Tonight I watched The Goddess, a Chinese film from 1934. Set in Shanghai, it's a pretty bleak story of a prostitute struggling to make ends meet. She's chased by the police, her young son expelled from school because of her occupation, and robbed by a pimp whom she then kills and off to prison she goes. The only 'positive' thing to happen is when a kindly teacher adopts the boy and promises to personally educate him. Good film though.
The theme of education runs through a book I'm just finishing too: Da Chen's Colors of the Mountain. It's the autobiographical account of a young boy growing up in 1970s rural China. A very bright boy, he was at first stymied by the Cultural Revolution when education was frowned upon, but was just in time to be given the opportunity to catch up, pass his exams and get a place at Beijing University to major in English.
To secure a good education for one's children is the thing that drives most parents in China these days, especially if it was denied them when they themselves were young. It's actually quite scary how focussed they are.