Early Career Researcher Prize 2024

Chaired and co-ordinated by Patricia Thornton, the Early Career Researcher Prize has also run again this year, with prize money also at £500. Many thanks to Tia for her hard work, and also to all the anonymous reviewers for their generosity with their time and insight. As with the Best Doctoral Thesis award, full details will go on the website after this meeting.

This year, we had 19 submissions. That’s really remarkable, given that the Joint Conference running in June rather than our usual late summer date meant the deadline was a lot earlier this year. I am happy to announce that this year’s award goes to Zhifeng Chen of Oxford for his essay titled “Challenges Beyond the Curriculum: Rural Education’s Uphill Battle in China.” 

Here’s the abstract for Zhifeng’s paper:

Drawing from 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Northwestern China, this paper contends that the educational landscape in rural China is deteriorating, contrary to the optimistic narratives stemming from state investments in rural schools over the past decade. The current educational system breeds acute alienation among teachers and blurs the individuality of students, fueling tension among teachers, students, parents, and rural communities. The crisis in rural education extends beyond educational systems to reflect broader disparities in care and resource access between rural children and their urban counterparts. Schools become the stage where this crisis unfolds, but the root of the problem lies within fractured families and broader societal inequality.

Congratulations to Zhifeng.