Differences in English education level in the study area
From the English proficiency test results, English education level varies greatly among different schools. In 322 senior high schools, the highest average value of EED is 759 times the lowest. Schools with EED below the average value account for more than half of the total number of schools (56.63%) in 2018-2021. 71 schools have anomaly values below -70% and 32 schools have anomaly values below -90%, which indicates that they are poor in terms of English education quality. We carried out investigations on those 32 schools and found that most of them are located in remote mountainous areas and the residental areas of ethnic minority groups. Disparities in educational achievements resulted from ethnic and racial factors are a core issue of educational research. English as a global language is widely used in the world , and it is one of the compulsory courses in primary education in China . Students in ethnic areas learn not only their mother tongue, but also English and Chinese as well. Therefore, they encounter more challenges when learning English. First, ethnologue and English belong to different language categories, having different phonetics and grammar characteristics. Second, the learning environment of students in ethnic areas is poor---with a lack of available teaching resources and professionally well-trained English teachers who, if do work there, are asked to speak and understand the ethnologue [6, 9]. Third, there exists negative attitude of the schools and patents toward English learning. These challenges make students in ethnic areas learn in a helpless and anxious way, and such mindset also impact the learning performance of subjects other than foreign language [16, 28, 41]. Some researchers think that teachers and their teaching practice are prominent factors in exacerbating or alleviating learned helplessness symptoms and behavior [4, 14]. Some suggest that negative attitude or no involvement of parent results in poor academic performance [21, 24]. In summary, it is difficult for students in ethnic areas to learn English. In order to resolve the problem and to eliminate the big differences in English education level in the study area, Chinese State Education Commission has released many educational policies such as increasing salaries, implementing a rotation system, giving priority to professional title promotion and so on .
The level of English education changes significantly from year to year
From the analysis of the percentage change of EED in three years, we find that the English level of many schools vary greatly from year to year, with some increaing and others decreasing. However, if we compare stage 2018-2019 to stage 2019-2020, we can see that the overall English level has improved in the latter one.
The influencing factors of English performance include internal factors and external factors. The most basic and indispensable factors are teachers and students, while other factors exert their influence on Enlish performance via teachers and students . Previous studies show that the allocation of teacher resources has an important impact on the examination results . Duflo et al. find out that reducing the ratio of student to teacher can improve the quality of education by reducing class size and hiring more local teachers . Blake et al. point out that the racial and ethnic status of students and teachers would affect students’ educational level . Generally, teacher resources keep stable in high-quality schools, while low-quality schools have a higher turnover rate of teachers than high-quality schools, and private schools have a higher turnover rate than state schools . The results from questionnaries in the study is the consistent with that in literature, in addition, the teachers who quit are relatively younger and have shorter teaching experience compared to before. Teacher turnover is disruptive for students’ academic attainment . Teaching environment, salary and welfare guarantee are responsible for teacher turnover and loss . Besides, the principal shortage and weak leadership are other contributors to the loss of teachers , whose impact is even more severe in schools with high concentrations of ethnic minority students and poor students . The educational regulation has an important influence on the improvement of teacher allocation in basic education in Gansu Province. Local governments have increased funding for education, improved educational facilities and increased the spots for teachers in ethnic and poor areas. The intensity of improvement was the greatest in 2018 . Corresponding improvement of English academic test scores might happen during 2019-2020.
Aggregation pattern in English education level
From our analysis of the hot spot, we see that the regional differences in English level are significant. The English education quality decreases as we move away from the provincial capital (Lanzhou) to the periphery cities. On the provincial level, the regions with high English level are concentrated in Lanzhou and the central part of Hexi Corridor, while the regions with low English level are mainly concentrated in Linxia city, most parts of Longnan and eastern part of Qingyang. This shows an aggregation pattern. The spatial inequality of education can be between provinces, between rural and urban areas, or between districts or counties [12, 27]. Peng points out the spatial difference is mainly due to unbalanced economic development . Many researchers focus on the factors affecting the disparties. Yu et al. point out the regional differences mainly result from the difference of education resources allocation . Hussar and Sonnenberg find out the main factor is the difference of expenditures per Pupil . Kang et al. summarize that the regional differecne of education is influenced by many factors such as geographical location, educational fund, and the quality of teachers and students . Considering many factors mentioned above, the difference of education of inter-cities is greater than that of intra-cities . Just because of the inequality in education, the selection of school has become an inevitable problem for both the students and the teachers in the stage of compulsory education, which makes the inequality even larger. Equal opportunity to education is a basic human right championed by the United Nations . In order to balance the development of basic education, effective countermeasures have been put forward by Chinese goverment, for example, balancing allocation of basic educational resources, increasing the investment in weaken areas and schools, encouraging teachers for training, achieving teacher shift, et al. Shanghai has taken the measures of collectivization in running a school. At the micro-management level, for collectivized schools, their school management structure will be optimized, professional development of teachers enhanced, and all-round development of students promoted .