Source: Global Times Published: 2018-9-5
A story on the gap in social status and family background stigma faced by students from poor areas studying in China's top universities is trending on Chinese social media.
Chinese netizens are engaged in heated discussions on whether college education could give them a chance to shake off poverty, change their destiny and even an opportunity to narrow the social status gap.
The story, published by the China Youth Daily on Tuesday, tells of a student, Cui Shaoyang (pseudonym), from Huize county, Southwest China's Yunnan Province who received an offer from Peking University while helping his parents work on a construction site.
In the story, another student, Deng Fenghua (pseudonym), who also came from Cui's hometown and graduated from Peking University in 2017 and is pursuing graduate studies at Tsinghua University right now, wrote a letter to Cui, which said, "There are still some problems that diligence cannot solve. Even if we attend Peking University, we remain the 'mirror image' of millions of migrant workers."
"The story strikes a raw nerve among us. It really scared me when I found that one-third of my classmates were offered admission and did not have to pass the college entrance examinations," Ma Lin, a graduate from a top university in Beijing, told the Global Times.
Most schools which have the right to offer special admissions are located in urban areas, which value students with exceptional abilities, so they dont have to pass the national college entrance examinations. But the exam is the only way for many students in rural areas to get into college.
"I have never met a foreign teacher before and could not understand what he was talking about during class. It was really humiliating," Ma said.
Another student surnamed Tao, who also came to Peking University from a poor village, told the Global Times that "the story shed light on my own experience. However, although the social class has been solidified, we should never give up trying."
"The gap in social classes has existed in every era and in every country. In China, the college entrance examinations continue to provide a fair chance for students born into poor families to change their destiny," Peking University professor Zhang Yiwu told the Global Times.
Society has not been solidified. Otherwise, those students would not have had the chance to enter prestigious universities, Zhang said.
Zhang noted that China has been making huge efforts to help them.
Since 2014, students from rural areas have been allowed lower entrance test scores and have had two percent of 95 key universities' slots allocated to them. Another program in poverty-stricken areas found university slots for 183,000 students from impoverished counties from 2012 to 2015.
Zhang Yiwu is a senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.