Ford Foundation Working with Visionaries on the Frontlines of Social Change Worldwide
Educational Opportunity and Scholarship

Transforming Secondary Education

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The goal of this work is to transform secondary education through innovative programs that address dropout rates and hold education leaders accountable, making it possible for all young people in China to complete high school.

The Challenge

China has 300 million school-aged children, the largest number in the world, and nearly all children in grades 1-6 are enrolled in school. But enrollment rates begin to fall in middle school, a problem that is most serious in rural areas, despite the fact that education is compulsory and free through grade 9. The attrition continues in high school. While enrollment rates have doubled since 1995, more than 25 percent of all adolescents who could have been attending high school in 2009 were not enrolled.

Due to financial or academic problems, many teenagers opt out of secondary education altogether, a decision they often make during the transition from middle school to high school. This is particularly common in China's western region, where minority ethnic communities and rural poverty are concentrated. It is also common in the cities, among migrant children who are restricted to special schools.

What We're Doing

China's Ministry of Education has embarked on an ambitious plan to close the educational gap between rich and poor, beginning with a promise to commit 4 percent of GDP to education by 2012. This is a groundbreaking commitment, but increasing funding and creating more schools are only part of the solution.

To help further the government's goals, the Ford Foundation supports programs that have demonstrated how secondary schools can become pathways to opportunity for young people from all backgrounds. There is an urgent need for innovation in China's secondary education system, and our grantees are leading the way.

Our priorities focus on expanding access to education and reducing withdrawal rates among poor minority children in remote rural and mountainous areas and among rural-urban migrant students in China's burgeoning cities. We are also addressing quality and equity issues that limit educational opportunities for students in rural areas, inland regions, and non-key schools.

The foundation is pursuing a three-pronged approach to meet these goals:

  1. Improving education quality and equity by enhancing the relevance of teaching and learning materials, improving pedagogy in classroom instruction and extracurricular activities, upgrading teachers' knowledge and skills, expanding use of distance-education technologies and techniques, and pressing for better evaluation and monitoring of learning outcomes.
  2. Examining management and policy matters, including the allocation of government funding for education, issues of safety for schoolchildren, cultural factors affecting student learning, and participation by key stakeholders in school management.
  3. Supporting local pilot programs to explore innovative solutions to systemic problems and engaging with government agencies to expand successful pilots for long-term impact.

Learn more about how our strategies and approaches shape our grant making.




  • He Jin

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