China’s PISA Pride

When I first visited China in 1999, my wife warned me that the Chinese men I might saw peeing or defecating in public parks (there weren’t many public toilets then—China started building public toilets to get ready for the 2008 Olympics) in Shanghai were peasants from rural China.

In fact, where my wife grew up in Shanghai (in the picturesque French sector), there was one toilet in a three-story house where several families lived and the stove was next to the toilet.

Since then, I learned that China is one country with many cultures and languages. Even rural and urban China is different as the US is to rural Mexico.

Rural China until recently is or was almost a kingdom from the Middle Ages while much of urban China was modern.

However, after the 1980s, hundreds of millions of rural Chinese migrated to the cities to find jobs that paid better than being a peasant still stuck in the Middle Ages.

Unfortunately, these people sometimes called Stick People brought their (uncivilized by Western standards) rural habits with them.

In 1999, I witnessed rural Chinese near Xian living in huts made of straw with dirt floors and no plumbing meaning no toilets.

This is what the Communist Party inherited when it came to power in 1949. The Party did not create this situation. After Mao died, the Communist Party had to rebuild an educational system that had been devastated by the Cultural Revolution and before then there was little or no educational system in rural China.

Most of the schools in China up until 1950s were in the cities and focused on educating the ruling class.

It wasn’t until the 1980s, that the Party Rebuilt China’s education system. Over time, the education system spread from urban to rural China where it is still being developed.

I don’t recall the exact stats I used in previous posts about the literacy level in China when Mao died, but I believe it was about 20% in 1976.

Imagine what the effort must have been for the Party to educate a population that was at least 80 percent illiterate in 1976 to today when randomly selected Chinese students in Shanghai earned the highest scores in the world on the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) test beating 65 other nations. See: Time


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.

Comments are welcome — pro or con. However, comments must focus on the topic of the post, be civil and avoid ad hominem attacks.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: