The 2 Jinan schools we visited, Jinan Primary School and Jinan #2 High School, were both probably that city's showcase schools, like Lowell or School of the Arts High Schools are here in SF. We didn't see the regular schools, especially those that the 'common people' attend in Jinan.
Besides some of the China analysts like Walden Bello, Gordon Chang, William Hinton and others I have been reading, I have found the work of Dale Wen very enlightening as well. Dale's great analysis China Copes with Globalization for the International Forum on Globalization was a must read for me. The section on China's workforce, health care system, and on growing poverty and inequality were very helpful, as was the section on China's diverse 'New Left'. Wen has a great website as well - Dale's China Page
On the inequalities in China's education system Wen writes:
Despite China’s stunning economic progress, annually there are still more than 3 million kids drop out of elementary and junior high school. The majority of these drop-out kids are girls, which means that their future children are more likely to miss the opportunity of education as well.China's dropouts or "pushouts" as some of us call them are as invisible there as they are here in San Francisco schools. Education Week in their Diplomas Count report and the NY Times have noted that more than a third of high school dropouts across the nation leave school without ever going beyond the ninth grade.
And, while some try to constantly downplay this crisis, the numbers for Native American, African Americans and Chicanos/Latinos are even more alarming. See SF Schools Blog for more.
Given China's huge population [even in Jinan, one of China's lesser known urban centers with about 5 million people, the school system was larger than Los Angeles Unified] the figure given by Wen of 3 million students dropping out in that huge nation is probably a much lower rate than that of California or especially in our urban districts like San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles.
At some point I hope to visit schools in China in the rural areas, and those in the City that are not the Party's showcase schools.
For more on my china trip with photos etc. go to my China blog Jooksing in the Motherland