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Spatial inequality in children's schooling in Gansu, Western China: reality and challenges

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China has experienced considerable economic growth following the economic reforms of 1978, while simultaneously facing dramatic increases in regional inequality. China is becoming a polarized society—a phenomenon that is at the heart of a multitude of serious problems that are threatening sustainable development, as well as social cohesion within the country. Among the key reasons for this polarization are the quality of and accessibility to basic education for children. Since the establishment of the law for nine-year compulsory education in 1986, children's education has progressed remarkably in most parts of China. It has, however, remained persistently problematic in the western provinces, particularly in remote regions, rural areas and minority communities. Even though some studies on child education in China have been carried out, very little existing research examines spatial inequality in children's schooling or accounts for the importance of sociocultural and geographic contexts. Using the example of Gansu, one of the poorest provinces in Western China, our research emphasizes the two main aspects that have led to high nonschooling rates for children: an unfavourable sociocultural milieu and inadequate educational resources.

Keywords: Chine de l'Ouest; Gansu; Western China; children's schooling; enseignement des enfants; inégalité spatiale; spatial inequality

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1N 6N5 ( ), Email:

Publication date: 2008-09-01

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