For centuries women were educated in China to become good wives and devoted mothers. China passed a bill in 1922 to ensure women legal rights to education afforded to men, and female enrollment and literacy rates improved greatly by the mid-twentieth century. But women living in cities and coastal regions experience more progress than those in rural, inland areas, and gender inequality still exists in curriculum, limiting opportunities for women in employment, pay, and status.
For much of China’s history, women did not enjoy the same access to education and knowledge as men. Families and clans (especially the well-to-do) provided schooling for Chinese women, much of it geared to prepare women for marriage and child rearing, whereas many men had access to formal training geared to serving China’s imperial bureaucracies. Priorities for education changed with the forming of the republic in 1911, a law to ensure legal rights for education to both sexes in 1922, and as the Communists took control in 1949. Literacy rates for women and female enrollment at all school levels gradually and then greatly improved, especially after the reform and opening of China that began in 1978 and the compulsory education bill of 1986. But gender equality still exists, especially in rural inland regions.