Again, rural areas are also very isolated and poor, so there is no wifi accessibility or usable technology that promotes more connection.


To make up for lack of schools in rural areas, a classroom may sit as many as 55 kids in a single class. This class size is too big for individual attention and getting to meet with all parents would be an unrealistic burden for the teachers. In this sense, good education has a heavily positive trend with those families who are wealthier and underlooks those who are not. Lastly, teachers in rural areas have usually been teaching for long periods of time, so their methods are traditional and outdated. Many teachers still use physical punishment and discipline methods which may or may not align with those enforced in home life. This could create tensions between teachers and parents who disagree with how their child should be treated.


In a study conducted by Stanford’s Rural Education Action Program, 600 teachers and 6,000 rural students were surveyed on teacher parent interactions. 12 students were randomly selected to be surveyed over the course of the school year, from starting school, halfway through, and end of the year. Initially 96% of teachers filled out forms for teacher-parent meetings, but by the end of the year, that number has dropped to only 47.6%. However, of the teachers within those 47.6% that attended parent teacher meetings, they experienced 1.8% in absences, 3.1% in dropouts, and 6% dropout rates. This is a significant decrease from usually high 30-50% dropouts and absences. That means previously almost half of the students are thinking of dropping out of school! By increasing communication between parents and teachers, students will feel more comfortable and motivated to learn in the classroom.


However there are still problems. In rural China, the communication is simply too low. If we work towards strengthening these bonds, we could experience higher rates of graduation, increase in human capital, and happier, motivated students. Thus, we should encourage a more fixed communication structure that encourages a number of parent teacher meetings for at least half the kids in the classroom. Besides that, we can also donate to rural China to improve its technological accessibility so that it would be easier and more efficient to conduct meetings and improve overall communication.

In a study conducted by Stanford’s Rural Education Action Program, 600 teachers and 6,000 rural students were surveyed on teacher parent interactions. 12 students were randomly selected to be surveyed over the course of the school year, from starting school, halfway through, and end of the year. Initially 96% of teachers filled out forms for teacher-parent meetings, but by the end of the year, that number has dropped to only 47.6%. However, of the teachers within those 47.6% that attended parent teacher meetings, they experienced 1.8% in absences, 3.1% in dropouts, and 6% dropout rates. This is a significant decrease from usually high 30-50% dropouts and absences. That means previously almost half of the students are thinking of dropping out of school! By increasing communication between parents and teachers, students will feel more comfortable and motivated to learn in the classroom.


However there are still problems. In rural China, the communication is simply too low. If we work towards strengthening these bonds, we could experience higher rates of graduation, increase in human capital, and happier, motivated students. Thus, we should encourage a more fixed communication structure that encourages a number of parent teacher meetings for at least half the kids in the classroom. Besides that, we can also donate to rural China to improve its technological accessibility so that it would be easier and more efficient to conduct meetings and improve overall communication.

59 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All