Education in China
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|Ministry of Education|
|Minister of Education||Chen Baosheng|
|National education budget (2016)|
|Budget||$ 565.6 billion|
|System type||National (for most parts)|
|Literacy (2015 )|
|Primary||121 million (2005)|
|Secondary||78.4 million (2005), including junior and senior secondary students.|
|Post secondary||11.6 million (2005)|
Education in China is a state-run system of public education run by the Ministry of Education. All citizens must attend school for at least nine years, known as the nine-year compulsory education, which is funded by the government. Compulsory education includes six years of primary education, starting at age six or seven, and three years of junior secondary education (junior middle school) for ages 12 to 15. Some provinces may have five years of primary school but four years for junior middle school. After junior middle school, there are three years of senior middle school, which then completes the secondary education.
The Ministry of Education reported a 99 percent attendance rate for primary school and an 80 percent rate for both primary and middle schools. In 1985, the government abolished tax-funded higher education, requiring university applicants to compete for scholarships based on academic ability. In the early 1980s the government allowed the establishment of the first private institution of higher learning, increasing the number of undergraduates and people who hold doctoral degrees fivefold from 1995 to 2005.
In 2003, central and local governments in China supported 1,552 institutions of higher learning (colleges and universities) and their 725,000 professors and 11 million students (see List of universities in China). There are over 100 National Key Universities, including Peking University and Tsinghua University, which are considered to be an elite group of Chinese universities. Chinese spending has grown by 20% per year since 1999, now reaching over $100bn, and as many as 1.5 million science and engineering students graduated from Chinese universities in 2006. China published 184,080 papers as of 2008.
China has also become a top destination for international students. As of 2013, China is the most popular country in Asia for international students, and ranks third overall among countries. As of 2018, the country has the world's second highest number of top universities.
Laws regulating the system of education include the Regulation on Academic Degrees, the Compulsory Education Law, the Teachers Law, the Education Law, the Law on Vocational Education, and the Law on Higher Education. See also: Law of the People's Republic of China.
Although Shanghai and Hong Kong are among the top performers in the Programme for International Student Assessment, China's educational system has been criticized for its rigorousness and its emphasis on test preparation.
- 1 History
- 2 Development
- 3 Education policy
- 4 Education system
- 5 Primary education
- 6 Secondary education
- 7 International education
- 8 Higher education
- 9 Teachers
- 10 Adult and online education
- 11 The role of ICT
- 12 Criticism
- 13 Rural education
- 14 Education for migrant children
- 15 Private education
- 16 Overseas students
- 17 Gender equality
- 18 English education
- 19 See also
- 20 References
- 21 Further reading
- 22 External links
Since the end of the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), the education system in China has been geared toward economic modernization. In 1985, the national government ceded responsibility for basic education to local governments through the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party's "Decision on the Reform of the Educational Structure." In unveiling the education reform plan in May 1985, the authorities called for nine years of compulsory education and the establishment of the State Education Commission (created the following month). Official commitment to improved education was nowhere more evident than in the substantial increase in funds for education in the Seventh Five-Year Plan (1986–90), which amounted to 72 percent more than funds allotted to education in the previous plan period (1981–85). In 1986 some 16.8 percent of the state budget was earmarked for education, compared with 10.4 percent in 1984. Since 1949, education has been a focus of controversy in China. As a result of continual intraparty realignments, official policy alternated between ideological imperatives and practical efforts to further national development. But ideology and pragmatism often have been incompatible. The Great Leap Forward (1958–60) and the Socialist Education Movement (1962–65) sought to end deeply rooted academic elitism, to narrow social and cultural gaps between workers and peasants and between urban and rural populations, and to eliminate the tendency of scholars and intellectuals to disdain manual labor. During the Cultural Revolution, universal fostering of social equality was an overriding priority.
The post-Mao Zedong Chinese Communist Party leadership viewed education as the foundation of the Four Modernizations. In the early 1980s, science and technology education became an important focus of education policy. By 1986 training skilled personnel and expanding scientific and technical knowledge had been assigned the highest priority. Although the humanities were considered important, vocational and technical skills were considered paramount for meeting China's modernization goals. The reorientation of educational priorities paralleled Deng Xiaoping's strategy for economic development. Emphasis also was placed on the further training of the already-educated elite, who would carry on the modernization program in the coming decades. Renewed emphasis on modern science and technology led to the adoption, beginning in 1976, of an outward-looking policy that encouraged learning and borrowing from abroad for advanced training in a wide range of scientific fields.
Beginning at the Third Plenum of the Eleventh National Party Congress Central Committee in December 1978, intellectuals were encouraged to pursue research in support of the Four Modernizations and, as long as they complied with the party's "Four Cardinal Principles" they were given relatively free rein. But when the party and the government determined that the strictures of the four cardinal principles had been stretched beyond tolerable limits, they did not hesitate to restrict intellectual expression.
Literature and the arts also experienced a great revival in the late 1970s and 1980s. Traditional forms flourished once again, and many new kinds of literature and cultural expression were introduced from abroad.
As of 2015 the government-operated primary and lower secondary (junior high) schools in China have 28.8 million students.
Since the 1950s, China has been providing a nine-year compulsory education to what amounts to a fifth of the world's population. By 1999, primary school education had become generalized in 90% of China, and mandatory nine-year compulsory education now effectively covered 85% of the population. While the central and provincial governments provide some funding for education, this varies from province to province, and funding in the rural areas is notably lower than in major urban municipalities. Families must supplement money provided to school by government with tuition fees, which means that some children have much less. However, parents place a very high value on education, and make great personal sacrifices to send their children to school and to university. Illiteracy in the young and mid-aged population has fallen from over 80 percent down to five percent. The system trained some 60 million mid- or high-level professionals and near 400 million laborers to junior or senior high school level. Today, 250 million Chinese get three levels of school education, (elementary, junior and senior high school) doubling the rate of increase in the rest of the world during the same period. Net elementary school enrollment has reached 98.9 percent, and the gross enrollment rate in junior high schools 94.1 percent.
China's educational horizons are expanding. In the 1980s the MBA was virtually unknown but by 2004 there were 47,000 MBAs, trained at 62 MBA schools. Many people also apply for international professional qualifications, such as EMBA and MPA; close to 10,000 MPA students are enrolled in 47 schools of higher learning, including Peking University and Tsinghua University. The education market has rocketed, with training and testing for professional qualifications, such as computer and foreign languages, thriving. Continuing education is the trend, once in one's life schooling has become lifelong learning.
International cooperation and education exchanges increase every year. China has more students studying abroad than any other country; since 1979, there have been 697,000 Chinese students studying in 103 countries and regions, of whom 185,000 have returned after finishing their studies. The number of foreign students studying in China has also increased rapidly; in 2004, over 110,000 students from 178 countries were studying at China's universities.
Investment in education has increased in recent years; the proportion of the overall budget allocated to education has been increased by one percentage point every year since 1998. According to a Ministry of Education program, the government will set up an educational finance system in line with the public finance system, strengthen the responsibility of governments at all levels in educational investment, and ensure that their financial allocation for educational expenditure grows faster than their regular revenue. The program also set out the government's aim that educational investment should account for four percent of GDP in a relatively short period of time.
For non-compulsory education, China adopts a shared-cost mechanism, charging tuition at a certain percentage of the cost. Meanwhile, to ensure that students from low-income families have access to higher education, the government has initiated effective ways of assistance, with policies and measures as scholarships, work-study programs, subsidies for students with special economic difficulties, tuition reduction or exemption and state stipends.
The government has committed itself to markedly raising educational levels generally, as evidenced in a Ministry of Education program; by 2020, of every 100,000 people, 13,500 will have had junior college education or above and some 31,000 will have had senior high school schooling; rates for illiteracy and semi-literacy rate will fall below three percent; and average schooling duration across the population will increase from today's eight years to nearly 11.
In the 2009 test of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a worldwide evaluation of 15-year-old school pupils' scholastic performance by the OECD, Chinese students from Shanghai achieved the best results in mathematics, science and reading. The OECD also found that even in some of the very poor rural areas the performance is close to the OECD average. However, controversy has surrounded the high scores achieved by the Chinese students due to the unusual spread of the numerical data, with suggestions that schools were 'gaming' students for the exams. Also while averages across the breadth of other countries are reported, China's rankings are taken from only a few select districts.
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Before the defeat of the Kuomintang in 1949, education was effectively closed to workers, peasants, and generally females in practical terms despite Sun Yat-Sen's support of general education in principle.
However, the Marxist ideology of the post-1949 government, in reacting to the overly literary and classical tradition of China, overstressed in turn "practical applications" and the superior wisdom of the worker and peasant, whose hand-skill was assumed to be the "base" to the "superstructure" of science and learning in general. This resulted in various experiments in which peasants and industrial workers were made "teachers" overnight but were unable to gain respect or communicate their knowledge.
The new Communist government created wide access to some form of education for all, except children of people under suspicion of land ownership and political unreliability. The possibility however of re-education and service to the "masses" was held out to bourgeois families as long as they committed to communism as well. This meant that even before the Cultural Revolution, there was a continuum, in China, between the prison, the re-education camp, and the school. Officially, the opportunity was extended to all classes to join China's project on its Leninist terms.
In an attempt to make education more practical and accessible, Chinese characters were simplified for quick learning and by training people in skills they could use, including the basic medical training provided "barefoot doctors", actually paramedics that provided medical care, midwifery and instruction on the evils of footbinding and female infanticide in such rural areas where those practices still existed.
The Chinese Communist government to some degree provided "the goods" to the bottom of society and for this reason received broad support before the Cultural Revolution from many people who formerly had been at the bottom. The general populace was unaware of, and indifferent to, the fate of intellectuals during the Great Leap Forward and the Hundred Flowers epochs of the late 1950s.
Other practical results of education reform prior to the Cultural Revolution of 1966 included practical instruction in the evils of opium addiction (cf. Opium Regimes, Timothy Brook and Bobby Tadashi Wakabayashi, eds., University of California Press, 2000). The educational system and government of China eradicated opium, in part by education and also by harsh penalties (including death for repeat offenders) which are still in use.
But during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), higher education in particular suffered tremendous losses; the system was almost shut down, and a rising generation of college and graduate students, academics and technicians, professionals and teachers was lost. The result was a lack of trained talent to meet the needs of society, an irrationally structured higher education system unequal to the needs of the economic and technological boom, and an uneven development in secondary technical and vocational education. In the post-Mao period, China's education policy continued to evolve. The pragmatist leadership, under Deng Xiaoping, recognized that to meet the goals of modernization it was necessary to develop science, technology, and intellectual resources and to raise the population's education level. Demands on education - for new technology, information science, and advanced management expertise - were levied as a result of the reform of the economic structure and the emergence of new economic forms. In particular, China needed an educated labor force to feed and provision its one billion plus population.
By 1980, achievement was once again accepted as the basis for admission and promotion in education. This fundamental change reflected the critical role of scientific and technical knowledge and professional skills in the Four Modernizations. Also, political activism was no longer regarded as an important measure of individual performance, and even the development of commonly approved political attitudes and political background was secondary to achievement. Education policy promoted expanded enrollments, with the long-term objective of achieving universal primary and secondary education. This policy contrasted with the previous one, which touted increased enrollments for egalitarian reasons. In 1985 the commitment to modernization was reinforced by plans for nine-year compulsory education and for providing good quality higher education.
Deng Xiaoping's far-ranging educational reform policy, which involved all levels of the education system, aimed to narrow the gap between China and other developing countries. Modernizing education was critical to modernizing China. Devolution of educational management from the central to the local level was the means chosen to improve the education system. Centralized authority was not abandoned, however, as evidenced by the creation of the State Education Commission. Academically, the goals of reform were to enhance and universalize elementary and junior middle school education; to increase the number of schools and qualified teachers; and to develop vocational and technical education. A uniform standard for curricula, textbooks, examinations, and teacher qualifications (especially at the middle-school level) was established, and considerable autonomy and variations in and among the autonomous regions, provinces, and special municipalities were allowed. Further, the system of enrollment and job assignment in higher education was changed, and excessive government control over colleges and universities was reduced. However the education system of the PRC still discourages innovation and independent thinking, causing delays in even such high-profile national projects as the J-XX fifth-generation jet fighters.
Compulsory education law
The Law on Nine-Year Compulsory Education (中华人民共和国义务教育法), which took effect on July 1, 1986, established requirements and deadlines for attaining universal education tailored to local conditions and guaranteed school-age children the right to receive at least nine years of education (six-year primary education and three years secondary education). People's congresses at various local levels were, within certain guidelines and according to local conditions, to decide the steps, methods, and deadlines for implementing nine-year compulsory education in accordance with the guidelines formulated by the central authorities. The program sought to bring rural areas, which had four to six years of compulsory schooling, into line with their urban counterparts. Education departments were exhorted to train millions of skilled workers for all trades and professions and to offer guidelines, curricula, and methods to comply with the reform program and modernization needs.
Provincial-level authorities were to develop plans, enact decrees and rules, distribute funds to counties, and administer directly a few key secondary schools. County authorities were to distribute funds to each township government, which were to make up for any deficiencies. County authorities were to supervise education and teaching and to manage their own senior middle schools, teachers' schools, teachers' in-service training schools, agricultural vocational schools, and exemplary primary and junior middle schools. The remaining schools were to be managed separately by the county and township authorities.
The compulsory education law divided China into three categories: cities and economically developed areas in coastal provinces and a small number of developed areas in the hinterland; towns and villages with medium development; and economically backward areas.
By November 1985 the first category - the larger cities and approximately 20 percent of the counties (mainly in the more developed coastal and southeastern areas of China) had achieved universal 9-year education. By 1990 cities, economically developed areas in coastal provincial-level units, and a small number of developed interior areas (approximately 25 percent of China's population) and areas where junior middle schools were already popularized were targeted to have universal junior-middle-school education. Education planners had envisioned that by the mid-1990s all workers and staff in coastal areas, inland cities, and moderately developed areas (with a combined population of 300 million to 400 million people) would have either compulsory 9-year or vocational education and that 5 percent of the people in these areas would have a college education - building a solid intellectual foundation for China. Further, the planners expected that secondary education and university entrants would also have increased by the year 2000.
The second category targeted under the 9-year compulsory education law consisted of towns and villages with medium-level development (around 50 percent of China's population), where universal education was expected to reach the junior-middle-school level by 1995. Technical and higher education was projected to develop at the same rate.
The third category, economically backward (rural) areas (around 25 percent of China's population ) were to popularize basic education without a timetable and at various levels according to local economic development, though the state would try to support educational development. The state also would assist education in minority nationality areas. In the past, rural areas, which lacked a standardized and universal primary education system, had produced generations of illiterates; only 60 percent of their primary school graduates had met established standards.
As a further example of the government's commitment to nine-year compulsory education, in January 1986 the State Council drafted a bill passed at the Fourteenth Session of the Standing Committee of the Sixth National People's Congress that made it illegal for any organization or individual to employ youths before they had completed their nine years of schooling. The bill also authorized free education and subsidies for students whose families had financial difficulties.
Tuition-free primary education is, despite compulsory education laws, still a target rather than a realized goal throughout China. As many families have difficulty paying school fees, some children are forced to leave school earlier than the nine-year goal.
The 9-year System is called "Nine Years - One Policy", or "九年一贯制" in Chinese. It usually refers to the educational integration of the elementary school and the middle school. After graduating from the elementary school, graduates can directly enter into the junior middle school. The grades in schools which implement the 9-year System are usually called Grade 1, Grade 2, and so on through Grade 9.
Main features of 9-year System:
- Continuity. Students finish education from the elementary school to the middle school.
- The principle of proximity. Students enter into the nearby school instead of middle school entrance examination.
- Unity. Schools which carry out the 9-year System practice unified management in school administration, teaching and education.
China's basic education involves pre-school, nine-year compulsory education from elementary to junior high school, standard senior high school education, special education for disabled children, and education for illiterate people.
China has over 200 million elementary and high school students, who, together with pre-school children, account for one sixth of the total population. For this reason the Central Government has prioritized basic education as a key field of infrastructure construction and educational development.
In recent years, senior high school education has developed steadily. In 2004 enrollment was 8.215 million, 2.3 times that of 1988. Gross national enrollment in senior high schools has reached 43.8 percent, still lower than that of other developed countries.
The government has created a special fund to improve conditions in China's elementary and high schools, for new construction, expansion and the re-building of run-down structures. Per-capita educational expenditure for elementary and high school students has grown greatly, teaching and research equipment, books and documents being updated and renewed every year.
Government's aim for the development of China's basic education system is to approach or attain the level of moderately developed countries by 2010.
Graduates of China's primary and secondary schools test highly in both basic skills and critical thinking skills; however, due to poor health, rural students often drop out or lag in achievement.
"Key schools," shut down during the Cultural Revolution, reappeared in the late 1970s and, in the early 1980s, became an integral part of the effort to revive the lapsed education system. Because educational resources were scarce, selected ("key") institutions - usually those with records of past educational accomplishment - were given priority in the assignment of teachers, equipment, and funds. They also were allowed to recruit the best students for special training to compete for admission to top schools at the next level. Key schools constituted only a small percentage of all regular senior middle schools and funneled the best students into the best secondary schools, largely on the basis of entrance scores. In 1980 the greatest resources were allocated to the key schools that would produce the greatest number of college entrants.
In early 1987 efforts had begun to develop the key school from a preparatory school into a vehicle for diffusing improved curricula, materials, and teaching practices to local schools. Moreover, the appropriateness of a key school's role in the nine-year basic education plan was questioned by some officials because key schools favored urban areas and the children of more affluent and better educated parents. Changchun, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Xiamen, and other cities, and education departments in Shanghai and Tianjin were moving to establish a student recommendation system and eliminate key schools. In 1986 the Shanghai Educational Bureau abolished the key junior-middle-school system to ensure "an overall level of education." Despite the effort to abolish the "Key Schools" system, the practice still exists today under other names, and education inequality is still being widely criticized by some government officials and scholars.
The institution of primary education in a country as vast as China has been an impressive accomplishment. In contrast to the 20 percent enrollment rate before 1949, in 1985 about 96 percent of primary school age children were enrolled in approximately 832,300 primary schools. This enrollment figure compared favorably with the recorded figures of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when enrollment standards were more egalitarian. In 1985 the World Bank estimated that enrollments in primary schools would decrease from 136 million in 1983 to 95 million in the late 1990s and that the decreased enrollment would reduce the number of teachers needed. Qualified teachers, however, would continue to be in demand.
Under the Law on Nine-Year Compulsory Education, primary schools were to be tuition-free and reasonably located for the convenience of children attending them; students would attend primary schools in their neighborhoods or villages. Parents paid a small fee per term for books and other expenses such as transportation, food, and heating. Previously, fees were not considered a deterrent to attendance. Under the education reform, students from poor families received stipends, and state enterprises, institutions, and other sectors of society were encouraged to establish their own schools. A major concern was that scarce resources be conserved without causing enrollment to fall and without weakening of the better schools. In particular, local governments were told not to pursue middle-school education blindly while primary school education was still developing, or to wrest money, teaching staff, and materials from primary schools.
Children usually entered primary school at seven years of age for six days a week, which after regulatory changes in 1995 and 1997 were changed to five and a half and five days, respectively. The two-semester school year consisted of 9.5 months, and began on September 1 and March 1, with a summer vacation in July and August and a winter vacation in January and February. Urban primary schools typically divided the school week into twenty-four to twenty-seven classes of forty-five minutes each, but in the rural areas, the norm was half-day schooling, more flexible schedules, and itinerant teachers. Most primary schools had a five-year course, except in such cities as Beijing and Shanghai, and later other major cities, which had reintroduced six-year primary schools and accepted children at six and one-half years rather than seven.
The primary-school curriculum consisted of Chinese, mathematics, physical education, music, drawing, and elementary instruction in nature, history, and geography, combined with practical work experiences around the school compound. A general knowledge of politics and moral training, which stressed love of the motherland, love of the party, and love of the people (and previously love of Chairman Mao), was another part of the curriculum. A foreign language, often English, is introduced in about the third grade. Chinese and mathematics accounted for about 60 percent of the scheduled class time; natural science and social science accounted for about 8 percent. Putonghua (common spoken language) was taught in regular schools and pinyin romanization in lower grades and kindergarten. The Ministry of Education required that all primary schools offer courses on morality and ethics. Beginning in the fourth grade, students usually had to perform productive labor two weeks per semester to relate classwork with production experience in workshops or on farms and relate it to academic study. Most schools had after-hour activities at least one day per week to involve students in recreation and community service.
By 1980 the percentage of students enrolled in primary schools was high, but the schools reported high dropout rates and regional enrollment gaps (most enrollees were concentrated in the cities). Only one in four counties had universal primary education. On the average, 10 percent of the students dropped out between each grade. During the 1979–83 period, the government acknowledged the "9-6-3" rule, that is, that nine of ten children began primary school, six completed it, and three graduated with good performance. This meant that only about 60 percent of primary students actually completed their five-year program of study and graduated, and only about 30 percent were regarded as having primary-level competence. Statistics in the mid-1980s showed that more rural girls than boys dropped out of school.
Within the framework of the Law on Nine-Year Compulsory Education and the general trend toward vocational and technical skills, attempts were made to accommodate and correct the gap between urban and rural education. Urban and key schools almost invariably operated on a six-day full-time schedule to prepare students for further education and high-level jobs. Rural schools generally operated on a flexible schedule geared to the needs of the agricultural seasons and sought to prepare students for adult life and manual labor in lower-skilled jobs. They also offered a more limited curriculum, often only Chinese, mathematics, and morals. To promote attendance and allow the class schedule and academic year to be completed, agricultural seasons were taken into account. School holidays were moved, school days shortened, and full-time, half-time, and spare-time classes offered in the slack agricultural seasons. Sometimes itinerant teachers were hired for mountain villages and served one village in the morning, another village in the afternoon.
Rural parents were generally well aware that their children had limited opportunities to further their education. Some parents saw little use in having their children attend even primary school, especially after the establishment of the agricultural responsibility system. Under that system, parents preferred that their children work to increase family income - and withdrew them from school - for both long and short periods of time.
Preschool education, which began at age three, was another target of education reform in 1985. Preschool facilities were to be established in buildings made available by public enterprises, production teams, municipal authorities, local groups, and families. The government announced that it depended on individual organizations to sponsor their own preschool education and that preschool education was to become a part of the welfare services of various government organizations, institutes, and state- and collectively operated enterprises. Costs for preschool education varied according to services rendered. Officials also called for more preschool teachers with more appropriate training.
The 1985 National Conference on Education also recognized the importance of special education, in the form of programs for gifted children and for slow learners. Gifted children were allowed to skip grades. Slow learners were encouraged to reach minimum standards, although those who did not maintain the pace seldom reached the next stage. For the most part, children with severe learning problems and those with handicaps and psychological needs were the responsibilities of their families. Extra provisions were made for blind and severely hearing-impaired children, although in 1984 special schools enrolled fewer than 2 percent of all eligible children in those categories. The China Welfare Fund, established in 1984, received state funding and had the right to solicit donations within China and from abroad, but special education has remained a low government priority.
Today, China has 1,540 schools for special education, with 375,000 students; more than 1,000 vocational training institutes for disabled people, nearly 3,000 standard vocational training and education institutes that also admit disabled people; more than 1,700 training organizations for rehabilitating hearing-impaired children, with over 100,000 trained and in-training children. In 2004, 4,112 disabled students entered ordinary schools of higher learning. Of disabled children receiving special education, 63.6 percent of total recruitment numbers and 66.2 percent of enrollment were in ordinary schools or special classes thereof.
Secondary education in China has a complicated history. In the early 1960s, education planners followed a policy called "walking on two legs," which established both regular academic schools and separate technical schools for vocational training. The rapid expansion of secondary education during the Cultural Revolution created serious problems; because resources were spread too thinly, educational quality declined. Further, this expansion was limited to regular secondary schools; technical schools were closed during the Cultural Revolution because they were viewed as an attempt to provide inferior education to children of worker and peasant families.
In the late 1970s, government and party representatives criticized what they termed the "unitary" approach of the 1960s, arguing that it ignored the need for two kinds of graduates: those with an academic education (college preparatory) and those with specialized technical education (vocational). Beginning in 1976 with the renewed emphasis on technical training, technical schools reopened, and their enrollments increased.
In the drive to spread vocational and technical education, regular secondary-school enrollments fell. By 1986 universal secondary education was part of the nine-year compulsory education law that made primary education (six years) and junior-middle-school education (three years) mandatory. The desire to consolidate existing schools and to improve the quality of key middle schools was, however, under the education reform, more important than expanding enrollment.
Junior secondary education is more commonly known as (junior) middle school education, it consists the last three years of nine years compulsory education. Students who live in rural areas are often boarded into townships to receive their education.
Senior secondary education often refers to three years of high school (or called senior middle school) education, as from grade 10 to grade 12. Normally, students who have finished six years of primary education will continue three more years of academic study in middle schools as regulated by the Compulsory education law at the age of twelve. This, however, is not compulsory for senior secondary education, where junior graduates may choose to continue a three-year academic education in academic high schools, which will eventually lead to university, or to switch to a vocational course in vocational high schools.
Generally, high school years usually have two semesters, starting in September and February. In some rural areas, operation may be subject to agricultural cycles. The number of lessons offered by a school on a weekly basis is very subjective, and largely depends on the school's resources. In addition to normal lessons, periods for private study and extracurricular activity are provided as well. The academic curriculum consists of Chinese, Mathematics, English, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geography, History, Ideology & Political Science, Music, Fine Arts, PE, Technology, Computing etc. Some schools may also offer vocational subjects. Generally speaking, Chinese, Mathematics and English are considered as three main subjects as they will definitely be examined in Gaokao. In most provinces, students also need to be examined in either natural sciences, which incorporate Physics, Chemistry and Biology, or social sciences, which incorporate Geography, History and Ideology & Political Science.
In China, a senior high school graduate will be considered as an educated person, although the majority of graduates will go on to universities or vocational colleges. Given that the competition for limited university places is extremely intense, most high schools are evaluated by their academic performance in Gaokao by parents and students.
Admissions and Zhongkao
Zhongkao (中考), the Senior High School Entrance Examination, is the academic examination held annually in China to distinguish junior graduates. Generally speaking, students will be tested in Chinese, Mathematics, English, Physics, Chemistry, Political Science and PE. However, the scoring system may change, and vary between different areas.
Admission for senior high schools, especially selective high schools, is somewhat similar to the one for universities in China. Students will go through an application system where they may choose the high schools at which they wish to study in an order to their preference before the high schools set out their entrance requirements. Once this is completed and the high schools will announce their requirements based on this information and the places they will offer in that year. For instance, if the school offers 800 places in that year, the results offered by the 800th intake student will be the standard requirements. So effectively, this ensures the school selects the top candidates in all the students who have applied to said school in that academic year. However, the severe competition only occurs in the very top high schools, normally, most students will have sufficient results for them to continue their secondary education if they wish to.
There are other official rules of admission in certain top high schools. If a prestigious senior high school wants to admit 800 students a year, the admissions office ranks students’ scores from highest to lowest and then selects their first 700 students. The other 100 positions are provided to students who don't meet the requirement standard but still want to study at that school. These prospects need to pay extra school fees. A student can’t perform badly in zhongkao, if their scores are close to the requirement standard, they could still study in that top school if they can afford the expenses. Those who study in that high school must also place maximum 2 points below the standard requirement. Usually, 0.5 points is a standard. For instance, if you are 2 points below the standard requirement, you pay four times as much as the student who gets 0.5 points below the standard requirement. The admissions of the 100 students which are required to pay the school fees usually do not get the same admission letters as normal students receive, but they can still study and live with normal students in the same high school with the same teacher.
Vocational and technical schools
The "Law on Vocational Education" was issued in 1996. Vocational education embraces higher vocational schools, secondary skill schools, vestibule schools, vocational high schools, job-finding centers and other adult skill and social training institutes. To enable vocational education to better accommodate the demands of economic re-structuring and urbanization, in recent years the government has remodeled vocational education, oriented towards obtaining employment, and focusing on two major vocational education projects to meet society's ever more acute demand for high quality, skilled workers. These are cultivating skilled workers urgently needed in modern manufacture and service industries; and training rural laborers moving to urban areas. To accelerate vocational education in western areas, the Central Government has used government bonds to build 186 vocational education centers in impoverished western area counties.
Both regular and vocational secondary schools sought to serve modernization needs. A number of technical and "skilled-worker" training schools reopened after the Cultural Revolution, and an effort was made to provide exposure to vocational subjects in general secondary schools (by offering courses in industry, services, business, and agriculture). By 1985 there were almost 3 million vocational and technical students.
Under the educational reform tenets, polytechnic colleges were to give priority to admitting secondary vocational and technical school graduates and providing on-the-job training for qualified workers. Education reformers continued to press for the conversion of about 50 percent of upper secondary education into vocational education, which traditionally had been weak in the rural areas. Regular senior middle schools were to be converted into vocational middle schools, and vocational training classes were to be established in some senior middle schools. Diversion of students from academic to technical education was intended to alleviate skill shortages and to reduce the competition for university enrollment.
Although enrollment in technical schools of various kinds had not yet increased enough to compensate for decreasing enrollments in regular senior middle schools, the proportion of vocational and technical students to total senior-middle-school students increased from about 5 percent in 1978 to almost 36 percent in 1985, although development was uneven. Further, to encourage greater numbers of junior-middle-school graduates to enter technical schools, vocational and technical school graduates were given priority in job assignments, while other job seekers had to take technical tests.
In 1987 there were four kinds of secondary vocational and technical schools: 1) technical schools that offered a four-year, post-junior middle course and two- to three-year post-senior middle training in such fields as commerce, legal work, fine arts, and forestry; 2) workers' training schools that accepted students whose senior-middle-school education consisted of two years of training in such trades as carpentry and welding; 3) vocational technical schools that accepted either junior-or senior-middle-school students for one- to three-year courses in cooking, tailoring, photography, and other services; and 4) agricultural middle schools that offered basic subjects and agricultural science.
These technical schools had several hundred different programs. Their narrow specializations had advantages in that they offered in-depth training, reducing the need for on-the-job training and thereby lowering learning time and costs. Moreover, students were more motivated to study if there were links between training and future jobs. Much of the training could be done at existing enterprises, where staff and equipment was available at little additional cost.
There were some disadvantages to this system, however. Under the Four Modernizations, technically trained generalists were needed more than highly specialized technicians. Also, highly specialized equipment and staff were underused, and there was an overall shortage of specialized facilities to conduct training. In addition, large expenses were incurred in providing the necessary facilities and staff, and the trend in some government technical agencies was toward more general technical and vocational education.
Further, the dropout rate continued to have a negative effect on the labor pool as upper-secondary-school technical students dropped out and as the percentage of lower-secondary-school graduates entering the labor market without job training increased. Occupational rigidity and the geographic immobility of the population, particularly in rural areas, further limited educational choices.
Although there were 668,000 new polytechnic school enrollments in 1985, the Seventh Five-Year Plan called for annual increases of 2 million mid-level skilled workers and 400,000 senior technicians, indicating that enrollment levels were still far from sufficient. To improve the situation, in July 1986 officials from the State Education Commission, State Planning Commission, and Ministry of Labor and Personnel convened a national conference on developing China's technical and vocational education. It was decided that technical and vocational education in rural areas should accommodate local conditions and be conducted on a short-term basis. Where conditions permitted, emphasis would be placed on organizing technical schools and short-term training classes. To alleviate the shortage of teachers, vocational and technical teachers' colleges were to be reformed and other colleges and universities were to be mobilized for assistance. The State Council decision to improve training for workers who had passed technical examinations (as opposed to unskilled workers) was intended to reinforce the development of vocational and technical schools.
Expanding and improving secondary vocational education has long been an objective of China’s educational reformers, for vocational schools are seen as those which are best placed to address (by providing trained workers) the rising needs of the nation’s expanding economy, especially its manufacturing and industrial sectors. Without an educated and trained work force, China cannot have economic, hence social and national, development. Yet, given a finite, and often quite limited, pot of money for secondary schools, an allocation competition/conflict necessarily exists between its two sub-sectors: general education and vocational/technical education. Regardless, an over-enrollment in the latter has been the overall result of the mid-1980s reforms. Yet firms that must seek workers from this graduate pool have remained unimpressed with the quality of recruits and have had to rely on their own job-training programs that provide re-education for their newly hired workers. The public, also, has not been very enthusiastic over vocational secondary education which, unlike general education, does not lead to the possibility of higher education. The public’s perception is that these schools provide little more than a dead end for their children. Also, vocational institutions are more expensive to run than their counterparts in general education, and they have not had sufficient money to modernize their facilities, as China’s modernizing national economy demands. By mid-decade of the 21st Century, therefore, academics and policy-makers alike began to question the policy that pours funds into vocational schools that do not do their intended function.
As of January 2015, the International Schools Consultancy (ISC) listed China as having 481 international schools. ISC defines an 'international school' in the following terms "ISC includes an international school if the school delivers a curriculum to any combination of pre-school, primary or secondary students, wholly or partly in English outside an English-speaking country, or if a school in a country where English is one of the official languages, offers an English-medium curriculum other than the country’s national curriculum and is international in its orientation." This definition is used by publications including The Economist. There were 177,400 students enrolled in international schools in 2014.
2013 Nicholas Brummitt, managing director of ISC, reported that there were 338 international schools in Mainland China as of 2013, with 184,073 students. Slightly more than half of the international schools are in the major expatriate areas of China: Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangdong Province, while the remainder are in other areas. Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou have the most international schools while significant numbers also exist in Shenzhen and Chengdu.
Many international schools in Beijing and Shanghai, in accordance with Chinese law, are only permitted to enroll students having citizenship in areas other than Mainland China. This is because Mainland Chinese students are required to have a certain curriculum, and schools that do not include this curriculum are not permitted to enroll Mainlanders. Mainlander children who hold foreign passports are permitted to attend these schools. Students from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan may attend international schools for foreigners. As of 2014, 19 international schools in Beijing are restricted to non-Mainlanders. There are also schools using international curricula that accept both Mainlander and non-Mainlander students.
By 2004 increased international business operations resulted in an increase of foreigner children. Many of the original post-1949 international schools used International Baccalaureate and North American curricula. By 2004 many international schools in Beijing and Shanghai using the British curricula had opened. The number of international schools in 2013 is an increase from 22 international schools in 2001, with a total of 25 times fewer students. By the 2010s many Mainland Chinese parents began sending their children to international schools which accept Mainland students to increase their children's chances of going overseas.
There is an increasing number of international universities representation in China in recent years, including but not limited to CEIBS and Yale Center Beijing. Columbia Global Centers Beijing opened in 2009  and Harvard Institute Shanghai opened in 2010. Cornell Global is planning to have presence in both Beijing and Shanghai. MIT has an innovation node in Hong Kong. Stanford University established an academic center in Peking University.
By the end of 2004, China had 2,236 schools of Higher Learning, with over 20 million students; the gross rate of enrollment in schools of higher learning reached 19 percent. Postgraduate education is the fastest growing sector, with 24.1 percent more students recruited and 25.9 percent more researchers than the year before. This enrollment growth indicates that China has entered the stage of popular education. The UNESCO world higher education report of June 2003 pointed out that the student population of China's schools of higher learning had doubled in a very short period of time, and was the world's largest.
Particular attention has been paid to improving systems in recent reforms. Many industrial multiversities and specialist colleges have been established, strengthening some incomplete subjects and establishing new specialties, e.g., automation, nuclear power, energy resources, oceanography, nuclear physics, computer science, polymer chemistry, polymer physics, radiochemistry, physical chemistry and biophysics. A project for creating 100 world class universities began in 1993, which has merged 708 schools of higher learning into 302 universities. Merging schools of higher learning has produced far-reaching reform of higher education management, optimizing of educational resources allocation, and further improving teaching quality and school standards. More than 30 universities have received help from a special national fund to support their attainment of world elite class.
Between 1999 and 2003, enrollment in higher education increased from 1.6 million to 3.82 million. In 2004, the total enrollment in ordinary schools of higher learning was 4.473 million, 651,000 more than in 2003. Schools of higher learning and research institutes enrolled 326,000 postgraduate students, 57,000 more than the previous year. In 2010 China is expecting 6.3 million students to graduate from College or University, with 63% likely to enter the work force.
The contribution to China's economic construction and social development made by research in the higher education sector is becoming ever more evident. By strengthening cooperation among their production, teaching and research, schools of higher learning are speeding up the process in turning sci-tech research results into products, giving rise to many new and hi-tech enterprises and important innovations. Forty-three national university sci-tech parks have been started or approved, some of which have become important bases for commercializing research.
The quality of Higher education in modern China has changed at various times, reflecting shifts in the political policies implemented by the central government. Following the founding of the PRC, in 1949, the Chinese government's educational focus was largely on political "re-education". In periods of political upheaval, such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, ideology was stressed over professional or technical competence. During the early stages of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1969), tens of thousands of college students joined Red Guard organizations, which persecuted many university faculty members as "counter-revolutionaries" and effectively closed China's universities. When universities reopened in the early 1970s, enrollments were reduced from pre-Cultural Revolution levels, and admission was restricted to individuals who had been recommended by their work unit (danwei), possessed good political credentials, and had distinguished themselves in manual labor. In the absence of stringent and reasonably objective entrance examinations, political connections became increasingly important in securing the recommendations and political dossiers necessary to qualify for university admission. As a result, the decline in educational quality was profound. Deng Xiaoping reportedly wrote Mao Zedong in 1975 that university graduates were "not even capable of reading a book" in their own fields when they left the university. University faculty and administrators were demoralized by the political aspects of the university system.
Efforts made in 1975 to improve educational quality were unsuccessful. By 1980 it appeared doubtful that the politically oriented admission criteria had accomplished even the purpose of increasing enrollment of worker and peasant children. Successful candidates for university entrance were usually children of cadres and officials who used personal connections that allowed them to "enter through the back door." Students from officials' families would accept the requisite minimum two-year work assignment in the countryside, often in a suburban location that allowed them to remain close to their families. Village cadres, anxious to please the parents/officials, gladly recommended these youths for university placement after the labor requirement had been met. The child of an official family was then on his or her way to a university without having academic ability, a record of political activism, or a distinguished work record.
After the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, steps were taken to improve educational quality by establishing order and stability, calling for an end to political contention on university campuses, and expanding university enrollments. This pressure to maintain quality and minimize expenditures led to efforts both to run existing institutions more efficiently and to develop other college and university programs. As a result, labor colleges for training agro-technicians and factory-run colleges for providing technical education for workers were established. In addition, eighty-eight institutions and key universities were provided with special funding, top students and faculty members, and other support, and they recruited the most academically qualified students without regard to family background or political activism.
Modernization goals in the 1980s
The commitment to the Four Modernizations required great advances in science and technology. Under the modernization program, higher education was to be the cornerstone for training and research. Because modernization depended on a vastly increased and improved capability to train scientists and engineers for needed breakthroughs, the renewed concern for higher education and academic quality - and the central role that the sciences were expected to play in the Four Modernizations - highlighted the need for scientific research and training. This concern can be traced to the critical personnel shortages and qualitative deficiencies in the sciences resulting from the unproductive years of the Cultural Revolution, when higher education was shut down. In response to the need for scientific training, the Sixth Plenum of the Twelfth National Party Congress Central Committee, held in September 1986, adopted a resolution on the guiding principles for building a socialist society that strongly emphasized the importance of education and science.
Reformers realized, however, that the higher education system was far from meeting modernization goals and that additional changes were needed. The Provisional Regulations Concerning the Management of Institutions of Higher Learning, promulgated by the State Council in 1986, initiated vast changes in administration and adjusted educational opportunity, direction, and content. With the increased independence accorded under the education reform, universities and colleges were able to choose their own teaching plans and curricula; to accept projects from or cooperate with other socialist establishments for scientific research and technical development in setting up "combines" involving teaching, scientific research, and production; to suggest appointments and removals of vice presidents and other staff members; to take charge of the distribution of capital construction investment and funds allocated by the state; and to be responsible for the development of international exchanges by using their own funds.
The changes also allowed the universities to accept financial aid from work units and decide how this money was to be used without asking for more money from departments in charge of education. Further, higher education institutions and work units could sign contracts for the training of students.
Higher education institutions also were assigned a greater role in running inter-regional and inter-departmental schools. Within their state-approved budgets, universities secured more freedom to allocate funds as they saw fit and to use income from tuition and technical and advisory services for their own development, including collective welfare and bonuses.
There also was a renewed interest in television, radio, and correspondence classes (see distance learning and electronic learning). Some of the courses, particularly in the college-run factories, were serious, full-time enterprises, with a two- to three-year curriculum.
Entrance examinations and admission criteria
National examinations to select students for higher education (and positions of leadership) were an important part of China's culture, and, traditionally, entrance to a higher education institution is considered prestigious. Although the examination system for admission to colleges and universities has undergone many changes since the Cultural Revolution, it remains the basis for recruiting academically able students. When higher education institutions were reopened in early 1970s, candidates for entrance examinations had to be senior-middle-school graduates or the equivalent, generally below twenty-six years of age. Work experience requirements were eliminated, but workers and staff members needed permission from their enterprises to take the examinations.
Each provincial-level unit was assigned a quota of students to be admitted to key universities, a second quota of students for regular universities within that administrative division, and a third quota of students from other provinces, autonomous regions, and special municipalities who would be admitted to institutions operated at the provincial level. Provincial-level administrative units selected students with outstanding records to take the examinations. Additionally, preselection examinations were organized by the provinces, autonomous regions, and special municipalities for potential students (from three to five times the number of places allotted). These candidates were actively encouraged to take the examination to ensure that a sufficient number of good applicants would be available. Cadres with at least two years of work experience were recruited for selected departments in a small number of universities on an experimental basis. Preferential admission treatment (in spite of lower test scores) was given to minority candidates, students from disadvantaged areas, and those who agreed in advance to work in less developed regions after graduation.
In December 1977, when uniform national examinations were reinstated, 5.7 million students took the examinations, although university placement was available for only the 278,000 applicants with the highest scores. In July 1984, about 1.6 million candidates (30,000 fewer than in 1983) took the entrance examinations for the 430,000 places in China's more than 900 colleges and universities. Of the 1.6 million examinees, more than 1 million took the test for placement in science and engineering colleges; 415,000 for places in liberal arts colleges; 88,000 for placement in foreign language institutions; and 15,000 for placement in sports universities and schools. More than 100,000 of the candidates were from national minority groups. A year later, there were approximately 1.8 million students taking the three-day college entrance examination to compete for 560,000 places. Liberal arts candidates were tested on politics, Chinese, mathematics, foreign languages, history, and geography. Science and engineering candidates were tested on politics, Chinese, mathematics, chemistry, and biology. Entrance examinations also were given in 1985 for professional and technical schools, which sought to enroll 550,000 new students.
Other innovations in enrollment practices, included allowing colleges and universities to admit students with good academic records but relatively low entrance-examination scores. Some colleges were allowed to try an experimental student recommendation system - fixed at 2 percent of the total enrollment for regular colleges and 5 percent for teachers' colleges - instead of the traditional entrance examination. A minimum national examination score was established for admission to specific departments at specially designated colleges and universities, and the minimum score for admission to other universities was set by provincial-level authorities. Key universities established separate classes for minorities. When several applicants attained the minimum test score, the school had the option of making a selection, a policy that gave university faculty and administrators a certain amount of discretion but still protected admission according to academic ability.
In addition to the written examination, university applicants had to pass a physical examination and a political screening. Less than 2 percent of the students who passed the written test were eliminated for reasons of poor health. The number disqualified for political reasons was known, but publicly the party maintained that the number was very small and that it sought to ensure that only the most able students actually entered colleges and universities.
By 1985 the number of institutions of higher learning had again increased - to slightly more than 1,000. The State Education Commission and the Ministry of Finance issued a joint declaration for nationwide unified enrollment of adult students - not the regular secondary-school graduates but the members of the work force who qualified for admission by taking a test. The State Education Commission established unified questions and time and evaluation criteria for the test and authorized provinces, autonomous regions, and special municipalities to administer the test, grade the papers in a uniform manner, and determine the minimum points required for admission. The various schools were to enroll students according to the results. Adult students needed to have the educational equivalent of senior-middle-school graduates, and those applying for release or partial release from work to study were to be under forty years of age. Staff members and workers were to apply to study job-related subjects with review by and approval of their respective work units. If employers paid for the college courses, the workers had to take entrance examinations. In 1985 colleges enrolled 33,000 employees from various enterprises and companies, approximately 6 percent of the total college enrollment.
In 1985 state quotas for university places were set, allowing both for students sponsored by institutions and for those paying their own expenses. This policy was a change from the previous system in which all students were enrolled according to guidelines established in Beijing. All students except those at military school or police academy, those who had financial difficulties, and those who were to work under adverse conditions after graduation had to pay for their own tuition, accommodations, and miscellaneous expenses.
Changes in enrollment and assignment policies
The children enrollment and graduate assignment system also was changed to reflect more closely the personnel needs of modernization. By 1986 the state was responsible for drafting the enrollment plan, which took into account future personnel demands, the need to recruit students from outlying regions, and the needs of trades and professions with adverse working conditions. Moreover, a certain number of graduates to be trained for the People's Liberation Army were included in the state enrollment plan. In most cases, enrollment in higher education institutions at the employers' request was extended as a supplement to the state student enrollment plan. Employers were to pay a percentage of training fees, and students were to fulfill contractual obligations to the employers after graduation. The small number of students who attended colleges and universities at their own expense could be enrolled in addition to those in the state plan.
Accompanying the changes in enrollment practices were reforms (adopted 1986) in the faculty appointment system, which ended the "iron rice bowl" employment system and permitted colleges and universities to decide which academic departments, which academic majors, and how many teachers they needed. Teachers in institutions of higher learning were hired on a basis, usually for two to four years at a time. The teaching positions available on basis were teaching assistant, lecturer, associate professor, and professor. The system was tested in eight major universities in Beijing and Shanghai before it was instituted nationwide at the end of 1985. University presidents headed groups in charge of appointing professors, lecturers, and teaching assistants according to their academic levels and teaching abilities, and a more rational wage system, geared to different job levels, was inaugurated. Universities and colleges with surplus professors and researchers were advised to grant them appropriate academic titles and encourage them to work for their current pay in schools of higher learning where they were needed. The new system was to be extended to schools of all kinds and other education departments within two years.
Under the 1985 reforms, all graduates were assigned jobs by the state; a central government placement agency told the schools where to send graduates. By 1985 Tsinghua University and a few other universities were experimenting with a system that allowed graduates to accept job offers or to look for their own positions. For example, of 1,900 Tsinghua University graduates in 1985, 1,200 went on to graduate school, 48 looked for their own jobs, and the remainder were assigned jobs by the school after consultation with the students. The college students and postgraduates scheduled to graduate in 1986 were assigned primarily to work in forestry, education, textiles, and the armaments industry. Graduates still were needed in civil engineering, computer science, and finance.
Scholarship and loan system
In July 1986 the State Council announced that the stipend system for university and college students would be replaced with a new scholarship and loan system. The new system, to be tested in selected institutions during the 1986-87 academic year, was designed to help students who could not cover their own living expenses but who studied hard, obeyed state laws, and observed discipline codes. Students eligible for financial aid were to apply to the schools and the China Industrial and Commercial Bank for low-interest loans. Three categories of students eligible for aid were established: top students encouraged to attain all-around excellence; students specializing in education, agriculture, forestry, sports, and marine navigation; and students willing to work in poor, remote, and border regions or under harsh conditions, such as in mining and engineering. In addition, free tuition and board were to be offered at military school, and the graduates were required to join the army for at least five years in relevant positions. For those who worked in an approved rural position after graduation, student's loans would be paid off by his or her employer, such as a school, in a lump sum. And the money was to be repaid to the employer by the student through five years of payroll deductions.
In addition to loans, another means of raising educational quality, particularly in science, was to send students abroad to study. A large number of Chinese students studied in the Soviet Union before educational links and other cooperative programs with the Soviet Union were severed in the late 1950s (see Sino-Soviet split). In the 1960s and 1970s, China continued to send a small number of students abroad, primarily to European universities. In October 1978 Chinese students began to arrive in the United States; their numbers accelerated after normalization of relations between the two countries in January 1979, a policy consistent with modernization needs. Although figures vary, more than 36,000 students, including 7,000 self-supporting students (those who paid their own way, received scholarships from host institutions, or received help from relatives and "foreign friends"), studied in 14 countries between 1978 and 1984. Of this total, 78 percent were technical personnel sent abroad for advanced study. As of mid-1986 there were 15,000 Chinese scholars and graduates in American universities, compared with the total of 19,000 scholars sent between 1979 and 1983.
Chinese students sent to the United States generally were not typical undergraduates or graduate students but were mid-career scientists, often thirty-five to forty-five years of age, seeking advanced training in their areas of specialization. Often they were individuals of exceptional ability who occupied responsible positions in Chinese universities and research institutions. Fewer than 15 percent of the earliest arrivals were degree candidates. Nearly all the visiting scholars were in scientific fields.
Many of the problems that had hindered higher educational development in the past continued in 1987. Funding remained a major problem because science and technology study and research and study abroad were expensive. Because education was competing with other modernization programs, capital was critically short. Another concern was whether or not the Chinese economy was sufficiently advanced to make efficient use of the highly trained technical personnel it planned to educate. For example, some observers believed that it would be more realistic to train a literate work force of low-level technicians instead of research scientists. Moreover, it was feared that using an examination to recruit the most able students might advance people who were merely good at taking examinations. Educational reforms also made some people uncomfortable by criticizing the traditional practice of rote memorization and promoting innovative teaching and study methods.
The prestige associated with higher education caused a demand for it. But many qualified youths were unable to attend colleges and universities because China could not finance enough university places for them. To help meet the demand and to educate a highly trained, specialized work force, China established alternate forms of higher education - such as spare-time, part-time, and radio and television universities.
China could not afford a heavy investment, either ideologically or financially, in the education of a few students. Since 1978 China's leaders have modified the policy of concentrating education resources at the university level, which, although designed to facilitate modernization, conflicted directly with the party's principles. The policies that produced an educated elite also siphoned off resources that might have been used to accomplish the compulsory nine-year education more speedily and to equalize educational opportunities in the city and the countryside. The policy of key schools has been modified over the years. Nevertheless, China's leaders believe an educated elite is necessary to reach modernization goals. Corruption has been increasingly problematic for rural schools. Because the educational funding is distributed from the top down, each layer of bureaucracy has tended to siphon off more than its share of funding, leaving too little for the bottom rural level.
Families have had to cover for government indifference by making personal investments in their children's education. However the Chinese economy may not be able to effectively absorb the resulting influx of college graduates, who may need to settle for lower paying jobs, if they can find those.
Reform in the 21st century
In 1998 the Chinese government proposed to expand university enrollment of professional and specialized graduates and to develop world class universities. Restructuring, through consolidations, mergers and shifts among the authorities which supervise institutions, was aimed at addressing the problems of small size and low efficiency. Higher vocational education was also restructured, and there was a general tendency there to emphasize elite institutions. This rapid expansion of mass higher education has resulted in not only a strain in teaching resources but also in higher unemployment rates among graduates. The creation of private universities, not under governmental control, remains slow and its future uncertain. The restructuring of higher education, in the words of one academic "has created a clearly escalating social stratification pattern among institutions, stratified by geography, source of funding, administrative unit, as well as by functional category (e.g., comprehensive, law, medical, etc.)." Thus, although recent reform has arguably improved over-all educational quality, they have created new, different issues of equity and efficiency that will need to be addressed as the century proceeds.
In the spring 2007 China planned to conduct a national evaluation of its universities. The results of this evaluation are used to support the next major planned policy initiative. The last substantial national evaluation of universities, which was undertaken in 1994, resulted in the 'massification' of higher education as well as a renewed emphasis on elite institutions. Academics praised the fin du siècle reforms for budging China's higher education from a unified, centralized, closed and static system into one characterized by more diversification, decentralization, openness and dynamism, stimulating the involvement of local governments and other non-state sectors. At the same time they note that this decentralization and marketization has led to further inequality in educational opportunity.
Chinese policies on College Entrance Examination have been influenced by the recruitment systems of western countries and the traditional culture of imperial examinations. Since Fudan University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University started independent enrolment before College Entrance Examination in 2007, some of the top Chinese colleges began to follow them using a new method to choose students besides unified examination system. In accordance with university regulations, those colleges appoint their own staff and are responsible for selecting students. Students can get admitted by taking a specific exam or interview before the College Entrance Examination. In this way, students have more chance to get admitted by the top colleges. In 2010, there were several critical reforms in the education field. In January 31, the education ministry in Guangdong province began to implement parallel voluntary admission in college entrance recruiting system, which is an efficient way to decrease the risk of getting into a college for the majority of students. In November 20, the education ministry of China cancelled the additional Olympics points in College Entrance Exam policy. It is fairer for the high school students, and efficiently reduces the heavy academic burdens for students. As the economic development of China, private school system has been gradually built up. Many private preschools began to use bilingual teaching. Furthermore, some public colleges and universities cooperated with investors to run secondary college by using public running and being sponsored by private enterprises, which promotes the development of education. On the other hand, the Technical and Vocational Education in China has developed rapidly, and become the focus of the whole society.
Nowadays, as the educational level of Chinese has increased, getting into college is no longer a remarkable achievement among the Chinese students. Instead, having a degree of an ordinary Chinese university already can’t satisfy the increasingly competitive society. Chinese parents and students have begun to place a high value on overseas education, especially at top American and European institutions such as Harvard University, Oxford University, and Cambridge University, which are "revered" among many middle-class parents. Since 1999, the number of Chinese applicants to top schools overseas has increased tenfold. Much of the interest in overseas schools has been attributed to the release of how-to parenting books such as Harvard Girl, which spawned a "national obsession" with admissions to overseas schools. After 2005, the number of overseas students from China not only showed a growth trend, but also presented a lowering trend of age.
Some of the prestige of an American higher education is the result of weaknesses in the PRC's education system, which stifles creativity in favor of rote memorization.
In 1985, the government designated September 10 as Teachers' Day, the first festival day for any profession and indicative of government efforts to raise the social status and living standards of teachers.
The government has started the Nationwide Program of Network for Education of Teachers to improve the quality of teaching. It aims to modernize teachers' education through educational information, providing support and services for lifelong learning through the teachers' education network, TV satellite network, and the Internet and to greatly improve the teaching quality of elementary and high school faculty through large-scale, high-quality and high-efficiency training and continuous education.
As required by state law, local governments are implementing teacher qualification systems and promoting in-service training for large numbers of school principals, so as to further improve school management standards. Currently, in schools of higher learning, professors and assistant professors account for 9.5 percent and 30 percent respectively. Young and middle-aged teachers predominate; teachers under age 45 account for 79 percent of total faculty, and under age 35 for 46 percent. Teachers in higher education constitute a vital contingent in scientific research, knowledge innovation and sci-tech. Of all academicians in the Chinese Academy of Sciences, 40.7 percent (280) are in the higher education sector; for the Chinese Academy of Engineering the corresponding figure is 35.3 percent (234).
Among the most pressing problems facing education reformers was the scarcity of qualified teachers, which has led to a serious stunting of educational development. In 1986 there were about 8 million primary- and middle-school teachers in China, but many lacked professional training. Estimates indicated that in order to meet the goals of the Seventh Five-Year Plan and realize compulsory 9-year education, the system needed 1 million new teachers for primary schools, 750,000 new teachers for junior middle schools, and 300,000 new teachers for senior middle schools. Estimates predict, however, that the demand for teachers will drop in the late 1990s because of an anticipated decrease in primary-school enrollments.
To cope with the shortage of qualified teachers, the State Education Commission decreed in 1985 that senior-middle-school teachers should be graduates with two years' training in professional institutes and that primary-school teachers should be graduates of secondary schools. To improve teacher quality, the commission established full-time and part-time (the latter preferred because it was less costly) in-service training programs. Primary-school and preschool in-service teacher training programs devoted 84 percent of the time to subject teaching, 6 percent to pedagogy and psychology, and 10 percent to teaching methods. In-service training for primary-school teachers was designed to raise them to a level of approximately two years' postsecondary study, with the goal of qualifying most primary-school teachers by 1990. Secondary-school in-service teacher training was based on a unified model, tailored to meet local conditions, and offered on a spare-time basis. Ninety-five percent of its curricula was devoted to subject teaching, 2 to 3 percent to pedagogy and psychology, and 2 to 3 percent to teaching methods. There was no similar large-scale in-service effort for technical and vocational teachers, most of whom worked for enterprises and local authorities.
By 1985 there were more than 1,000 teacher training schools - an indispensable tool in the effort to solve the acute shortage of qualified teachers. These schools, however, were unable to supply the number of teachers needed to attain modernization goals through 1990. Although a considerable number of students graduated as qualified teachers from institutions of Higher Learning, the relatively low social status and salary levels of teachers hampered recruitment, and not all of the graduates of teachers' colleges became teachers. To attract more teachers, China tried to make teaching a more desirable and respected profession. To this end, the government designated September 10 as Teachers' Day, granted teachers pay raises, and made teachers' colleges tuition free. To further arrest the teacher shortage, in 1986 the central government sent teachers to underdeveloped regions to train local schoolteachers.
Because urban teachers continued to earn more than their rural counterparts and because academic standards in the countryside had dropped, it remained difficult to recruit teachers for rural areas. Teachers in rural areas also had production responsibilities for their plots of land, which took time from their teaching. Rural primary teachers needed to supplement their pay by farming because most were paid by the relatively poor local communities rather than by the state.
Adult and online education
The participation of big investors in online education has made it a new hotspot for investment in the education industry. Students of remote and under-developed areas are the biggest beneficiaries of online education, but online universities offer students who failed university entrance examinations and working people the chance of lifelong education and learning.
The Ministry of Education has approved 68 ordinary schools of higher learning and the Central Radio and TV University to pilot modern distance education. By the end of 2003, these schools had established 2,027 off-campus learning centers around China, offering 140 majors in ten disciplines, and had a total enrollment of 1.373 million.
The gradual spread of broadband technology has also helped online education. The China Education and Research Network (CERNET), started in 1994, is now China's second largest Internet network, covering all major cities of China. The high-speed connection between it and the China Education Broadband Satellite Net, opened in 2000, established a "space to earth" transmission platform for modern distance education, and provided an all-round network supporting environment for distance education.
Adult education is both dynamic and diverse. Schools of higher learning for adults include radio and TV, worker, farmer, correspondence and evening universities, management and education colleges; adult secondary schools include vocational, high and skills training schools; worker elementary and farmer elementary schools comprise the adult elementary sector.
Role in modernization
Because only 4 percent of the nation's secondary education graduates are admitted to universities, China has found it necessary to develop other ways of meeting the demand for education. Adult education has become increasingly important in helping China meet its modernization goals. Adult, or "nonformal," education is an alternative form of higher education that encompasses radio, television, and correspondence universities, spare-time and part-time universities, factory-run universities for staff and workers, and county-run universities for peasants, many operating primarily during students' off-work hours. These alternative forms of education are economical. They had sought to educate both the "delayed generation" - those who lost educational opportunities during the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) - and to raise the cultural, scientific, and general education levels of workers on the job.
Schools have been established by government departments, businesses, trade unions, academic societies, democratic parties, and other organizations. In 1984 about 70 percent of China's factories and enterprises supported their own part-time classes, which often were referred to as workers' colleges. In Beijing alone, more than ninety adult-education schools with night schools enrolled tens of thousands of students. More than 20,000 of these students graduated annually from evening universities, workers' colleges, television universities, and correspondence schools - more than twice the number graduating from regular colleges and universities. The government spent 200 yuan (¥) to ¥500 per adult education student and at least ¥1,000 per regular university student. In 1984 approximately 1.3 million students enrolled in television, correspondence, and evening universities, about a 30 percent increase over 1983.
Spare-time education for workers and peasants and literacy classes for the entire adult population were other components of basic education. Spare-time education included a very broad range of educational activities at all levels. Most spare-time schools were sponsored by factories and run for their own workers; they provided fairly elementary education, as well as courses to upgrade technical skills. Most were on-the-job training and retraining courses, a normal part of any industrial system. These schools continually received publicity in the domestic media as a symbol of social justice, but it was unclear whether they received adequate resources to achieve this end.
China's educational television system began in 1960 but was suspended during the Cultural Revolution in 1966. In 1979 the Central Radio and Television University was established in Beijing with branches in twenty-eight provincial-level universities. Many Central Radio and Television University students were recent senior-middle school graduates who scored just below the cut-off point for admission to conventional colleges and universities. Full-time (who take four courses) and part-time students (two courses) had at least two years' work experience, and they return to their jobs after graduation. Spare-time students (one course) studied after work. Students whose work units granted them permission to study in a television university were paid their normal wages; expenses for most of their books and other educational materials were paid for by the state. A typical Central Radio and Television University student spent up to six hours a day over a three-year period watching lectures on videotapes produced by some of the best teachers in China. These lectures were augmented by face-to-face tutoring by local instructors and approximately four hours of homework each evening. The major problem with the system is that there were too few television sets. In 1987 the Central Television and Radio University had its programs produced, transmitted and financed by the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television. The State Education Commission developed its curriculum and distributed its printed support materials. Curriculum included both basic, general-purpose courses in science and technology and more specialized courses. The Central Television and Radio University offered more than 1,000 classes in Beijing and its suburbs and 14 majors in 2- to 3-year courses through 56 working centers. Students who passed final examinations were given certificates entitling them to the same level of remuneration as graduates of regular, full-time colleges and universities. The state gave certain allowances to students awaiting jobs during their training period.
Literacy and language reform
The continuing campaigns to eradicate illiteracy also were a part of basic education. Chinese government statistics indicated that of a total population of nearly 1.1 billion in 1985, about 230 million people were illiterate or semiliterate. The difficulty of mastering written Chinese makes raising the literacy rate particularly difficult. In general, language reform was intended to make writing and the standard language easier to learn, which in turn would foster both literacy and linguistic unity and serve as a foundation for a simpler written language. In 1951 the party issued a directive that inaugurated a three-part plan for language reform. The plan sought to establish universal comprehension of a standardized common language, simplify written characters, and introduce, where possible, romanized forms based on the Latin alphabet. In 1956 Putonghua (Modern Standard Chinese) was introduced as the language of instruction in schools and in the national broadcast media, and by 1977 it was in use throughout China, particularly in the government and party, and in education. Although in 1987 the government continued to endorse the goal of universalizing putonghua, hundreds of regional and local dialects continued to be spoken, complicating interregional communication.
A second language reform required the simplification of ideographs because ideographs with fewer strokes are easier to learn. In 1964 the Committee for Reforming the Chinese Written Language released an official list of 2,238 simplified characters most basic to the language. Simplification made literacy easier, although some people (especially in Hong Kong which is still using traditional Chinese) taught only in simplified characters were cut off from the wealth of Chinese literature written in traditional characters. Any idea of replacing ideographic script with romanized script was soon abandoned, however by government and education leaders.
A third area of change involved the proposal to use the pinyin romanization system more widely. Pinyin (first approved by the National People's Congress in 1958) was encouraged primarily to facilitate the spread of putonghua in regions where other dialects and languages are spoken. By the mid-1980s, however, the use of pinyin was not as widespread as the use of putonghua.
Retaining literacy was as much a problem as acquiring it, particularly among the rural population. Literacy rates declined between 1966 and 1976. Political disorder may have contributed to the decline, but the basic problem was that the many Chinese ideographs can be mastered only through rote learning and can be often forgotten because of disuse.
The role of ICT
In 2010, the Government of China released its medium and long term national ICT in education master plans, which stated explicitly that ICT would have a historic impact on the development of education and called for a strong emphasis on ICT in education. In order to realize the scientific and orderly development of ICT in education, China has developed a holistic and top-down approach. The Ten Year Development Plan for ICT in Education 2011-2020 was formalized in 2012. It states that by 2020, all adults will have access to quality education resources in an ICT-enabling environment, an ICT support service system for the learning society will take shape, and all regions and schools at all levels will have broadband internet access.
In order to considerably enhance Internet coverage and transmission capacity, China has accelerated its drive to upgrade infrastructure, including the China Education and Research Network (CERNet) and China Education Broadband Satellite (CEBSat), which are the two main education networks.
To enhance the impact of ICT in education and teaching, China has placed a strong focus on developing quality digital educational resources. In particular, China has launched the “one teacher, one quality lesson, and one class one quality teacher” initiative, which has led to the creation of quality digital teaching resources for 3.26 million teachers. In tandem, the Chinese Government has encouraged higher education institutions to develop MOOCs, and private companies to develop basic digital resources to supplement formal educational materials.
To enhance the modernization of education governance, China has promoted ICT in education administration through the establishment of a national data centre and the implementation of the national service system for education decision-making. China has also set up a national data centre supporting the administration through a unique online identity number for each student, each teacher, and each school.
In effort to promote the widespread application of ICT in teaching, China has carried out full-scale capacity training for teachers. China has launched a capacity improvement project targeting primary and secondary school teachers’ capacity to use ICT, helping them to integrate ICT into their teaching. ICT training for education administrators has also been stepped up, so as to enhance their ICT leadership capability.
Although Shanghai and Hong Kong regularly perform highly in international assessments, Chinese education has both native and international detractors; common areas of criticism include its rigor; its emphasis on memorization and standardized testing; and the gap in quality of education between students of rural and urban areas. Jonathan Kaiman of The Guardian writes that Chinese parents and educators "see their own system as corrupt, dehumanising, pressurised and unfair"; he went on to discuss the country's college admission exam (called the gaokao), writing that "many parents consider the gruelling nine-hour test a sorting mechanism that will determine the trajectory of their children's lives." In The New York Times, Helen Gao called China's educational system "cutthroat" and wrote that its positive reputation among admirers is largely built on a myth:
While China has phenomenally expanded basic education for its people, quadrupling its output of college graduates in the past decade, it has also created a system that discriminates against its less wealthy and well-connected citizens, thwarting social mobility at every step with bureaucratic and financial barriers. A huge gap in educational opportunities between students from rural areas and those from cities is one of the main culprits. Some 60 million students in rural schools are 'left-behind' children, cared for by their grandparents as their parents seek work in faraway cities. While many of their urban peers attend schools equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and well-trained teachers, rural students often huddle in decrepit school buildings and struggle to grasp advanced subjects such as English and chemistry amid a dearth of qualified instructors. 'Rural students stand virtually no chance when competing academically with their urban counterparts,' Jiang Nengjie, a friend and independent filmmaker who made a documentary on the left-behind children, told me.
Reflecting the fact that most of China's population live in the countryside, 95.2 percent of all elementary schools, 87.6 percent of junior high schools and 71.5 percent of senior high schools are in rural areas, with 160 million students at the compulsory education stage. The 1995-2000 "National Project of Compulsory Education in Impoverished Areas" involved the allocation of 3.9 billion special funds from the central finance and 10 billion yuan raised by local governments to improve schooling conditions in impoverished areas. In 2004, various special funds allocated by the central finance for compulsory education in rural areas reached 10 billion yuan, a 72.4 percent increase on the 2003 figure of 5.8 billion.
The China Agricultural Broadcast and Television School has nearly 3,000 branch schools and a teaching and administrative staff of 46,000. Using radio, television, satellite, network, audio and video materials, it has trained over 100 million people in applicable agricultural technologies and over 8 million persons for work in rural areas. After 20 years in development, it is the world's largest distance learning organ for rural education.
In a Ministry of Education program covering the next five years, the government will implement measures to realize its aims of nine-year compulsory education in China's western region and the basic elimination of young and middle-aged illiteracy and the popularization of high level, high quality nine-year compulsory education in east and central rural areas. At the same time, government is to promote the development of modern distance learning for rural elementary and high schools, and further improve rural compulsory education management systems.
Education for migrant children
Following the large-scale movement of Chinese rural population to the cities the children of these migrant workers either stay as left-behind children in the villages or they migrate with their parents to the cities. Although regulations by the central government stipulate that all migrant children have the right to attend a public school in the cities public schools nevertheless effectively reject these children by setting high thresholds such as school fees and exams or by requesting an urban registration (Hukou). Providing an alternative, private entrepreneurs established since the 1990s semi-official private schools that offered schooling to migrant children for lower fees. However, this system contributed to the segregation between urban and migrant children. Furthermore, these schools often have a poor teaching quality, provide only school certificates of limited value and sometimes even do not comply with safety regulations. Since the beginning of the 2000s, some local governments thus started campaigns to close these private schools but nevertheless in many cities these schools still exist. Although Chinese scholars have conducted case-study research on migrant children and their schools there is a lack in studies with a nationwide scope.
The government supports private educational organizations, as well as private for-profit educational providers. The first "Law on Promotion of Private Education" came into effect on September 1, 2003.
Development of private schools means an increase in overall education supply and a change in the traditional pattern of public-only schools, so as to meet educational needs. At the end of 2004, there were more than 70,000 private schools of all types and level, with a total enrollment of 14.16 million, including 1,279 private institutes of higher learning, with a total enrollment of 1.81 million.
Private schools have pioneered cooperation with foreign partners in the running of schools and many foreign universities have entered China this way, which has both improved the quality of China's education resources and opened new channels for students' further studies.
The number of foreigners wanting to study in China has been rising by approximately 20% annually since the reform and opening period began. According to official government figures 195,503 overseas students from 188 countries and regions came to study on the mainland in 2007 although the number is believed to be somewhere around the 300,000 region, because the government’s figures do not include students studying at private language schools. This makes China the world’s sixth-largest study abroad destination.
According to reports, South Korea, Japan, The United States, Vietnam and Thailand were the five biggest source countries, and the number of students from European source countries is increasing. Currently the Chinese government offers over 10,000 scholarships to foreign students, though this is set to rise by approximately 3,000 within the next year.
International students are increasingly studying in China. China's economy is improving more quickly than had been predicted, i.e. sizable economic growth by 2015 has been predicted as opposed to 2050. China has already drawn the attention of the West for its growth rates, and the 2008 Olympic Games and Shanghai Expo 2010 have intensified this positive attention. Another factor that draws students to China is the considerably lower cost of living in China compared to most western countries. Finally, major cities in China such as Beijing and Shanghai already have a strong international presence.
Currently China has around 1,000 colleges and universities. Leading universities such as Peking University, Tsinghua University, and Fudan University, have already gained international reputation for outstanding teaching and research facilities. China has signed agreements with almost 40 countries such as France, Great Britain, the United States, Russia, etc., to recognize select diplomas. Many Chinese universities such as United International College now offer degrees in English enabling students with no knowledge of the Chinese language to study there.
Although gender inequality in the context of education has lessened considerably in the last thirty years, the rapid economic growth China experienced during that time created uneven growth across regions of the country. Language barriers among minority populations, as well as drastic differences in regional laws governing school attendance, contribute to the differing levels of gender equality in education.
A 2010 statement by UNESCO stated that in China it is "necessary to articulate a strategy to improve girls' and women's participation, retention and achievement in education at all levels," and that education should be "seen as an instrument for the empowerment of women."
China’s first contact with the English language occurred between the Chinese and English traders, and the first missionary schools to teach English were established in Macau in the 1630s. However, the emphasis of English education only emerged after 1979 when the Cultural Revolution ended, China adopted the Open Door Policy, and the United States and China established strong diplomatic ties. An estimate of the number of English speakers in China is over 200 million and rising, with 50 million secondary schoolchildren now studying the language.
In China, most schoolchildren are taught their first English lesson at the age of 10. Despite the early learning of English, there is widespread criticism of the teaching and learning of the language. Schools in China are evaluated and financed based on test results. This causes teaching to be geared towards the skills tested. Students focus on rote-memorization (written and oral repetition) as the main learning strategy. These methods, which fit very well with the Chinese way of learning, have been criticized as fundamentally flawed by Western educationalists and linguists. Furthermore, newly learned words are seldom put into use. This arises because everyone in China communicates through Mandarin, and English is perceived to be of little use in the country. This has been further reinforced through the national Band 4 examination where 80% of the test is the writing component, 20% is devoted to listening, and speaking is excluded entirely. According to a national survey, only half of the teachers consider that vocabulary should be learned through conversation or communication. A far smaller percentage support activities such as role playing or vocabulary games.
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- Centre of Research on Education in China, Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong
- For China, a Reverse Brain Drain in Science? by Peter N. Spotts, The Christian Science Monitor, May 1, 2009
- "Education," China Digital Times . Annotated aggregation of current Chinese media coverage.
- United International College, a liberal arts college in China.
China Education statistics
- UN Human Development Report
- Nation Master
- World Bank
- UNESCO Institute of Statistics
- Ministry Of Education
- Education Statistics China - UNICEF
- Global Education Digest 2003 - Comparing Education Statistics Across the World
- Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD) Directorate for Education, Statistics, Data and Indicators
- Education at a glance 2007
- OECD Education Database - provides internationally comparable data on key aspects of education systems. The database covers: enrollments, graduates and new entrants by sex, age and level of education, teaching staff and expenditure.
- Unesco Database - education data from 1970 to 1998 by subject, region, country & year
- World Education Indicators - 16 most commonly used education on education
- UNESCO Education for All movement
- Country Reports: China - source of statistical information