The survey, carried out in Beijing, Shanghai, and southern Guangdong Province, found that only 0.7% of the 2,732 rural respondents have university degrees or higher as opposed to 13.6% among the 3,253 urbanites polled.
Liu Shiding, one of the main participants of the survey, told Xinhua that the figures only reflect a general picture in the three areas, and situations in the less developed central and western regions could be still worse.
China View points out that China’s permanent residency permit is not just a record of people’s addresses, but closely attached to the living standards and social welfare one can enjoy — a rural hukou mostly means low income, poor social welfare coverage.
The permanent residency permit system is very strict in that a rural hukou normally cannot be transformed into an urban one except when there are temporary government policies allowing it.
“Even the 0.7% people with university degrees may not all be working and living in the countryside,” said Liu, also a professor of Peking University.
The survey, conducted by Peking University in cooperation with local governments and universities in Shanghai and Guangdong, also showed that only 20% of the rural hukou holders have been to high school while the percentage for the urbanites stands at 85.
“Although the education level among people in the countryside is higher than before, it is likely to lag farther behind that in the cities,” Zhang Fangping, director of the Hunan Provincial Department of Education, was quoted by China Youth Daily.
Wang Shiqi, another NPC deputy who is the director of a middle school in Hunan Province, was quoted as saying the gap was due to an ‘unreasonable distribution of educational resources’.
Wang said that school teachers in the countryside often tend to seek better-paying jobs in cities, which leaves only the academically poor ones to rural students.
The survey also showed that only 26.8% of the students in the countryside continued schooling after finishing junior high, which is covered by China’s nine-year compulsory education plan and qualifies for subsidies.