African born economist, Dambiso Moyo, presents an interesting case on the merits of Afro-Chinese economic relations. There has been much media coverage on this subject, mostly beaming cautionary warnings towards western boardrooms and democratic purists. Antagonists comfortably avoid the question “Could China be ‘good’ for Africa?” trending around China’s record of human rights violations and the asymmetry between the two economic markets.
Dr. Moyo answers this question with a resounding, “Yes,” (my interpretation). And it is this interpretation that led me to consider some of the lessons that could be learnt from the world’s largest education sector.
China’s population is 3 times that of South Africa, one of Africa’s leading economic countries, yet their teacher pupil ratio is 1:17 versus South Africa’s 1:35. Quality despite quantity, though this too could be disputed.
China’s traditional education style remains a present pressure that encourages academic achievement. Research into why British students of Chinese heritage outperformed their peers in primary and secondary schools found that Chinese families consider education a “fundamental pillar of their Chinese identity.” Arguably, this has also been the driving force behind China’s economic performance globally.
China’s ability to innovate and harness the advantages offered by technology is also cited as evidence supporting their progress and improvements to their education system. In the higher education sector China dominates with the largest single group of overseas students taking degrees in Britain and the US. Perhaps further evidence of their fundamental regard for quality education.
I am not suggesting a transplanting of a Chinese approach to education into Africa. A sufficient amount of sources can be found that would readily attempt to discredit the quality of education in China and warn against mimicking a Chinese approach. But there can be no disputing the significance of China’s increasing economic relevance and global progress. Chinese interests in Africa could even be viewed as a well-calculated trajectory for further growth. In the context of education and mutually beneficial relations two questions are worth studying: “Could Africa learn from China’s education system and what would the probable product of such an equation be?”
Chinese proverb: “A nations treasure is in its scholars.”