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Chinese Education Development
2003/11/24
Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the Chinese Government has attached great importance to the development of education. The state has promulgated a series of laws on education that ensure that all the Chinese people, particularly school-age children, ethnic minorities, women, and the handicapped have the right to receive education. Through 50 years of efforts, China has made big strides in education. Indeed, China runs the biggest education system in the world.

Nine-year compulsory education is now being implemented by stages and in a systematic way. In areas inhabited by 91% of the entire population, the goal of universalizing primary education has been attained. Enormous progress has been made in higher education, vocational and technical education, adult education and education of the ethnic minorities. A multi-level educational system with various modes of educational delivery and diversified programs, covering all major subject areas has taken shape in China. International cooperation and exchange in education have expanded over the years.

The System of Educational Administration and Management in China
China has introduced an educational system under which schools are primarily run by the government with the support of various sectors of society. At present, local governments take charge of primary education, while the central and provincial governments (including governments of autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government) are responsible for running institutions of higher education. Under the guidance of the government, vocational and adult education should rely mainly on various sectional departments, enterprises, institutions and other sectors of society. The government encourages all sectors of society to pool their resources in extending educational provision of all types and levels.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) is the highest administrative organ in charge of education in China. Its responsibilities include: enforcing the laws and decrees promulgated by the state, carrying out the principles and guidelines formulated by the state, formulating specific educational policies, drawing up overall plans for educational development, coordinating the efforts of various governmental departments in education, and drawing up a general scheme for and giving guidance to the reform of China's educational structure. Since 1978, a number of important laws have been promulgated, such as the Compulsory Education Law of the People's Republic of China, the Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Academic Degrees, the Teachers' Law of the People's Republic of China, the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Juveniles, the Education Law of the People's Republic of China, and the Regulations on the Qualifications of Teachers, the Higher Education Law of the People's Republic of China in addition to more than 10 administrative statutes. Besides, the Ministry of Education has issued more than two hundred administrative regulations on education within its mandate, effectively promoting the development of education of various types at different levels.

In the system adopted for educational finance, governmental allocations are the main source but to be supplemented by funds raised through multiple channels. For educational institutions under the jurisdiction of various central ministries and agencies, the funds needed are provided by state budgetary allocations, for institutions under the jurisdiction of local governments, the funds needed are provided by local budgets, for schools run by townships or village communities, enterprises and institutions, the funds needed are mainly provided by the sponsors of the schools, to be supplemented by governmental subsidies, for schools sponsored by social organizations, prominent personages, the funds needed are provided by the sponsors themselves (including tuition fees collected from students and donations). Besides these sources of educational finance, schools of various types at different levels are encouraged to conduct work-study programs and to provide income-generating services to society so as to improve their financial situation and school facilities.

Since 1978, the investment for educational purposes has been increasing year by year. In 1997, total educational expenditures reached 253.173 billion yuan, of which 186.254 billion yuan or 73.57 % came from governmental resources, including 135.773 billion yuan of strictly budgetary allocations.

China's Educational System
Education in China is divided into four categories, namely, basic education, secondary vocational-technical education, regular higher education, and adult education.

Basic Education
Basic education encompasses pre-school education, primary and general secondary education. Primary schooling usually lasts six years, secondary education is divided into two stage: junior secondary and senior secondary, with each usually lasting three years. There are also some nine-year schools combining primary and junior secondary education.

Great efforts have been exerted to implement nine-year compulsory education by stages ever since the promulgation of the Compulsory Education Law of the People'S Republic of China in 1986. Primary education has become universal in most parts of the country. In big cities and economically developed areas junior secondary education is being steadily universalized. In 1997, there were 628,840 primary schools with a total enrollment of 130 million pupils and the net enrollment rate of school-age children reached 98.9%, and the annual retention rate reached 98.5%. So far, in areas inhabited by 91% of the entire population primary education has been universalized. The transition rate of primary school graduates to junior secondary schools reached 92.6%. In 1997, there were 78,642
junior secondary schools with a total enrollment of 46,578,200 students
and a total intake of 17,522,800 new entrants, and there were 1,469
junior secondary vocational schools with a total enrollment of 808,900
students and a total intake of 308,800 students. The gross enrollment
rate at the junior secondary stage is about 82.4%, and the transition rate
of junior secondary school graduates to various types of senior secondary schools reached 49.76%. In 1997, there were 13,880 general senior secondary schools with a total enrollment of 85,007,000 students and a total intake of 3,226,100 new entrants.

In 1997, there were 1,440 schools for special education catering to the needs of the blind, the deaf-mute, and the mentally retarded children, with a total enrollment of 340,600 students, increased by 20,000 as compared with the previous year. Now, more than half of school-age handicapped children have access to education. There were 182,485 kindergartens with a total enrollment of 25,189,600 children.

Secondary Vocational and Technical Education
Secondary vocational and technical education encompasses education and training provided by regular specialized secondary schools [including secondary technical schools (STSs) and normal schools (NSs)], skilled workers schools (SWSs), and vocational schools, as well as by short-term vocational and technical training courses of various descriptions.

Since the 1980s, secondary vocational and technical education has been developing rapidly. In 1996, there were 33,464 secondary VTE schools of various types with a total enrollment of 18,697,600 students in addition to 2,100 training centers offering training to about one million unemployed each year. The proportion of students enrolled in vocational-technical programs at the senior secondary stage increased
from 18.9% in 1980 to 51.2% in 1996.

In 1997, there were 4,143 specialized secondary schools (SSSs), including 3,152 STSs and 897 NSs, with a total enrollment of 4,654,100 students. Within the subsector of STSs, enrollment in programs of finance and economics, physical education, and arts tends to increase, while enrollment in engineering or technological programs tends to decrease.
In 1997, there were 8,578 senior secondary vocational schools with a total enrollment of 3,957,500 students and a total intake of 1,803,400 new entrants, and 4,395 SWSs with a total enrollment of 1,931,000 students and a total intake of 734,000 new entrants.

Regular Higher Education
Regular higher education refers to tertiary level education provided by short-cycle courses or schools, undergraduate courses, and postgraduate programs, all offering training for formal academic qualifications. Short-cycle courses usually last two or three years, while normal undergraduate courses last mostly four years, with medical courses lasting five years, and a few engineering schools offering five-year programs. Master degree programs take 2-3 years to complete, while doctoral programs usually take 3 years to complete.

In the past 50 years, higher education in China has made big strides. The academic degrees system has been instituted since 1981, and degrees are awarded at three levels; the bachelor's degree, the master's degree, and the doctor's degree. Thanks to a series of reforms and readjustments of the educational structure, the vitality of higher education institutions (HEIs) has been greatly enhanced, the scale of their operation has expanded a great deal, the structural pattern of educational provision tends to be more rational, and the quality of education and training has markedly
improved, with concomitant improvement of the cost-effectiveness of educational programs. Thus, a system of higher education providing multi-level training in programs covering fairly comprehensive disciplinary areas, and using various modes of educational delivery has
taken shape, playing a significant role in promoting the economic and
social development of the country and in furthering the advancement of
science, technology and culture.

In 1997, there were 1,020 regular HEIs in China with a total enrollment of 2,906,400 students and a total intake of 1 million new entrants. At the graduate level, in 1996, there was a total enrollment of 162,300 students, with 35,203 enrolled in doctoral programs and 126,632 enrolled in master's degree programs, and a total intake of 59,400 new entrants, including 12,562 enrolled in doctoral programs and 46,632 in master's degree programs. In the period of 1979-1996, the total output of graduates from regular HEls reached 7,667,400 or 2.58 times the total output of the previous 30 years. In the 1981 -1996 period, the total number of doctoral degrees awarded reached 20,514, and the total number of master's degrees awarded reached 285,943.

In 1996, the ratio of intake of undergraduate students (including those enrolled in short-cycle programs) and the intake of graduate students stands at 1:16.3 compared with 1:17.7 in 1994, while the ratio between intake of 4-year undergraduate students and intake of short-cycle students stands at 1:0.91.

As regards the composition of newly admitted students, those enrolled in programs of the humanities, finance and economics, political science and law, physical culture and sports, and arts tend to increase, while those enrolled in science and engineering programs tend to decrease, and enrollment in finance and economics programs shows marked increase.

There are over 3,400 research institutes or research labs affiliated to regular HEls throughout the country. About 500 programs in various academic fields have been designated as priority ones and given the necessary resources for their healthy development. About 150 national key laboratories and special laboratories are being developed to increase the R&D potential of HEls. A number of engineering research centers are at the initial stage of development. Important accomplishments in basic and applied research, as well as in high-tech research and development have been scored. In the fields of natural sciences, 50% of prizes awarded at the national level went to university scientists, as for research in philosophy and social sciences, the prize-winning projects that fall under the national Eighth Five-Year Plan and in which HEIs play a leading role or take part in account for nearly 60% of the total number of prize-winning projects.

Adult Education
Adult education includes both school equivalency programs of all types and levels catering to the needs of adults studying for the acquisition of formal qualifications, and non-formal programs including literacy education and vocational and technical training.

Educational programs for adults at tertiary level have developed rapidly. In 1997, there were 1,107 tertiary adult education institutions, and about 800 regular HEls offered correspondence and evening programs. Total enrollment in these institutions and programs reached 2,724,500 and 1,003,600 new entrants were admitted (including 80,600 admitted to the full-time programs provided by the RTVUs). 892,000 graduated from these institutions and programs.

In 1996, among the adult schools catering to the needs of peasants, there were 453 specialized secondary schools for peasants with a total enrollment of 191,800 students, 3,821 general secondary schools for peasants with a total enrollment of 406,900, 385,497 technical training schools for peasants, and over 70.3538 million people completed various training programs, and it is estimated that they account for 12.2% of the total work force in the countryside. Rural adult education has made important contribution to the training of a large number of peasants by helping them to master useful knowledge and skills of appropriate techniques. So far more than 200 million (with double count) people have undergone such training.

As regards the development of state-administered examinations for self-directed learners of tertiary and specialized secondary courses, there has been phenomenal growth of adults sitting for such examinations. In 1995, 279 program areas (specialties) were open for higher education examinations, and the total number of applicants reached over 3,860,000, with more than 1,100,000 succeeding in acquiring first degree level or subdegree level qualifications. Over 200,000 Succeeded in acquiring SSS qualifications.

In 1996, there were 116,415 literacy classes with a total enrollment of 4,761,300. Over the past four years the number of people completing literacy classes either exceeded or approached five million every year.


International Cooperation and Exchange in Education
In 1978, with the implementation of the policy of reform and opening to the outside world, international cooperation and exchange in education entered a new stage. Each year many students and visiting scholars are sent abroad for advanced studies or research. Foreign students seeking to study in Chinese institutions are increasing year by year. Scholarly exchanges in many fields have been developed extensively. The useful experiences of foreign countries and institutions we have learned through these exchange programs have been conducive to the reform and development of education in China and have helped promote mutual understanding and friendship between China and foreign countries.

Over the past ten-odd years, we have sent 270,000 people to study in more than 100 countries and regions in the world, and received 210,000 foreign students from 160 countries and regions coming to study in Chinese institutions. About 1,800 Chinese college teachers and experts have taught abroad, and more than 40,000 foreign experts and teachers have taught in Chinese institutions. The cumulative number of Chinese scholars going abroad to attend international conferences and the cumulative number of foreign participants coming to China to attend international conferences hosted by Chinese institutions have both exceeded 11,000.

In 1996, China sent more than 10,000 people to study abroad in about 100 countries and regions, and about 267 regular HEls received about 33,000 students from 153 countries and regions enrolled in either long-term or short-term programs. TO promote the teaching of Chinese as a foreign language in foreign institutions, we sent Chinese language teachers to more than 30 countries, besides, over 5,000 Chinese teachers working in various other fields were sent abroad to teach or to give short-term lectures. In the past year, our universities and colleges invited more than 12,000 foreign experts or teachers to give lectures or work in China, and regular HEIs directly under the Ministry of Education alone sent 2,099 scholars to attend 1,316 international conferences and hosted 96 international conferences attended by more than 3,000 scholars coming from outside China. The Ministry of Education and its institutions received 130 visiting delegations.

New advances have been made in providing educational aid to foreign countries. The main form of aid is shifting from financial assistance to help build schools and develop facilities to aid specific projects. Such a shift in priority is more effective in enhancing the capability of educational provision of the recipient country and is highly appreciated by the foreign governments concerned.

Over the past ten-odd years, both bilateral and multi-lateral educational aid programs providing assistance to Chinese institutions and educational programs have been conducted successfully. The providers of multilateral aids include UNESCO, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP, World Bank and other international organizations. The World Bank alone has granted one billion US dollars of loans to support various projects of educational development, while the other international organizations have provided financial aids to various educational projects aggregating to 100 million US dollars.

In recent years, institutions, organizations and individuals in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan have made many contributions to the mainland educational undertakings, and educational exchanges and cooperation have gradually expanded between institutions and organizations in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan and those on the mainland.


Concluding Remarks
The overall level of educational development in China is still comparatively backward, as China is a country with a large population and there are large regional disparities in economic and cultural development. The transition rates of graduates of primary, junior secondary and general senior secondary schools to the next higher level educational institutions are important indicators of educational development in China. According to the statistics of 1995, 90.8% of primary school graduates continued their study in lower secondary schools, 48.3% of lower secondary school graduates continued their study in general upper secondary schools, specialized secondary schools, vocational high schools or skilled workers schools, 45.92% of general upper secondary school graduates continued heir study in regular tertiary institutions. However, only about 4% of he college age cohort can expect to have a place in the regular HEls. According to the data from the sampling investigation in 1995 on one percent of the total population, among every 100,000 people, 2,065 persons received higher education, 8,282 persons senior secondary education and
27,283 junior secondary education. There is still a long way to go for China to have her educational undertakings to fully meet the needs of economic and social development and the aspirations of her youth to receive education at the upper secondary and tertiary levels.

As science and technology in present day develops rapidly, the worldwide competition in economy, science and technology is becoming increasingly intense and poses a stern challenge to education. Those who can gain an upperhand in education of the 21st century will occupy a favorable position in international competition then. From a strategic point of view, the Chinese government gives a high Priority to the development of education. In 1993, the Chinese government promulgated the Guidelines for the Reform and Development of Education in China, which sets important goals for all sectors of education. By the year 2000, nine-year compulsory education will be basically universalized across the country, and there will be practically no illiterates among young and middle-aged adults. Efforts will be made to promote the development of about 100 leading universities and certain selected disciplines and specialties(211 Project). Vocational and technical education and adult education will all be given due attention and expand considerably in the years to come in the grand plan for educational development.

To attain the goal set is a Herculean task, and great efforts have to be exerted in increasing financial input, in improving the physical facilities of educational institutions, in upgrading the qualifications of teachers, and in enhancing the management of education. There are ample reasons to expect that the basic framework of a socialist educational system suited to China's specific conditions and geared to the 21st century will gradually take shape.
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