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Haicheng County in Fengtian Province, China, provides an evaluation of how rural communities responded to set standards during the early twentieth century regarding the establishment of modern primary schools. Rural communities in China do not play an important role in modernization because according to Elizabeth VanderVen, they encourage hostile relations between the society and the state, which leads to community dissolution. Villages in Haicheng County need an educational reform that is state-guided to pursue cooperative and creative strategies in order to enable them to set up modern primary schools. Even though the rural communities do not play key roles in modernization, they still manage to mark their identification to the other local communities and the state at large by opposing modernization.
According to Elizabeth VanderVen, such extractive aspects as military conscription and taxation currently contribute to the community’s rebellious attitude towards modernization. There is an assumption that they are expected to build modern schools using their own funds which causes them to resist the idea of modernity. Construction of new schools has placed a heavy financial burden on the community resources. For this reason, the communities have reached available sources of income such as reinforcing community ties to gain support from other communities. For this reason, community ties have enabled various new community projects including administration, police and schools. Educational and schooling reform activities should have not only enabled strong ties in the rural communities, but also the state at large.
While rural communities encountered several problems during the construction of modern schools, they developed the ways to fund the projects. It is because many rural communities embraced orders from the state to establish new schools except they wanted to achieve this in their own terms; without the state-guided reforms. It has caused these communities to have the willingness to participate enterprise modernization measures and ways to reinforce them. Despite the efforts and attitudes of rural communities, scholars still argue that rural communities did not play important roles in China’s modernization. It is because they believe that if a state is too modernized, the cities must have urban reforms, which most of the Chinese cities had. It is a denied fact because the roots of modernization are not found in rural communities of China.
Evidently, local communities willingly and actively participated in modernization of the state by defining a role for themselves. They raised funds on their own to build the primary schools by making partnership with other neighboring communities. By seeking the government’s mediation and guidance, they faced less challenges in coming up with the required resources. For this reason, residents came together to establish the schools by offering other services such as manpower. It helped to strengthen their collectivity as well as mobilize them. It proves the fact they did not oppose the pressures of the state but because they needed the intervention of the state. It resulted in villagers embracing the state-guided reform of education not only to improve their life but also the conditions of their community.
Rural communities went from being illiterate and less exposed to literate and fully informed of the conditions and benefits of learning. Through the partnerships they created, they also managed to have a sense of belonging to multiple communities. With the implementation of new policies, the state developed new and advanced methods of examination. Two examples of communities that worked together to build primary schools were Dalian and Shengjing located in the southern part of China. The vast majority of community members were not financially stable but when they came together, they were able to develop new ideas and reforms for themselves. Ideas that initiated the successful fundraisers that built the primary schools that currently run.
Also, Elizabeth VanderVen argued that a relatively massive number of community, established schools, had their rich archival sources from the early educational reforms which enabled them to evaluate the few options they had. It was as a result of the different ruling systems from the early century and the country’s economy. Thus, they developed receptive attitudes towards new ideas presented from the early and modern times. Several communities came together because most of the single communities did not have enough funds to establish the needed schools. When communities came together to contribute funds needed, it was still not enough because they had to look for places that would house the schools.
Ideally, communities decided to establish schools in areas that only schooling was offered but because they lacked sufficient resources the government allowed the villagers to establish their primary schools in preexisting ones on the condition that only learning activities would take place. It is because the new system of education sought to separate other activities from school learning activities. With the availability of preexisting schools, it was much easier to establish the schools without having to worry about places to house the schools. In addition to this, there were other challenges that the new community-based schools faced such as salary for teachers, learning materials and facilities. As much as the villagers had drained their funds for building the schools, they had no more funds to buy facilities and pay their teachers.
It means that they still needed support from the government in order to sustain the schools that they built. After several years of functioning, the schools grew and many more students attended schools in the rural communities. From the success of the community-based schools, other villagers who had belongings decided to donate their lands for proper and independent establishment of schools which resulted in more effective and efficient education system for rural communities. The donated land made it possible for many schools to construct new buildings from scratch meaning that most of the schools became independent and no longer occupied temples and preexisting schools. With their own land, schools constructed houses for teachers and decent spacious classrooms.
Rural communities did not rent land or borrow materials from any other place. The villagers worked hard to contribute whatever materials were needed for the construction process. The existence of these community primary schools developed surrounding towns through publicity meaning the cost of life went slightly higher in many areas. The more publicity the schools gained, the more provision they gained through people who were impressed. Since equipment and furniture consumed a massive percentage of schools budgets, public generous contributions boosted the expenditure such as books, desks, and other items required for daily operations.
Since schools needed to operate in normal learning times without running out of resources, some schools developed income generating projects to sustain the running and management of schools. This way, they did not entirely rely on the contributions of villagers and well wishers. The practice of community contributions was common in the early centuries for drawing revenues from several sources but faded as the schools continued to gain publicity. As time passed, community schools no longer required revenues because they had developed associations and numerous projects that not only sustained the schools but also helped the poor families in the communities. By the flexibility and creativity of village leaders, community resources were utilized wisely and in a non-corrupted way.
Available written documents were filed to illustrate all sources and progress made during construction and response from villagers. It prevented conflicts among investors and villagers because most of the investors were willing to protect their investments. The written documentations acted as regulators to prevent unreasonable charges in schools fees and other bills. Apart from documentation, there had to be formal and professional management such school boards to help in crucial decision making. The government played a key role in supervision and facilitation of professional management in terms of providing literate and professional leaders. With the state guidance, leaders compromised less in terms of meeting standards set in schools.
Without question China’s rural communities played a very massive role in the modernization of the state with their commitment and receptive attitude towards the state enforced education system. Since the establishment of community based schools, villagers have learnt and embraced the value of education; which has led to development of China through the people’s new and unique inventions over the years. Good and favorable working and learning conditions have been developed through the new inventions created. With China’s development and growth, employment opportunities have become sufficient for all citizens, meaning students do not lack schools fees. Thus, schools, organizations, and other institutions have become productive co-operators. Despite all the challenges encountered during the constructions of community schools, combined efforts from surrounding communities enabled successful completion of schools.
The successful construction of community schools in China implies commitment from all villagers. Despite the tensions and difficulties, communities combined efforts to ensure school projects were successful. The receptive attitudes also implied that most of the villagers were enthusiastic about participating in the modernization projects and constructing new schools. Instead of carrying out the orders of the state villagers decided to develop their own terms in setting up a new education system. They acted strategically to ensure that their efforts would be recognized among other communities and the state. Their commitment and selfless efforts illustrated the willingness in the local society to implement educational reforms. Without any investments, the communities gained access to the new system of education. They played a key role in modernizing China by taking advantage of the opportunities.
In conclusion, Chinese rural communities played an active role in modernizing their state by deriving funds from different sources on their own. They creatively combined efforts from various sources and cooperated to set up schools which resulted in the growth of the community. Receiving no help from the government, local communities made attempts to exhibit surprising initiatives to implement the new educational reform program. For this reason, it is evident that Chinese rural communities worked hard to establish community schools. Their efforts brought about modernization in the state and among the people.
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