Zhang Lingyu

The importance of cultural capital in the family strategy to the university entrance exam (Gaokao) in Suifenghe


In this research, I analyse the role of cultural capitals on family strategy for the preparation of their children to entrance university exams (Gaokao) in a small bordertown of Northeast China. Our fieldwork have been done in two periods. The first period has been conducted in July and August of 2016. The second period of fieldwork has been carried out from August 2017 to August 2018. During that time, we conduct interview with parents, teachers, and students of two differents school: Suifenhe Senior High School and Suifenhe Vocational High School.

The research analyzes the different mecanism that leads up to a stong social reproduction through the process of preparation of the exam. Indeed, the cultural value and cultural resources of families strongly influence the parental involvement.

In the town of Suifenghe whose economy had been florishing till 1990 but is now facing a important economic crises pushing number of resident to move to other part of China, it is the civil servant families that are the more involve in the preparation their children exams.  In this type of families, parents actively design a road to succeed in Gaokao and monitoring day by day the Gaokao preparation. For them, in such an economic context, the Gaokao is the way to escape the lack of professionnal opportunity in Suifenghe.

In familiy with lower statut and less cultural capital, parents have little involvement or formly involvement in the educational practice of children. It is particularly the case of  working-class children but also in Suifenghe small private entrepreneur children or even children that has been “left behind” by parents in the migration.In another hand, certain parents in small private entrepreneur families realize the importance of parental involvement to succeed in Gaokao and organize their lifestyle as similar as civil servant famillies.  But the seemingly involvement have little help to their children’s educational practice. It turns out that rare children in these families access to competative universities and majors. Alternatively, certain parents send their children to foreigner university escaping from the competative Gaokao, with taking advantge of their economic resource.