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This text compiles exhaustive, newly acquired evidence from multiple sources and evaluates its reliability in order to draw a picture of education as experienced by the people, benefiting from direct observations by contemporaries and participants, triangulating national with provincial data, and enriched by qualitative historical material. A strength of this work lies in its ability to move through a variety of conceptual frameworks including international development theory, rational choice theory, Chinese politics and history, educational reproduction and organizational theory. The text draws out the relationship between ideology, policy, implementation, socio-economic incentives, and the demand for education among the people. The differences experienced by rural versus urban populations and under the radical-egalitarian and moderate labor resources policies are highlighted. After decades of struggle around ideology, structures, intellectuals and the content of education, some years to the point of violence, overall literacy among the masses increased only a little. These findings point to the necessity to question official claims for mass basic education in Mao’s China, and to review the role of culture and socio-economic context in international development education.


"It is rare that one discovers a work that has been written with the degree of care and insight that characterizes The Rhetoric and Reality of Mass Education in Mao's China...One of [its] major strengths is [the] variety of sophisticated methodological tools that help us understand and make sense of her newly acquired empirical evidence regarding rural and urban education enrollment, attainment, and achievement levels during the different ideological time frames." Dr. Irving Epstein, Illinois Wesleyan University

"This work reminds us that the field of comparative sociological analysis of education in China is entering the most lively period in 20 years. Seeberg highlights the pluralism that exists among scholars in the field, and makes us take another hard look at the link between policy and practice in China's system of mass education. Drawing on new data and a critical approach, the volume will stimulate important debate about the processes at work in the construction of the world's largest educational system."Dr. Gerrard Postiglione, University of Hong Kong

Table of Contents

Table of contents (main chapter headings):
Foreword; Preface
1. Introduction, Education to the Masses
2. Education and Its Cultural Context, A Brief History
3. Rhetoric: Educational Ideology and Policy in Mao’s China
4. School to Work: Linkage and Incentives
5. Reality: Quality and Availability of Basic Schooling
6. Reality: Popular Demand for Education in the PRC
7. Results: Educational Attainment in Mao’s China
8. Conclusion
Appendix 1: Data on and in the PRC
Appendix 2: Tables and Figures, 1949-1979
Appendix 3: Glossary
Appendix 4: Acronyms
Bibliography; Index

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