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Journal Article

The Impacts of Highly Resourced Vocational Schools on Student Outcomes in China

Guirong Li, Jiajia Xu, Liying Li, Zhaolei Shi, Hongmei Yi, James Chu, Elena Kardanova, Yanyan Li, Prashant Loyalka, Scott Rozelle
China & World Economy , 2020
Policymakers in developing countries have prioritized the mass expansion of vocational education and training (VET). Evidence suggests, however, that the quality of VET can be poor. One possible reason given by policymakers for this is a lack of resources per student. The goal of this study is to examine whether the quality of VET in developing countries increases by investing greater resources per student. To achieve this goal, we examine the impacts of attending model schools (which have far more resources per student) compared with non-model schools (which have fewer resources) on a range of student cognitive, non-cognitive, and behavioral outcomes. Using representative data from a survey of approximately 12,000 VET students from China, multivariate regression and propensity score matching analyses show that there are no significant benefits, in terms of student outcomes, from attending model vocational high schools, despite their substantially greater resources.
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Journal Article

Effects of Baby-Friendly Practices on Breastfeeding Duration in China: A Case-Control Study

Yue Zhang, Jinliuxing Yang, Wenhao Li, Nianrong Wang, Ya Ye, Shuangqin Yan, Sumei Wang, Ting Zeng, Zijuan Huang, Fenghua Zhang, Yin Li, Shiyi Yao, Haijun Wang, Scott Rozelle, Tao Xu, Xi Jin
International Breastfeeding Journal , 2020
Background:  The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is generally considered an effective way to promote breastfeeding. Although China has the largest number of baby-friendly hospitals in the world, research on baby-friendly practices in China is limited, and the rate of exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) at 6 months, 20.7%, compared to the 2025 global goal of 50% is low. It is, therefore, important to determine the factors that remain significant barriers to EBF in China. To explore how the key baby-friendly practices affect EBF duration in China, we used a case-control study to compare the effects of baby-friendly-related practices on both EBF and non-breastfeeding (NBF) mothers at 3 months and to investigate the effects of both single and comprehensive baby-friendly practices in promoting EBF duration at 3 months, which is one step toward EBF at 6 months. Methods:  Participants were recruited from four maternal and child health hospitals in western (Chongqing), eastern (Qingdao), southern (Liuzhou), and central China (Maanshan). A total of 421 mothers (245 in the EBF group, 176 in the NBF group) of infants aged 3 months were surveyed through a self-reported questionnaire from April 2018 to March 2019. The experience of baby-friendly practices and breastfeeding during hospitalization were assessed with yes/no questions. Socio-demographic factors that influenced breastfeeding at 3 months were analyzed using bivariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses. Results:  Of mothers in the EBF group, 65.57% reported engaging in at least seven baby-friendly practices compared to 47.72% of mothers in the NBF group. Significantly more mothers in the EBF group engaged in baby-friendly practices than in the NBF group. These practices included “breastfeeding within one hour after birth” (74.29% vs. 59.09%), “breastfeeding on demand” (86.48% vs. 75.00%), and “never use a pacifier” (46.53% vs. 31.25%). After adjusting for confounding variables, we found that the mothers who engaged in fewer than seven baby-friendly practices were about 1.7 times less likely to breastfeed than were those who engaged in seven or more baby-friendly practices (odds ratio [OR] 1.720, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.106, 2.667). Further, the mothers who did not breastfeed on demand were as likely to not breastfeed up to 3 months (OR 2.263, 95% CI 1.265, 4.049), as were mothers who did not breastfeed during hospitalization (OR 4.379, 95% CI 1.815, 10.563). Conclusions:  These data from hospitals in China suggest that higher compliance with baby-friendly practices may have a positive impact on EBF at 3 months, particularly in terms of promoting the implementation of breastfeeding on demand and breastfeeding during hospitalization in China.
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Journal Article

Examining Mode Effects for an Adapted Chinese Critical Thinking Assessment

Lin Gu, Guangming Ling, Ou Lydia Liu, Zhitong Yang, Guirong Li, Elena Kardanova, Prashant Loyalka
Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education , 2020
We examine the effects of computer-based versus paper-based assessment of critical thinking skills, adapted from English (in the U.S.) to Chinese. Using data collected based on a random assignment between the two modes in multiple Chinese colleges, we investigate mode effects from multiple perspectives: mean scores, measurement precision, item functioning (i.e. item difficulty and discrimination), response behavior (i.e. test completion and item omission), and user perceptions. Our findings shed light on assessment and item properties that could be the sources of mode effects. At the test level, we find that the computer-based test is more difficult and more speeded than the paper-based test. We speculate that these differences are attributable to the test’s structure, its high demands on reading, and test-taking flexibility afforded under the paper testing mode. Item-level evaluation allows us to identify item characteristics that are prone to mode effects, including targeted cognitive skill, response type, and the amount of adaptation between modes. Implications for test design are discussed, and actionable design suggestions are offered with the goal of minimizing mode effect.
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Journal Article

Moving Beyond Lewis: Employment and Wage Trends in China’s High- and Low-Skilled Industries and the Emergence of an Era of Polarization

Scott Rozelle, Yiran Xia, Dimitris Friesen, Bronson Vanderjack, Nourya Cohen
Comparative Economic Studies , 2020
One of the defining features of China’s economy over the two decades between 1995 and 2015 was the persistent rise of wages for workers and professionals in nearly every segment of the economy—with wage rates for labor-intensive jobs in manufacturing, construction, and the informal service sector rising the fastest. Recently, however, the economic environment in China has begun to change, including changes in both employment and wages. We identify recent employment/wage trends throughout China’s economy and postulate the sources of these trends as well as possible future consequences if they continue. We use official, nationally aggregated data to examine employment and wages in multiple sectors and industries. Our findings indicate that China may have entered a new phase of economic development in the mid-2010s. According to the data, in recent years, wage growth has begun to polarize: Rising for professionals employed in formal skill-intensive industries; and falling for workers in the informal labor-intensive service sector. We attribute this increase in skill-intensive wages to an increase in demand for skill-intensive employment, due to the emergence of a large middle class in China, for whom the demand for high technology, finance, banking, health, and higher education industries is increasing while, at least in the recent short term, the supply of experienced, high-skilled professionals has not kept up. The employment/wage trend in the informal (low-wage) service sector, however, is following a different pattern. While there is a rising demand for services in China’s economy, the growth, due to a number of factors (e.g., large shares of GDP targeted by policymakers to investment; high rates of savings by consumers), is relatively slow. In contrast, due to a number of economic forces, including globalization and automation, the supply of labor into the service sector of the informal economy is being fueled by the flow of labor out of manufacturing and construction (two industries that that have experienced employment declines since 2013). These supply and demand trends, in turn, are leading to the fall in the growth rate of wages in the informal service sector. We conclude by discussing the possible longer-term consequences of these emerging polarization trends based on an examination of recent experience with wage polarization occurring in both middle- and high-income countries, as well as its consequences. We also present policy recommendations for greater investment in education and human capital, as well as for the development of a more comprehensive set of social safety nets for different segments of China’s population.
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Working Paper

Off the Epicenter: COVID-19 Quarantine Controls and Employment, Education, and Health Impacts in Rural Communities

Huan Wang, Sarah-Eve Dill, Huan Zhou, Yue Ma, Hao Xue, Prashant Loyalka, Sean Sylvia, Matthew Boswell, Jason Lin, Scott Rozelle
2020

In late January 2020, China’s government initiated its first aggressive measures to combat COVID-19 by forbidding individuals from leaving their homes, radically limiting public transportation, cancelling or postponing large public events, and closing schools across the country. The rollout of these measures coincided with China’s Lunar New Year holiday, during which more than 280 million people had returned from their places of work to their home villages in rural areas. The disease control policies remained in place until late February and early March, when they were gradually loosened to

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Journal Article

Visual Impairment in Rural and Migrant Chinese School-Going Children: Prevalence, Severity, Correction and Association

Yue Ma, Xinwu Zhang, Fei He, Xiaochen Ma, Hongmei Yi, Nathan Rose, Alexis Medina, Scott Rozelle, Nathan Congdon
BMJ Ophthalmology , 2020
Purpose To describe changes in the prevalence of visual impairment and glasses ownership with age and as associated with income and population density for visual impairment among rural and urban migrant Chinese students. Design Meta-analysis of 12 cross-sectional, school-based studies conducted between 2012 and 2017. Setting Rural and urban migrant schools in seven Chinese provinces. Participants A total of 83 273 rural and urban migrant Chinese students aged 6–17 years. Results Prevalence of visual impairment (uncorrected visual acuity ≤6/12 in either eye) rose from 19.0% at age 6 to 66.9% at 17, with the overall age-adjusted prevalence higher for girls (35.8%) than for boys (30.1%, p
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Book

Invisible China: How the Urban-Rural Divide Threatens China’s Rise

Scott Rozelle, Natalie Hell
University of Chicago Press , 2020

Book Synopsis:

As the glittering skyline in Shanghai seemingly attests, China has quickly transformed itself from a place of stark poverty into a modern, urban, technologically savvy economic powerhouse. But as Scott Rozelle and Natalie Hell show in Invisible China, the truth is much more complicated and might be a serious cause for concern.

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Journal Article

Correlates of Participation in Community-Based Interventions: Evidence from a Parenting Program in Rural China

Yiwei Qian, Yi Ming Zheng, Sarah-Eve Dill, Scott Rozelle
PLOS One , 2020
A growing body of literature has documented that community-based early childhood development (ECD) interventions can improve child developmental outcomes in vulnerable communities. One critical element of effective community-based programs is consistent program participation. However, little is known about participation in community-based ECD interventions or factors that may affect participation. This paper examines factors linked to program participation within a community-based ECD program serving 819 infants and their caregivers in 50 rural villages in northwestern China. The results find that more than half of families did not regularly attend the ECD program. Both village-level social ties within the program and proximity to the program significantly predict program participation. Increased distance from the program site is linked with decreased individual program participation, while the number of social ties is positively correlated with participation. The average program participation rates among a family’s social ties is also positively correlated with individual participation, indicating strong peer effects. Taken together, our findings suggest that attention should be given to promoting social interactions and reducing geographic barriers among households in order to raise participation in community-based ECD programs.
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Journal Article

Safety of Eyeglasses Wear for Visual Acuity among Middle School Students in Northwestern Rural China: A Cluster-randomised Controlled Trial

Yue Ma, Xinwu Zhang, Haoyang Li, Xiaochen Ma, Dimitris Friesen, Scott Rozelle, Xiaopeng Pang, Ming Zhou, Nathan Congdon
BMJ Open Ophthalmology , 2020
Objective: To assess the effect of free eyeglasses provision on visual acuity among middle school students in northwestern rural China. Methods and analysis: Among 31 middle schools randomly selected from 47 middle schools in northwestern rural China, students were randomly allocated by school to one of two interventions: free eyeglasses (intervention group), and eyeglasses prescriptions given only to the parents (control group). The main outcome of this study is uncorrected visual acuity after 9 months, adjusted for baseline visual acuity. Results: Among 2095 students from 31 middle schools, 995 (47.5%) failed the visual acuity screening, 515 (51.8%, 15 schools) of which were randomly assigned to the intervention group, with the remaining 480 students (48.2%, 16 schools) assigned to the control group. Among these, a total of 910 students were followed up and analysed. Endline eyeglasses wear in the intervention group was 44%, and 36% in the control group. Endline visual acuity of students in the intervention group was significantly better than students in the control group, adjusting for other variables (0.045 LogMAR units, 95% CI 0.006 to 0.084, equivalent to 0.45 lines, p=0.027), and insignificantly better only for baseline visual acuity (difference of 0.008 LogMAR units, 95% CI −0.018 to 0.034, equivalent to 0.08 lines). Conclusion: We found no evidence that receiving free eyeglasses worsened visual acuity among middle school students in northwestern rural China.
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Journal Article

Institutions, Implementation, and Program Effectiveness: Evidence from a Randomized Evaluation of Computer-Assisted Learning in Rural China

Di Mo, Yu Bai, Yaojiang Shi, Cody Abbey, LInxiu Zhang, Scott Rozelle, Prashant Loyalka
Journal of Development Economics , 2020
There is limited evidence on the degree to which differences in implementation among institutions matter for program effectiveness. To examine this question, we conducted an experiment in rural China in which public schools were randomly assigned to one of three treatments: a computer-assisted learning program (CAL) implemented by a government agency, the same program implemented by an NGO, and a pure control. Results show that compared to the pure control condition and unlike the NGO program, the government program did not improve student achievement. Analyzing impacts along the causal chain, we find that government officials were more likely to substitute CAL for regular instruction (contrary to protocol) and less likely to directly monitor program progress. Correlational analyses suggest that these differences in program implementation were responsible for the lack of impacts.
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Journal Article

Conditional Cash Transfers, Uptake of Maternal and Child Health Services, and Health Outcomes in Western Rural China

Huan Zhou, Yuju Wu, Chengfang Liu, Chang Sun, Yaojiang Shi, Linxiu Zhang, Alexis Medina, Scott Rozelle
BMC Public Health , 2020
Background: Empirical evidence suggests that the uptake of maternal and child health (MCH) services is still low in poor rural areas of China. There is concern that this low uptake may detrimentally affect child health outcomes. Previous studies have not yet identified the exact nature of the impact that a conditional cash transfer (CCT) has on the uptake of MCH services and, ultimately, on child health outcomes. The objective of this study is to examine the relationship between CCT, uptake of MCH services, and health outcomes among children in poor rural areas of western China. Methods: We designated two different sets of villages and households that were used as comparisons against which outcomes of the treated households could be assessed. In 2014, we conducted a large-scale survey of 1522 households in 75 villages (including 25 treatment and 50 comparison) from nine nationally designated poverty counties in two provinces of China. In each village, 21 households were selected based on their eligibility status for the CCT program. Difference-in-difference analyses were used to assess the impact of CCT on outcomes in terms of both intention-to-treat (ITT) and average-treatment-effects-on-the-treated (ATT). Results: Overall, the uptake of MCH services in the sample households were low, especially in terms of postpartum care visits, early breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding, and physical examination of the baby. The uptake of the seven types of MCH services in the CCT treatment villages were significantly higher than that in the comparison villages. The results from both the ITT and ATT analyses showed that the CCT program had a positive, although small, impact on the uptake of MCH services and the knowledge of mothers of MCH health issues. Nonetheless, the CCT program had no noticeable effect on child health outcomes. Conclusions: The CCT program generated modest improvements in the uptake of MCH services and mothers’ knowledge of MCH services in poor rural areas of Western China. These improvements, however, did not translate into substantial improvements in child health outcomes for two potential reasons: poor CCT implementation and the low quality of rural health facilities.
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Journal Article

Schooling and Covid-19: Lessons from Recent Research on EdTech

Robert Fairlie, Prashant Loyalka
Nature Partner Journal: Science of Learning , 2020
The wide-scale global movement of school education to remote instruction due to Covid-19 is unprecedented. The use of educational technology (EdTech) offers an alternative to in-person learning and reinforces social distancing, but there is limited evidence on whether and how EdTech affects academic outcomes. Recently, we conducted two large-scale randomized experiments, involving ~10,000 primary school students in China and Russia, to evaluate the effectiveness of EdTech as a substitute for traditional schooling. In China, we examined whether EdTech improves academic outcomes relative to paper-and-pencil workbook exercises of identical content. We found that EdTech was a perfect substitute for traditional learning. In Russia, we further explored how much EdTech can substitute for traditional learning. We found that EdTech substitutes only to a limited extent. The findings from these large-scale trials indicate that we need to be careful about using EdTech as a full-scale substitute for the traditional instruction received by schoolchildren. The wide-scale global movement of school education to remote instruction due to Covid-19 is unprecedented. The use of educational technology (EdTech) offers an alternative to in-person learning and reinforces social distancing, but there is limited evidence on whether and how EdTech affects academic outcomes, and that limited evidence is mixed.1,2 For example, previous studies examine performance of students in online courses and generally find that they do not perform as well as in traditional courses. On the other hand, recent large-scale evaluations of supplemental computer-assisted learning programs show large positive effects on test scores. One concern, however, is that EdTech is often evaluated as a supplemental after-school program instead of as a direct substitute for traditional learning. Supplemental programs inherently have an advantage in that provide more time learning material. Recently, we conducted two large-scale randomized experiments, involving ~10,000 primary school students in China and Russia, to evaluate the effectiveness of EdTech as a substitute for traditional schooling.3,4 In both, we focused on whether and how EdTech can substitute for in-person instruction (being careful to control for time on task). In China, we examined whether EdTech improves academic outcomes relative to paper-and-pencil workbook exercises of identical content. We followed students ages 9–13 for several months over the academic year. When we examined the impacts of each supplemental program we found that EdTech and workbook exercise sessions of equal time and content outside of school hours had the same effect on standardized math test scores and grades in math classes. As such, EdTech appeared to be a perfect substitute for traditional learning. In Russia, we built on these findings by further exploring how much EdTech can substitute for traditional learning. We examined whether providing students ages 9–11 with no EdTech, a base level of EdTech (~45 min per week), and a doubling of that level of EdTech can improve standardized test scores and grades. We found that EdTech can substitute for traditional learning only to a limited extent. There is a diminishing marginal rate of substitution for traditional learning from doubling the amount of EdTech use (that is, when we double the amount of EdTech used we do not find that test scores performance doubles). We find that additional time on EdTech even decreases schoolchildren’s motivation and engagement in subject material. The findings from the large-scale trials indicate that we need to be careful about using EdTech as a full-scale substitute for the traditional instruction received by schoolchildren. There are two general takeaways: First, to a certain extent, EdTech can successfully substitute for traditional learning. Second, there are limits on how much EdTech may be beneficial. Admittedly, we need to be careful about extrapolating from the smaller amount of technology substitution in our experiments to the full-scale substitution in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. However, these studies may offer important lessons. For example, a balanced approach to learning in which schoolchildren intermingle work on electronic devices and work with traditional materials might be optimal. Schools could mail workbooks to students or recommend that students print out exercises to break up the amount of continuous time schoolchildren spend on devices. This might keep students engaged throughout the day and avoid problems associated with removing the structure of classroom schedules. Schools and families can devise creative remote learning solutions that include a combination of EdTech and more traditional forms of learning. Activities such as reading books, running at-home experiments, and art projects can also be used to break up extensive use of technology in remote instruction.
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Working Paper

Education and EdTech during COVID-19: Evidence from a Large-Scale Survey during School Closures in China

Guirong Li, Xinwu Zhang, Delei Liu, Hao Xue, Derek Hu, Oliver Lee, Chris Rilling, Yue Ma, Cody Abbey, Robert Fairlie, Prashant Loyalka, Scott Rozelle
2020
In response to the COVID-19 epidemic, many education systems have relied on distance learning and educational technologies to an unprecedented degree. However, rigorous empirical research on the impacts on learning under these conditions is still scarce. We present the first large-scale, quantitative evidence detailing how school closures affected education in China. The data set includes households and teachers of 4,360 rural and urban primary school students. We find that although the majority of students engaged in distance education, many households encountered difficulties including barriers to learning (such as access to appropriate digital devices and study spaces), curricular delays, and costs to parents equivalent to about two months of income. We also find significant disparities across rural and urban households.
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Working Paper

The Impact of Computer Assisted Learning on Rural Taiwanese Children: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment

Yue Ma, Cody Abbey, Derek Hu, Oliver Lee, Weiting Hung, Xinwu Zhang, Chiayuan Chang, Chyi-In Wu, Scott Rozelle
2020
The effectiveness of educational technology (EdTech) in improving the outcomes of poor, marginalized students has primarily been documented by studies conducted in developing countries; however, relevant research involving randomized studies in developed country contexts is relatively scarce. The objective of the current study is to examine whether an in-school computer assisted learning (CAL) intervention can improve the math performance (the primary outcome) and academic attitudes (secondary outcomes) of rural students in Taiwan, including a marginalized subgroup of rural students called Xinzhumin. We also seek to identify which factors are associated with the effectiveness of the intervention. In order to achieve this, we conducted a randomized control trial involving 1,840 sixth-grade students at 95 schools in four relatively poor counties and municipalities of Taiwan during the spring semester of 2019. According to the ITT analysis, the O-CAL intervention had no significant ITT impacts on the primary outcome of student math performance as well as on most secondary outcomes of the overall treatment group (who on average used the software for only about one quarter of the protocol’s minimum required time of 30 minutes per week, indicating that compliance was low). However, the LATE analysis revealed significant improvements in the math performance of the 30% most active students in the treatment group (who used the software for about two thirds of the minimum required time). Effect sizes of active users overall (0.16 SD-0.22 SD) increased in accordance with increases in usage and were larger for active Xinzhumin users specifically (0.21 SD-0.35 SD). A wide range of student-level and (in particular) teacher-level characteristics were associated with the low compliance to the intervention, which are findings that may help inform educational policymakers and administrators of the potential challenges of introducing school-based interventions that depend heavily on teacher adoption and integration.  
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Working Paper

The Hidden Cost of Worker Turnover: Attributing Product Reliability to the Turnover of Factory Workers

Ken Moon, Prashant Loyalka, Patrick Bergemann, Joshua Cohen
2020
Product reliability is a key concern for manufacturers. We examine a significant but under-recognized determinant of product reliability: the rate of workers quitting from the product's assembly line, or its worker turnover. While modern manufacturers make extensive efforts to control defects and assure quality worksmanship, some quality variation in the manufactured units may be revealed only after they have been used repeatedly. If this is the case, then the disruptiveness of high turnover may directly lead to product reliability issues. To evaluate this possibility, our study collects four post-production years of field failure data covering nearly fifty million sold units of a premium mobile consumer electronics product. Each device is traced back to the assembly line and week in which it was produced, which allows us to link product reliability to production conditions including assembly lines' worker turnover, workloads, firm learning, and the quality of components. Significant effects manifest in two main ways: (1) In the high-turnover weeks immediately following paydays, eventual field failures are surprisingly 10.2% more common than for devices produced in the lowest-turnover weeks immediately before paydays. Using post-payday as an instrumental variable, we estimate that field failure incidence grows by 0.74-0.79% per 1 percentage increase in weekly turnover. (2) Even in other weeks, assembly lines experiencing higher turnover produce an estimated 2-3% more field failures. We demonstrate that staffing and retaining a stable factory workforce critically underlies product reliability and show the value of connected field data in informing manufacturing operations. Keywords: Data-driven workforce planning, Empirical operations management, Employee turnover, People 
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Journal Article

Impact of Spectacles Wear on Uncorrected Visual Acuity among Urban Migrant Primary School Children in China: A Cluster-Randomised Clinical Trial

Xinwu Zhang, Ming Zhou, Xiaochen Ma, Hongmei Yi, Haiqing Zhang, Xiuqing Wang, Ling Jin, Kovin Naidoo, Hasan Minto, Haidong Zou, Scott Rozelle, Nathan Congdon, Yue Ma
British Journal of Opthalmology , 2020
Objective: To estimate the effect of providing free spectacles on uncorrected visual acuity (VA) among urban migrant Chinese school children. Design Exploratory analysis from a parallel cluster-randomised clinical trial. Methods: After baseline survey and VA screening, eligible children were randomised by school to receive one of the two interventions: free glasses and a teacher incentive (tablet computer if ≥80% of children given glasses were wearing them on un-announced examination) (treatment group) or glasses prescription and letter to parents (control group). The primary outcome was uncorrected logarithm of the minimal angle of resolution (LogMAR) VA at study closeout, adjusted for baseline uncorrected VA. Results: Among 4376 randomly selected children, 728 (16.6%, mean age 10.9 years, 51.0% boys) at 94 schools failed VA screening and met eligibility criteria. Of these, 358 children (49.2%) at 47 schools were randomised to treatment and 370 children (50.8%) at 47 schools to control. Among these, 679 children (93.3%) completed follow-up and underwent analysis. Spectacle wear in the treatment and control groups was 68.3% and 29.3%(p
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Book

Lockdowns are Protecting China’s Rural Families from COVID-19, but the Economic Burden is Heavy

Scott Rozelle, Heather Rahimi, Huan Wang, Sarah-Eve Dill
International Food Policy Research Institute , 2020

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak in December 2019, China implemented a nationwide travel blockade and quarantine policy that required all public spaces, businesses, and schools to shut their doors until further notice and placed restrictions on individuals leaving their homes or traveling. The lockdown was also implemented across China’s vast rural areas, home to more than 700 million people. These quarantine measures started during the annual Spring Festival in mid-January, when most rural residents had returned to their family homes to celebrate the Lunar New Year together.

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Journal Article

“At Three Years of Age, We Can See the Future”: Cognitive Skills and the Life Cycle of Rural Chinese Children

Huan Zhou, Ruixue Ye, Sean Sylvia, Nathan Rose, Scott Rozelle
Demographic Research , 2020
BACKGROUND: Although the Chinese education system has seen massive improvements over the past few decades, there are still large academic achievement gaps between rural and urban areas that threaten China’s long-term development. In addition, recent literature underscores the importance of early childhood development (ECD) in later-life human capital development. OBJECTIVES: We analyze the life cycle of cognitive development and learning outcomes in rural Chinese children by first exploring whether ECD outcomes affect cognition levels, then determining whether cognitive delays persist as children grow, and finally examining connections between cognition and education outcomes. METHODS: We combine data from four recent studies that examine different age groups (0–3, 4–5, 10–11, 13–14) to track cognitive outcomes. RESULTS: First, we find that ECD outcomes for children in rural China are poor, with almost one in two children who are cognitively delayed. Second, we find that these cognitive delays seem to persist into middle school, with almost 37% of rural junior high school students who are cognitively delayed. Finally, we show that cognition has a close relationship to academic achievement. CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that urban–rural gaps in academic achievement originate at least in part from differences in ECD outcomes. CONTRIBUTIONS: Although many papers have analyzed ECD, human capital, and inequality separately, this is the first paper to explicitly connect and combine these topics to analyze the life cycle of cognitive development in the context of rural China.
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Journal Article

Independent Reading in Rural China's Elementary Schools: A Mixed-Methods Analysis

Huan Wang, Hongyu Guan, Hongmei Yi, Emma Seevak, Reid Manheim, Matthew Boswell, Scott Rozelle, Sarah Kotb
International Journal of Educational Development , 2020
Abstract: Independent reading—unassigned reading for personal pleasure—has been shown to be an important driver of reading skills and academic success. Children that commonly read for pleasure exhibit higher academic performance. However, little research has been done on independent reading in rural China, where the education system is charged with schooling tens of millions of students. Many rural students fall behind their urban counterparts in school, with potentially troubling implications for China’s ongoing development. This article explores the prevalence of independent reading and its associations with reading ability and academic performance among rural students. Using a mixed methods approach, we analyze quantitative data from a survey of 13,232 students from 134 rural schools and interviews with students, teachers, principals, and caregivers. We find that independent reading is positively and significantly correlated with reading ability as well as standardized math and Chinese tests scores. Despite such correlations, only 17 percent of students report reading for pleasure for an hour a day. Interview findings suggest that inaccessible bookstores, curriculum constraints, unsupportive home environments, low availability of appealing and level-appropriate books, and insufficient school investment in reading resources may explain the low prevalence of independent reading.
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Journal Article

School Quality and Peer Effects: Explaining Differences in Academic Performance between China’s Migrant and Rural Students

Xiaobing Wang, Zhouhang Yuan, Shi Min, Scott Rozelle
The Journal of Development Studies , 2020
In China, parents have a choice to either send their children to private migrant schools in urban areas or to keep them in their own county. It is unclear whether the academic differences of students in rural schools and those in private migrant schools is due to the quality of schools, the quality of students/peers, or the ways that peer effects interact with the quality of the school. Using survey data from students with rural residency who attended either migrant schools or rural public schools, we measure how differences in the quality of the types of schools and how the effect of peers differs in high- versus low-quality schools. An instrumental variable approach is used to identify the causality of a student’s peers on his or her academic outcomes and within the context of each of the school venues. The gap in student academic performance is explained by the differences in each student’s peers as and in how peers interact in the schooling environments. The analysis also demonstrates that there is a significant interaction effect between one’s peers and the quality of a student’s school environment. We found that school quality has a complementary effect with peers on student academic performance.
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Journal Article

Factors Linked to Cultivating Successful Readers: Evidence from Rural China

Nan Wang, Huan Wang, Fang Chang, Feng Lu, Sarah-Eve Dill
International Journal of Educational Research , 2020
In China, education gaps exist not only between rural and urban students, but also within the population of rural students. Evidence points to poor reading skills development as one possible factor in this gap. If reading skills are moderating variations in academic performance among rural students, what factors in the home and school environment lead some students to develop strong reading skills? Using data from 1870 primary school students in rural China, the results show considerable variation in student reading skills. The home environment is strongly linked to reading skills, whereas school factors are not positively associated with reading skills. These findings suggest that policies and programs to support student reading skills are needed in rural China.
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Journal Article

Teacher Qualifications and Development Outcomes of Preschool Children in Rural China

Lei Wang, Ruirui Dang, Yu Bai, Siqi Zhang, Buyao Liu, Lijuan Zheng, Ning Yang, Chuyu Song
Early Childhood Research Quarterly , 2020
In the preschool period, interactions between teachers and children are an essential input for healthy development. However, it is not well understood how the qualifications of preschool teachers contribute to child development during the preschool period, and previous international studies have returned mixed results. We drew on data from a longitudinal study of 1031 preschool children age 49–65 months in rural China to examine the associations between teacher qualifications and the development of preschool children. The findings showed that 36% of preschool children in the sample are developmentally delayed.Overall, teacher qualifications (education level, specialization in early childhood education, professional ranking, experience and training) were significantly associated with preschool-age child developmental outcomes. Teacher professional ranking and educational attainment were positively and significantly correlated with two measures of child language development, but a degree specialized in early child-hood education was negatively related to vocabulary acquisition. No significant correlations were found between teacher experience or teacher training and child developmental outcomes. The study concludes that policymakers should encourage highly educated and professionally ranked teachers to serve in rural preschools in order to improve the development of preschool children.
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Journal Article

Large-Scale International Assessments of Learning Outcomes: Balancing the Interests of Multiple Stakeholders

Guirong Li, Irina Shcheglova, Ashutosh Bhuradia, Yanyan Li, Prashant Loyalka, Olivia Zhou, Shangfeng Hu, Ningning Yu, Liping Ma, Fei Guo, Igor Chirikov
Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management , 2020
The demand for large-scale assessments in higher education, especially at an international scale, is growing. A major challenge of conducting these assessments, however, is that they require understanding and balancing the interests of multiple stakeholders (government officials, university administrators, and students) and also overcoming potential unwillingness of these stakeholders to participate. In this paper, we take the experience of the Study of Undergraduate Performance (SUPER) in conducting a large-scale international assessment as a case study. We discuss ways in which we mitigated perceived risks, built trust, and provided incentives to ensure the successful engagement of stakeholders during the study’s implementation.
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Working Paper

Why Aren't Rural Children Completing Compulsory Education? A Survey-Based Study in China, 2003 to 2011

Xiaoyun Liu, Scott Rozelle
China Agricultural Economic Review , 2020
Purpose: Although China has instituted compulsory education through Grade 9, it is still unclear whether students are, in fact, staying in school. In this paper, the authors use a multi-year (2003–2011) longitudinal survey data set on rural households in 102–130 villages across 30 provinces in China to examine the extent to which students still drop out of school prior to finishing compulsory education. Design/methodology/approach: To examine the correlates of dropping out, the study uses ordinary least squares and multivariate probit models. Findings: Dropout rate from junior high school was still high (14%) in 2011, even though it fell across the study period. There was heterogeneity in the measured dropout rate. There was great variation among different regions, and especially among different villages. In all, 10% of the sample villages showed extremely high rates during the study period and actually rose over time. Household characteristics associated with poverty and the opportunity cost of staying in school were significantly and negatively correlated with the completion of nine years of schooling. Research limitations/implications: The findings of this study suggest that China needs to take additional steps to overcome the barriers keeping children from completing nine years of schooling if they hope to either achieve their goal of having all children complete nine years of school or extend compulsory schooling to the end of twelfth grade. Originality/value: The authors seek to measure the prevalence of both compulsory education rates of dropouts and rates of completion in China. The study examines the correlates of dropping out at the lower secondary schooling level as a way of understanding what types of students (from what types of villages) are not complying with national schooling regulations. To overcome the methodological shortcomings of previous research on dropout in China, the study uses a nationally representative, longitudinal data set based on household surveys collected between 2003 and 2011.
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Journal Article

Feeling Bad and Doing Bad: Student Confidence in Reading in Rural China

Qiufeng Gao, Huan Wang, Fang Chang, Qi An, Hongmei Yi, Kaleigh Kenny, Yaojiang Shi
Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education , 2020
This article reports on research conducted to investigate student confidence in reading by collecting data from 135 primary schools in rural China. In the survey, we adopted the PIRLS scales of confidence in reading and reading skills test items. Our analysis shows that compared to the other countries and regions, rural China ranks last with regard to student confidence in reading and reading achievement. The correlation analysis reveals that in rural China there is a strong correlation between student confidence in reading and reading achievement. Additionally, school and teacher factors are associated with student confidence in reading. Specifically, having an accessible classroom library is associated with higher reading confidence, especially among the poor readers. Teacher instruction in reading correlates with higher confidence in readers for high achievers. Our findings indicate that the government should develop effective policies to improve student confidence in reading and reading skills in rural China.
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