The Ford Foundation: 15 years of Educational Funding Projects in China

  • Home
  • >
  • Analysis
  • >
  • The Ford Foundation: 15 years of Educational Funding Projects in China

The Ford Foundation has provided funds for projects, especially educational projects, since the establishment of its Beijing Office in 1988. Nevertheless, systematic funding for educational projects was not available until Dr. He Jin became the project officer in 2001. After 15 years of work on funding educational projects, Dr. He Jin retired in 2016. In order to summarize this experience and evaluate the effectiveness of the projects, the Ford Foundation recently hired external experts to conduct an independent evaluation for the educational funding projects directed by Dr. He Jin over the past 15 years.

In this article we provide a brief summary of the evaluation report, so as to facilitate the understanding of some key contents for the readers. Due to the limitations of this article it does not contain detailed information on China’s social and economic environment, especially the educational situation and the policy environment for project design and implementation. Nevertheless, a link to the original report is provided at the end of this article, and those interested may learn more by reading the full report.


Scale and scope

Funding amount: The Ford Foundation has funded 238 educational projects in 15 years, covering the whole country, with a total investment of more than 41.8 million US dollars (300 million Yuan).

Direction of the Funding: The projects funded by the Ford Foundation cover all aspects of education, including fundamental, middle-level, and high education.

Fields of the Funding: The Ford Foundation has funded research projects, experimental projects, training projects, and innovative and information exchange projects.

Funding targets: Individuals, local schools, universities, institutional organizations, local government, and the central government have all been beneficiaries.

In the field of fundamental and mid-level education, the Ford Foundation concentrated on the elementary and middle school education. With the increase in enrolments at this stage, the focus has increasingly turned to high school and vocational education. Most of the funds are used to improve the education quality and the access to education for ethnic minority children, impoverished rural children, left-behind children and migrant children, enhance the management skills of schools, and improve the quality of teaching. In the field of higher education, the focus is on providing opportunities for impoverished students to enter universities, develop student-centered learning and evaluation methods, build areas of expertise that are directly or indirectly related to vulnerable groups, and reform and innovate at the systemic level.



15 years of educational funding projects not only changed the life of vulnerable children and teenagers by providing them with study opportunities, but also contributed to the improvement of educational quality and school management. Some projects even provided the conditions and basis for educational policymaking.

Basic education:

  1. The Ford Foundation’s method of increasing enrolment was absorbed into national policies for the development of very small ethnic minorities and poverty alleviation. A similar approach was eventually incorporated into the national compulsory education policy for all children.
  2. Innovations in teacher training were extended to the provincial level.
  3. Research about the problems of substitute teachers provoked a revision of the related national policy.
  4. Experience of working on the education of migrant and left-behind children was widely adopted, creating an acknowledgement and consensus for policy change.

Higher education:

  1. The funding mode (China Scholarship Plan) implemented by the Ford Foundation has been widely promoted and studied, promoting innovation of courses and management and offering chances for vulnerable young people to receive a higher education.
  2. The student-centered evaluation method developed with the funding support of the Ford Foundation has been adopted by hundreds of schools.
  3. The exploration and practices for improving teaching methods in private/vocational schools have helped the development of domestic private/vocational education.
  4. Research and practices about gender study and social topics sponsored by the Ford Foundation have filled the gap in this subject in China.


The funding methods and ideas of the Ford Foundation have provided valuable insights and references for its Chinese counterparts. For instance the emphasis on mutual negotiation and joint investment among stakeholders, the sustainability and the output of projects, and the funding principles concluded by Dr. He Jin, which are “practical, participatory, innovative, sustainable, and replicable”.


Report link

About the Ford Foundation:

In Brief

A review of the Ford Foundation’s grant-making in education in China from 2001 to 2016.
Table of Contents