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Cognitive Abilities Differences between Urban-Rural Students in Yunnan Province, China
The ONETARGET Institute for Educational Assessment (OTIEA), is a research-oriented assessment institute founded by Beijing ONETARGET Education Technology Ltd., promoting competency-based educational assessments. Each year, over 200 thousand students from primary and secondary schools are measured by assessment products and services of OTIEA.
It has long been a major concern that the unequal development of basic education in urban/rural areas in China. Recent research has found that cognitive ability, academic motivation, and social support are the critical factors affecting students’ quality of academic performance (Stadler et al., 2016; Bong, 2009; Parameswari & Maharishi, 2015). Using one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), therefore, this study was designed to examine the disparities and related factors in the cognitive abilities of primary and secondary school students in areas with varying levels of urban/rural settlements in Yunnan Province of China.
Cognitive abilities and related factors were measured at age 8-14 years (N = 6024 primary school students and 8690 junior secondary school students) with the Cognitive Assessment Battery II and the Social Support Self-Assessment II developed by OTIEA which including Memory Ability Test, Attention Test, Reasoning Test; Teacher-Student Relationship Scale, Parent Support Scale and Friendship Quality Scale.
Findings from five cities and counties in Yunnan Provinces revealed that: (1) rural students scored significantly lower on cognitive ability test than their urban counterparts; (2) urban students scored significantly higher on reasoning ability than on memory and attention. However, students in rural areas scored lower on reasoning ability than on memory and attention; (3) in general, parents in rural townships and mountain areas were less educated than parents in urban areas; there was a positive correlation between cognitive ability and external factors or social support (i.e. teacher-student relationship, parental support and friendship quality). Based on the findings above, it is suggested that reducing the gap in the cognitive ability between urban and rural students could enhance the all-round development of students, and thereby promote a balanced education in Yunnan. Moreover, parental support and encouragement to children’s education have a positive effect on cognitive ability development and it is vital to cultivate strong parent-teacher partnerships to improve children’s cognitive abilities. Therefore, it is recommended that the government should focus greater attention on allocating educational resources and improving the educational environment in decision making, to ensure equal educational opportunities for all children in rural areas.
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