Praxis Makes Preference

Grassroot Governance of School Funding in Rural China with Evidence from a Northeast County


  • Yiran Li University of New South Wales



education, funding, rural China, inequity, grassroot governance


In China’s latest school funding reform, the central government has remarkably increased its input into basic education. This fiscal re-centralisation of education provision is implemented through a highly decentralised administration structure, despite long-term public criticism of local governments for their inefficiency and misconduct. This paper depicts how school funding policies are practised in rural China at grassroot government levels and the implication of such praxis. The discussion will draw on the concept of equity, which underpins Australia’s review on school funding in 2011.
Selecting a northeast county as the case study, this paper firstly maps out the procedures and models of school funding in rural areas, by analysing publicly accessible documents on funding policies that are released by the state, provincial, prefecture and county governments. The paper then portraits the real-life implementation of policies, drawing on data from interviews and focus groups with local officials and school principals.
This empirical study identifies a series of issues in grassroot governance of school funding: waste of resources coexists with insufficient funding; biased funds allocation reinforces school hierarchies; means of identifying students with financial needs are improper; limited access to education for children with disabilities; and students with learning difficulties are largely ignored. This paper analyses that these deficiencies in school funding governance result from governments’ operational preference. The paper further concludes that local governments’ active involvement in the school funding process may aggravate education inequity.



29-11-2018 — Updated on 28-11-2018


How to Cite

Li, Y. (2018). Praxis Makes Preference: Grassroot Governance of School Funding in Rural China with Evidence from a Northeast County. Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, 28(2), 78–98. (Original work published November 29, 2018)