Post #4 Identifying Obstacles in Education Development: Government Corruption and Economic Inequality

In the coming four weeks, I will focus my topic to conduct an in-depth research on how to better educate Chinese citizens. In my context, I am from Hong Kong, a city of China; therefore I should understand the Chinese culture right? Here is the issue, Hong Kong was once dominated by Great Britain for 99 years, which meant most of our system is based on Great Britain, and this diverse multi-culture has a unique impact on my belief and experience. There are substantial differences in thinking between Hong Kong and Mainland China people, and I crave to know the fundamental reasons as part of my research.

The final purpose of education is to lead people to life success and happiness, and acquiring a higher education would allow them to have a freedom of thinking critically and creatively. However, before educating citizens to a higher education level, it is critical to understand the dynamics of the community and their social problems, and solve the root of those problems. A serious need of reducing economic inequality and corruption has been observed in China for decades; however, it requires the identification of determinants to these issues in order to generate solutions.

Corruption: The Collapse of Community and the Underlying Theories

Corruption arouses a serious social concern in China, and mostly because their distribution of social goods are made under political considerations and processes (Yolles, 2009). Therefore, its influence is evidential in many aspects of life, from environment, economic growth, and health care to education. According to Pie (2007), the estimated amount of Chinese government capital being misused on corruption was $86 Billion, and it exceeded the entire expenditure on education in 2006 in China. Furthermore, corruption extends to their education sector, that the statistical figures reported and quality of research conducted by the highly esteemed university in China was falsified with a high rate of plagiarism; this trend suggests that corruption is also underlying in the academic departments (Jiaxue, 2010).

In a theoretical perspective of corruption, the causes can be explained by using three levels of corruption depth: individual, organizational and societal levels (Graaf, 2007). Firstly, public choice theory is applicable to the level of the individual, that it attributes individuals to corruption because the estimation of one’s own benefits outweighs the costs. A following suggestion is to influence the calculations between cost and benefit, and gives the corruptive individuals an illusion of growing costs by increasing the penalty of getting caught (Anechiarico & Jacobs, 1996). Secondly, organisational culture theory shows that “a certain group culture leads to a certain mental state”.  This theory suggests that influencing the culture of an organization is crucial in order to control corruption. An example of this would be changing the leadership (Kaptein & Wempe, 2002); when the top management of an organization is corruptive, it increases the risks to generate more corruption activities by individuals who have business contact with the organization. Lastly, ethos of public administration theory is believed to be responsible for the societal level. This theory proposes the source of corruption is based on certain norms and values of societies which have a direct impact on the norms and values of citizens. The solution to this corruption is ethical education and involves amendments on the codes of conduct (Kaptein & Wempe, 2002).

Conformity provides a social psychological insight to explain why corruption is hard to change, in which government plays a key role. An example took place in Hong Kong that the Chinese government attempted to enact “Hong Kong Basic Law Article 23” that arouses our concern of restricted speech freedom in 2002. The fear of being illegal to express our thinking on the political decision can make citizens conform to the government; and when corruption is conducted by officials, how should we act?

Solution to Reduce Corruption: Anti-Corruption Education and a Future View

A generally held belief on the solution of corruption is that development of education and literacy rate would lead to less corruption, that is shown in a study of the U.S., where the negative relationship between education and corruption was reported (Glaeser & Saks, 2006). However, Dong and Torgler (2010) indicated that in China, education is positively associated with corruption, and this implied that educating individuals to have an abundant knowledge of the world would only lead to corruption. If this is a genuine truth, a re-investigation of their current education system must take place to understand where it takes roots. It is possible for parents, teachers and teaching curriculum to lead the education road to a wrong trajectory. An example of this would be a missing element in the traditional teaching content (i.e. moral education), or an inappropriate teaching content that reduces citizens’ sense of what damage corruption would do to themselves and their community.

It was in 2007 that the very first time Chinese government aroused their sense of anti-corruption, and promoted an anti-corruption game “Incorruptible Fighter” from a governmental game designer, aiming to highlight its problems and increase awareness of adolescents and young adults on this issue (BBC, 2007). The media massively criticized the moral rights of the game for “killing for justice” before it could successfully educate them about anti-corruption. Another issue with this game was its untimely launch date, as this game would be futile until the government officials are educated on anti-corruption. Launching a game would be a good method to educate the new generations about anti-corruption and moral education if the game is well-designed.

The new president of China, Xi Jinping, recently launched an anti-corruption campaign (BBC, 2013), and committed to increase the trade transparency and change the law restriction (The Guardian, 2013). The commitment from Xi provides new hope of reformation to the Chinese citizens. However, the most easily associated problem of this anti-corruption campaign is that how can we guarantee that its supervisor is unbiased?

The body of research on the causes of corruption is growing vastly; nevertheless there are no absolute solutions applicable to all context of corruption, because theories generally have different focuses (i.e. levels of corruption, and implicit or explicit causal models). More genuinely, the mix of corruption control changes over time that any suggestions on solving corruption at a time may no longer be effective in a five years’ time (Anechiarico & Jacobs, 1996).

Economic Inequality: The Source of Education Inequality

It is not wrong by saying that every dot is connected, and a butterfly effect exists between factors. Whilst corruption causes economic inequality in urban and rural areas, economic inequality leads to education inequality (You, 2005; Zhou & Qin, 2012). In the recent empirical research, there is a controversy on whether economic inequality has a causal relationship with education inequality, or an interaction with education equality.

Yue and Liu (2007) argued that lower income inequality provides greater educational opportunities to citizens, and therefore reduce the education inequality in the urban cities of China. They demonstrated that the growing distribution of income inequality was attributed to the groups with lower socio-economic status, whereby those individuals are more likely to have lower education level and less work experiences averagely in comparison with other groups. Additionally, the gap of income within a group is considerable smaller when they have a higher average education, and it implied that the improvement of general education in urban cities will bring better economic equality; but have we underestimated the complexity of this issue?

Yang, Huang and Li (2009) conducted a similar research as Yue and Liu’s, but their investigation extended from urban people to rural people in China. They also consistently reported that reducing income inequality will lead to a significant decrease in education inequality. Fundamentally however, they found that the improvement of educational inequality does not reduce the economic inequality in short-term, as well as long-term from their prediction. This finding can be explained by the current economic condition in Chinese labor force market, that the supply is more than the demand which leads to a worse income inequality than before. It is obvious that an emergent need to increasing the job opportunities can solve the immediate problem caused by income inequality. Despite this, the finding also has another serious implication: since an education could not help in getting a better job, will people start thinking that education has no future? This leads to a lack of motivation of understanding new information and a more discordant atmosphere in the society.

Who wants to live under poverty? If people achieve a higher education, but they end up being worried about living and a load of stress; there is no way for them to gain happiness in their life. Tell me, how can they indulge themselves in the world of knowledge?

Brief suggestions are that Chinese government should put more effort to the unbalanced economic development, whilst considering educational investment and economic policy; in order to reduce the economic inequality among provinces.


  1. Anechiarico, F., & Jacobs J. (1996). The Pursuit of Absolute Integrity. How Corruption Control Makes Government Ineffective, The University of Chicago Press: Chicago.
  2. BBC, (2007). China Enjoys Anti-Corruption Game. Retrieved from:
  3. BBC, (2013). How Real is China’s Anti-corruption Campaign?. Retrieved from:
  4. Jiaxue, G. (2010). Academic Corruption Undermining Higher Education: Yau Shing-Tung. Retrieved from:
  5. Dong, B. & Torgler, B. (2010). The Causes of Corruption: Evidences from China. Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei Working Paper, 461, 1-36. Retrieved from:
  6. Glaeser, E. L., & Saks, R. E. (2006). Corruption in America. Journal of Public Economics, 90, 1053-1072.
  7. Graaf, G. (2007). Causes of Corruption: Towards a Contextual Theory of Corruption. Public Administration Quarterly, 31, 1-39. Retrieved from:
  8. Kaptein, M., & Wempe, J. (2002). The Balanced Company: A Theory of Corporate Integrity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  9. Pei, M. (2007). Corruption Threatens China’s Future. Retrieved from:
  10. The Guardian, (2013). China anti-corruption crackdown targets Nanjing mayor. Retrieved from:
  11. Yang, J., Huang, X. & Li, X., (2009). Educational inequality and income inequality: An empirical study on China. Frontiers of Education in China, 4(3), 413-434.
  12. Yolles, M. (2009). A social psychological basis of corruption and sociopathology. Journal of Organisational Change, 22(6), 691-731.
  13. You, J.-S. (2005a), “A comparative case study of corruption in South Korea, relative to Taiwan and the Philippines: focusing on the role of land reform and industrial policy”, PhD thesis, JOCM22,6730 Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, Chapter IV, available at:
  14. Yue, C. & Liu, Y. (2007). Impact of education on the income of different social groups. Frontiers of Education in China, 2(2), 191-200.

Post #1 Potential Biases that hinder Creativity in the Current Education System: Conformity, Standardisation, Test-based Acceptance

Since the beginning of this module, I have been spending some time watching presentation videos from TED (Technology, Education and Design), particularly focusing on the education videos. This got me thinking, is there something wrong with our education system? We are taught from a very early age that ‘practice makes perfect’ and that it is through this method that we can improve our skills. However, in my particular case, I had spent a massive amount of time studying English and doing test every other week, during college. This was all in preparation for my coming to the UK to study, as universities here require a certain level of English to accept international students. So I took my IELTS exam after all the hard work and achieved 6.5 overall in my scores, but ironically I don’t find my English strong enough to communicate with local students and to express myself. I felt that the education system did not work around my needs rather more around a set standard way. Therefore shouldn’t educations systems stop using standardized teaching and promote more creativity in order to help students actually learn and not get high grades?

Importance of Creativity

innovation Mind Map by Paul Foreman

Creativity is very important for people to develop and is evident in different aspects of life. Building upon the quality of creative thinking, individuals are allowed to benefit from innovative technology, aiding the whole education system to achieve a better understanding of specific needs from learners and establish a more solid foundation for a creative world. In 2010, Naderi et al did a study on creativity and used 153 undergraduate students from Malaysian Universities and found that significantly, creativity is positively related to academic achievement for both genders (Male: p < .003; Female: p < .001).

For individuals with healthy mental status, creative strategies of learning new language helps them to understand a new language (Argondizzo, 2012). Despite being important on learning new information, implementing innovations in technology to advance therapies such as behavioral parent training (BPT), can help children with disruptive behaviors to promote mental health (Jones, 2013).

In addition to the implication of creativity, many research indicate that creativity is now one of the critical assessment of individuals’ job performance because of the growing competition between companies to continuously improve and adapt new ideas (Gong et al, 2012; Ford & Gioia, 2000).

Potential Biases: Standardisation, Test-based Acceptance, Conformity

Unfortunately according to Ravitch (2003), educators are being influenced by political circumstances, in which facilitates the use of standardized education system been brought into the classroom. Meaning teachers do not have the ability to majorly change how a module may be taught even if it may help the learners understand better. Instead it is just the typical sit down, listen to the teacher talk and write about it in homework afterschool.

From the learners’ perspective of standardisation, it would prevent them to share their creative ideas, in order to avoid unfavorable evaluation or being viewed as divergent (Gough, 1979). For example, a preschooler has a talented skill on drawing that he is capable at more complex art such as drawing the human hand with detailed fingers; however, a teacher may see this as distant from what preschoolers are meant to learn, and may instruct him instead to draw a circle shape as human hand. With the happening of these events, the child would have built up an unconscious status of the “threat of negative evaluation” and gradually become reluctant to show their creativity (Bowers, 1967).


Sahlberg and Boce (2012) argued that spending a majority of time to do massive amounts of coursework or examinations, and many hours listening and receiving message from a teacher is not helpful in nurturing students’ creativity. This caused concern and Robinson (2006) believed that creativity is hindered by the environments which enforce conformity.


Another researcher, Abbate (2010), suggested that there are concerns about how leadership in education can affect learning. Leaders may take conformity as accounted for the quality of work or idea. This issue can be directly associated with the education system. Is the education system conformed to the integrity of parents and expectations of society by giving standardized exams to students, rather than giving real care to their potential talents? If a student got high grades but forgot everything straight after the exam, would please future employers and possibly parents but what about those that do not do so well in exams but may understand better and in the end actually learn more than high achivers?

An example of this conformity issue would be the Desirable Outcomes for Children’s Learning (DLOs). DLOs was the first education system that is applied to a large range of pre-school provision, and was supervised by OfSTED.  When meeting the supervisor’s regulations becomes an education leader’s priority, the only processes that are accepted are those that show conformity, but not those that support creativity. At last, there was an agreement of being “open to misinterpretation” for the settings of DLOs (QCA, 2000).

Any Real-life Examples that the Potential Biases Cause Concerns in the Society?

The most frequently seen example is nurses being taught to conform and comply with higher authorities, such as doctor. In a famous experiment by Hofling et al (1966), they did it by asking twenty-two nurses to put on medication for a patient through the phone from an unknown doctor, in which the volume of medicine required was over the maximum volume for one injection. Surprisingly, only one nurse did not comply with the instruction. Besides, according to McDonald and Ahern (2000), nurses who speaking out against poor medical practice are more likely to receive severe reprisals from colleagues, such as peer rejection and even threats.

Yet another example occurs in the management of a company, that standardisation is commonly utilized in a company structure to monitor all internal staff and allow them to have a set of regulation, minimizing mistakes. However, facing the serious competition, company has a dilemma situation that it is difficult for them to balance between innovative management and standardised system. The use of innovation brings a continual change to the company and requires for a more informal structure; that is against standardisation, which functions to reduce variance (Benner & Tushman, 2003). Nevertheless, Worren et all (1999) argued that a supportive relationship can exist between innovative and standardised management, and both systems rely on each other. So, why can’t the same thing happen to our education system?

Evolution of the Current Education System

To create a more complex application of standardisation and creativity, a minority of education leaders is putting their contribution to add the element of creative thinking in the current education system. It is important for organisations such as Centre for Creative Leadership, Creative Education Foundation (CEF) and Creativity, Culture and Education (CCE) have a good development, because it can gain confidence for the educators to utilize innovation in the future system setting.

On the other hand, researchers struggle to find the means to facilitate the formation of creativity, and examples of the research would be that Wang (2012) did a literature review on creativity thinking; whereas Agina (2012) investigating the effect of nonhuman’s external regulation on children’s creativity. She summed up many studies and suggested four main dimensions that should be implemented when educating students:
“1) cognitive: thinking, remembering, reasoning;
2) motivation: self-discovery, courage, curiosity, willingness, task commitment;
3) personality: self-confidence, self-esteem, determination, persistence, tolerance for ambiguity, openness to new experiences
4) society: abundant resources, independence, nonconformity.”

This kind of research would help the educators to identify and implement new teaching skills, which allows the current education system to evolve into a better stage.


It is hard to recognize the effect of standardisation, test-based acceptance and conformity on creativity thinking, because there are not many experimental research done on these fields. However some evidence does seem to indicate the importance of creativity to learning and should be implemented into the education system. In the current education system setting, the setting is aligned with some learners and allows them to contribute their creativity, but a certain number of learners cannot properly adapt their potential talents in it, and it burdens their gifts. Therefore, I hope further “creative” investigations will be done to help them (I’m one of them btw…) out. Anyway I hope you guys would enjoy my first blog.


  1. Abbate, F. J., (2010). Education Leadership in a Culture of Compliance. Phi Delta Kappan, 91(6), 35-37.
  2. Agina, A. M., (2012). The effect of nonhuman’s external regulation on young children’s creative thinking and thinking aloud verbalization during learning mathematical tasks. Computers in Human Behavior. 28(4), 1213-1226.
  3. Argondizzo, C. (2012). Creativity and Innovation in Language Education (Ed.). Bern: Peter Lang.
  4. Benner, M. J., & Tushman, M. L., (2003). Exploitation, exploration, and process management: the productivity dilemma revisited. Academy of Management Review, 28(2), 238-256.
  5. Bowers, P. G. (1967). Effect of hypnosis and suggestions on reduced defensiveness on creativity test performance. Journal of Personality, 35, 311-322.
  6. Ford, C. M., & Gioia, D. A., (2000). Factors influencing creativity in the domain of managerial decision making, Journal of Management, 26(4), 705-732.
  7. Gong, Y., Cheung, S., Wang, M., & Huang, J. (2012). Unfolding the Proactive Process for Creativity. Journal of Management, 38(5), 1611-1633.
  8. Gough, H. G. (1979). A creative personality scale for the adjective check list. Journal of  Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 1398-1405.
  9. Hofling, C. K., Brotzman, E., Dalrymple, S., Graves, N., & Pierce, C. M. (1966). An Experimental Study in Nurse-physician Relationships. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 143, 171-180.
  10. Jones, D. J., Forehand, R., Cuellar, J., Kincaid, C., Parent, J., Fenton, N., & Goodrum, N. (2013). Harnessing innovative technologies to advance children’s mental health: Behavioral parent training as an example. Clinical Psychology Review, 33(2), 241-252.
  11. McDonald, S., & Ahern, K. (2000). The Professional Consequences of Whistleblowing by Nurses. Journal of Professional Nursing, 16(6), 313-321.
  12. Naderi, H., Abdullah, R., Aizan, H. T., Sharir, J., & Kumar, V., (2010). Relationship between creativity and academic achievement: A study of gender differences. Journal of American Science, 6(1), 181-190.
  13. Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) (2000). Curriculum guidance for the foundation stage, QCA/DfEE.
  14. Ravitvh, D. (2003). The language police: How pressure groups restrict what students learn. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.
  15. Robinson, K. (2006). Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity. TED. Retrieved online August 28th, 2012. Available: (2000)
  16. Sahlberg, P., & Boce, E. (in print). Are teachers teaching for a knowledge society? Teachers and Teaching.
  17. Wang, A. Y., (2012). Exploring the relationship of creative thinking to reading and writing. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 7(1), 38-47.
  18. Worren, N. A. M., Ruddle, K., & Moore, K., (1999). From organizational developmental to change management: the emergence of a new profession. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 35(3), 273-286.