Can Information and Counseling Help Students from Poor Rural Areas Go to High School? Evidence from China
Posted: 13 Jul 2013
Date Written: June 21, 2013
Recent studies have shown that only about two-thirds of the students from poor, rural areas in China finish junior high school and enter high school. One factor that may be behind the low rates of high school attendance is that students may be misinformed about the returns to schooling or lack career planning skills. We therefore conduct a cluster-randomized controlled trial (RCT) using a sample of 131 junior high schools and more than 12,000 students to test the effects of providing information on returns or career planning skills on student dropout, academic achievement and plans to go to high school. Contrary to previous studies, we find that information does not have significant effects on student outcomes. Unlike information, counseling does have an effect. However, the effect is somewhat surprising. Our findings suggest that counseling increases dropouts and seems to lower academic achievement. In our analysis of the causal chain, we conclude that financial constraints and the poor quality of education in junior high schools in poor, rural areas (the venue of the study) may be contributing to the absence of positive impacts on student outcomes from information and counseling. The negative effects of counseling on dropout may also be due to the high and growing wages for unskilled labor (high opportunity costs) in China’s transitioning economy. It is possible that when our counseling curriculum informed the students about the reality of how difficult were the requirements for entering academic high school, it may have induced them to revise their benefit-cost calculations and come to the realization that they are better off dropping out and/or working less hard in school.
Keywords: junior high school students, randomized controlled trial, information, counseling, dropout, educational attainment, high school, rural China
JEL Classification: I20, 015
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation