Chinese success draws Africans toward alternative education

By Mark Kapchanga Source:Global Times Published: 2013-8-22 18:33:01

Schooling in the US and Europe was one of the most fascinating things to Africans in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s. About 80 percent of Africans seeking university education abroad ended up in these two regions.

The West is still the first choice for African students by a long way, with over 55 percent of those studying abroad picking Western countries, especially France. But more and more Africans are heading to Asian universities.

China, the nation at the center of this new development, is riding on the culture of continued improvement in its education ideals. It has a couple of laws regulating the education system such as the regulation on academic degrees, the compulsory education law, the teachers law, the education law, the law on vocational education, and the law on higher education.

In the last five years, Beijing has spent $1.26 trillion on education, representing a target of 4 percent of GDP. China has an unswerving teacher development scheme. Teaching has historically been a highly respected profession.

Unlike many African countries, once teachers are employed, there is a vigorous system of continuous professional development. Groups of teachers work together with master teachers on lesson plans and general improvement.

According to China's university and college admission system, the number of international students studying in China has significantly increased. African students, in particular, are streaming into more than 660 higher education institutions in this East Asian state.

Besides the strong educational culture, the increased enrollment is fundamentally informed by the fact that Africa can learn from China on how best to exploit and manage its vast natural resources.

Africa has a dream of replicating China's success in manufacturing, construction, technology and healthcare. The economic tiger's sustained growth has heavily been anchored on continuous technological innovation and industrial diversification. The industrial dynamics catalyzed the shift from an agrarian society, where about 90 percent of the labor force worked, to non-agricultural and manufacturing sectors. The change was gradual but unstoppable.

Today, manufacturing is China's economic backbone. Its emergence as a manufacturing powerhouse has been surprising. In seventh place, trailing Italy, in 1980, China overtook the US two years ago to become the world's largest producer of manufactured goods.

China has also used its huge manufacturing engine to boost living standards by doubling the country's GDP per capita over the last decade. This is the kind of achievement that took the industrializing UK 150 years. And Africans seek to imitate China's economic miracle through knowledge transfer from Chinese lecture halls.

The process started in earnest a decade ago when African nations began to sponsor students to attend schools in China. Meanwhile, China also sponsored students majoring in medicine, engineering, economics and journalism.

In 1983, China sponsored 400 students. The number went up to 2,000 in 2005. Last year, it funded university education for 5,500 students.

As Africa seeks to learn the best from the best, it is imperative that it also cultivates the culture of working hard. China's competent, forward-looking system has put it in the right footing to success. There is neither mystery nor a governance code to crack. China succeeded because it knew what it wanted.

This should be the culture that Africans studying in China bring back home.

The author is a journalist on African issues based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Posted in: Viewpoint

blog comments powered by Disqus