60 years of educational reform and development: Background material for the Press Conference of Minister of Education Zhou Ji at the State Council Information Office

Historic Achievements:
 60 Years of Educational Reform and Development
(September 11, 2009)

Ministry of Education, the People's Republic of China

Since its founding 60 years ago in 1949, the People’s Republic of China has witnessed spectacular achievements in its educational development, capturing worldwide attention.

Achievement 1: Universalize nine-year compulsory education.
Back in 1949, 80% of the Chinese population was illiterate; the enrollment rate of elementary schools was below 20% and the junior secondary school enrollment rate stood at a mere 6%.  In 2008, there were a total of 300,900 elementary schools, with 103,315,100 students; 57,900 junior secondary schools, with 55,849,700 students. By 2008, the net enrollment rate of elementary schools and the gross enrollment rate of junior secondary schools have increased to 99.5% and 98.5% respectively, while the adult illiteracy rate has been reduced to 3.58%.

Delivering free compulsory education to all. Since the reform and opening up in 1978, especially since the 16th National Congress of Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2002, China has been taking a gradual path of universalizing free compulsory education, both in urban and rural areas.  In 2003, the State Council convened the first ever National Conference on Rural Education, which gave rural education a strategic role as the pivot of educational development, and decided that new budgetary increases should be mainly spent on rural education. In 2005, the State Council put into practice a new funding guarantee mechanism for compulsory education in rural areas, which stipulated that the central government and local governments would share the cost with a certain proportion according to different programs.  The policy of “two remissions and one subsidy” (remissions of miscellaneous and textbook fees, subsidy for boarding students) was first implemented in 592 key poverty-stricken counties in 2005 and implemented in rural areas nationwide in 2007.  Starting from September 1st, 2008, about 28 million students of compulsory education in urban areas were exempted of the tuition and miscellaneous fees.  By far, 160 million students are exempted of tuition and miscellaneous fees and we have universalized free compulsory education for all in overall China.

Breakthroughs in the “Two Basics”( i.e. basically universalizing compulsory education and basically eradicating illiteracy among young and middle-aged groups) in western areas. After four years of the implementation of special programs aiming at breakthroughs in the “Two Basics” in western areas, the population covered by the “Two Basics” has increased from 77% in 2003 to 98% in 2007, fundamentally changing the situation of compulsory education in the countryside.  In recent years, the Chinese government has provided hundreds of billions RMB to support the construction of more than 8000 boarding schools and the reconstruction of thousands of dilapidated school buildings.  The Chinese government has also initiated the Project of Modern Distance Education in Rural Elementary and Junior Secondary Schools and built a distance education network covering all rural areas in China, enabling the rural children’ s access to high quality education resources.  By the end of 2008, the “Two Basics” has covered 99.3% of the population, with 3038 counties (cities, prefectures), i.e. 99.1% of China’s counties (cities, prefectures), passing the evaluation of the “Two Basics”.

The newly revised Compulsory Education Law has pushed China’s compulsory education into a new era of development.

Achievement 2: Transforming China’s higher education into mass higher education.
Back in 1949, there were only 117,000 students enrolled in higher education institutions(HEIs) in China. The founding of P. R. China pushed the development of higher education forward.  In 1999, the Chinese government decided to expand the scale of its higher education by a large margin, propelling China’s higher education into a new era to meet the needs of the 21st century.  In 2006, the Chinese government placed quality at the core of higher education development.  With the historic transformation, China’s higher education sector is providing powerful support in terms of human resources for China’s modernization drive.

The scale of China’s higher education ranks as No.1 in the world.  Surpassing Russia, India, and USA in sequence, China is now ranked No.1 in terms of its higher education scale. In 2008, 6,077,000 students were admitted to regular HEIs in China, 6 times of that in 1998; 20,210,000 students were enrolled in higher education, 4.5 times of that in 1998 and 172 times of that in 1949.  There was a total enrollment of 29 million students in various HEIs, with a gross enrollment rate of 23.3%.  In 10 years’ time, China has transformed its elite higher education into mass higher education.

The quality of higher education is steadily increasing. Policies measures are implemented to control the increase of student recruitment and to support the development of higher education in western and ethnic minority inhabited areas. Special programs are initiated to improve the teaching quality and deepen teaching reform. Efforts are made towards developing key disciplines and world-class universities to increase the competitiveness of China’s higher education.

The independent innovation capability of Chinese HEIs has been notably enhanced. In order to serve the national innovation system and build an innovation-oriented country, China’s HEIs are taking their advantage of their comprehensive disciplines and rich human resources to continuously innovate the patterns of combining industries, teaching and researches together. 

China’s HEIs are making important contributions to philosophical and social science studies. 80% of China’s researchers and research outcomes in the filed of philosophy and social sciences are from HEIs, which have pushed forward theoretical innovation, functioning as “Think Tank” and “Advisory Group” for China’s modernization drive.

Achievement 3: the development of vocational education has been accelerated.
The vocational education is for every member of our society. Since the adoption of the policy of reform and opening up, particularly after the beginning of the new century, the Party and our government have put vocational education on a more prominent place. The principle of vigorously developing vocational education has been established, leading to great breakthrough in the development of vocational education.

Vocational education has been developed in terms of its scale. 1 million more students were recruited by secondary vocational schools in each year of 2005 and 2006.  In 2007, the total enrollment was again increased by 500,000.  In 2008, over 19 million students graduated from junior high schools, among whom 8.4 million was recruited by regular senior high schools and 8.1 million by secondary vocational schools. This year, secondary vocational schools have recruited more students than regular senior high schools.  The total newly intake of secondary and higher vocational education in 2008 reached 11 million with a total enrollment exceeding 30 million, accounting for half of senior secondary education and higher education respectively.  These have shown that we have achieved our strategic goal of adjusting our educational structure.

Reforms on vocational education provision concepts, training models and the structure of schooling have been further deepened.  We have set the principle of “providing vocational education for the purpose of serving the society and with the goal of meeting the need of employment” and integrated the development of vocational education with the development the national economy, improvement of employability, alleviation of poverty, maintenance of stability and cultivation of advanced culture.

The basic capacity of vocational education has been constantly strengthened.

Achievement 4: A great stride has been made in education equity.
We have adhered to the principle of promoting education equity by developing education as a whole. On one hand, we have rapidly and robustly increased educational provision, particularly the supply of high qualified educational resources. On the other hand, the allocation structure of educational resources has been optimized, balancing the development between urban and rural areas and among different regions.

We have adhered to the principle of securing education equity with policies in favor of the general public. A financial support system for students from poor families has been set up and improved. The policy of “two remissions and one subsidy” for compulsory education has been implemented throughout the country, namely providing all students with remissions of tuition and miscellaneous fees and providing boarding students from poor families with living allowances.  A total number of 160 million primary and middle school students have benefited from this policy. National scholarships and financial support systems have been established for students of in regular higher education institutions, secondary and higher vocational schools, which, together with the student loan, make up the main body of the national support system of “scholarship, financial support, loans, subsidies and remissions”.  Such a system also includes work-study programmes, stipend for students with special difficulties and the exemption of tuition fees.  In addition, we have also arranged the support system for regular high school students from poor families. Special education is promoted and the right of the children of migrant workers t as well as stay-home children in rural to receive compulsory education is secured with the provision of relevant laws and regulations.

We have insisted the principle of securing education equity with standardization of management.  We have made every effort to properly solve the hot educational issues closely related to the interest of the general public.  We have played equal emphasis on increasing educational input and regulating the collection of education fees. Such efforts have effectively curbed irrational educational charges.

Achieve 5: Quality education, being the top agenda of the Central Government, is promoted nationwide with main goals defined
In 1999, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council hosted the 3rd National Working Conference on Education since the adoption of opening up and reform and made the decision on deepening educational reform and comprehensively promoting quality education.  General Secretary Mr.Hu Jintao further stated in 2006 that “the core of comprehensively implementing quality education is to answer the important question of what kind of people we are going to produce and how we should do that.  This should be the theme of the educational work”.  Following the arrangement and order of the Central Committee, systematic research on quality education was conducted and measures for further promoting quality education were put forward.  New achievements have been scored in the implementation of quality education.

Remarkable progress has been made in moral education at school. Following the principle of “taking moral education as the basis and priority of education”, we have carried out an overall planning of the moral education system in primary and secondary schools and universities which regards the cultivation of morality among students as the fundamental task of school education and integrates the core socialistic value system into the whole process of national education.

A new round of basic education reforms on curriculum, recruitment, examination and evaluation has been carried out.  Since the publication of “Guideline of Curriculum Reform for Basic (Trial)” in 2001, new curriculum was adopted by the 1st grade of primary and secondary schools around the country in the Autumn of 2005. 10 Provinces of China launched the pilots on new curriculum for high school in 2006 and now the trial has been expanded to 21 Provinces.

Physical education has been further strengthened.  In 2007, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and the State Council, taking physical education as the breakthrough point and an important component of quality education, issued “The Opinion on Making Teenagers Stronger through Better Physical Education”. Bearing in mind that health comes first, we have carried out the “National Teenagers’ Sunny Sports Programme” and the goal of having our students doing 1 hour exercise everyday has been fulfilled.  We have attached great importance to aesthetic education and the nurturing of working spirit and constantly improved the hygiene condition at campuses, particular in rural schools.  Health education, especially education on psychological health, has been emphasized to promote sound growth of our students both physically and mentally.

Achievement 6: The quality of teachers, especially those in rural areas has been improved continuously.
For many years, the Party and our government have taken powerful and effective measures to create favorable environment to attract a large number of excellent talents to become and maintain as teachers.  We have endeavored to advocate the ethos among the society of ‘respecting teachers and paying attention to education’.  We rely on our teachers, try every means to develop the teaching cohort and fully mobilize the initiative as well as creativity of our teachers.

The overall quality of teachers in primary and secondary schools has been improved.  The employment system and the open application system for new teaching posts for all primary and secondary schools have been established and improved, making another stride in the reform of personnel system for primary and secondary schools.

New progresses have been witnessed in the development of ‘dual-role teachers’ in vocational education.  A system in which teachers in vocational education schools can take their practices in enterprises has been established.

Higher education institutions have implemented the strategy of ‘developing universities through human resources’ and received remarkable outcomes.  The appointment system has been fully promoted in all higher education institutions, while the income distribution reform with the post-subsidy as the main component has been deepened.  The initiative and creativity of our teachers have been further mobilized.  We also set up the ‘National Award for Famous Teachers in Higher Education Institutions’.  By now, 280 members of the China Academy of Science are from higher education institutions, covering 39.3% of the total; 234 members of the China Academy of Engineering are also from higher education institutions, covering 37.7% of the total.  The living and working conditions of our teachers have been consistently improved.

Free education for students in normal universities has been implemented smoothly. From the autumn of 2007, free education has been applied in the normal universities directly under the administration of the Ministry of Education.  In the last two years, 22,120 students have been enrolled by 6 normal universities directly under the administration of the Ministry of Education.  With eager and sufficient application from the students, the quality of normal education has been ensured.  We have seen the exemplary role of free education for normal education.

Achievement 7:  An approach for educational development with Chinese characteristics has been identified and applied.

The general framework of educational system with Chinese characteristics has been established.  Insisting on reform and innovation, we have kept the pace with the times and promoted reforms in management system, schooling system and input system.  In 2007, the total funding for education was 1214.807 billion RMB, 129 times of that of 1978.  Among this, the national fiscal funding was 828.021 billion RMB.  An educational legal system with laws, regulations and rules as three levels has taken shape gradually.  Education inspection has been continuously strengthened.

A modern education system has been developed.  In 2008, the total number of students in all kinds of schools in China reached 260 million, among which almost 160 million students were involved in compulsory education.  Among 19 million junior secondary school graduates, 85% continued their studies in senior secondary schools.   Among them, nearly 50% entered into secondary vocational education.  Among the 8.3 million graduates from regular senior secondary schools, nearly 73% entered into higher education institutions, among whom nearly 50% were enrolled by higher vocational colleagues.  More than 1 million postgraduate students for master programmes and 240,000 Ph.d candidates were studying and researching in univerisities. 

An opening system for international cooperation and exchanges at multi-levels, in wide areas and at all dimensions has taken shape.  By 2008, we have developed cooperative relations with 188 countries, regions and international organizations.  In the last 30 years, more than 1.2 million Chinese have gone abroad for studies, among whom more than 300,000 have returned to China.  Our universities have received more than 1.2 million international students from over 180 countries and regions.  Meanwhile, 270 Confucius Institutions and Confucius Classrooms have been established in other countries, becoming an important base for promoting Chinese language and culture.

Achievement 8: Education has made significant contribution to our socialistic modernization process.

The aim of ensuring educational access for all the children has been fulfilled.  The overall pattern for educational development has taken shape in China in which a more balanced compulsory education will be promoted, the universalization of senior secondary education will be accelerated, vocational education will be developed with more efforts, the quality of higher education will be further improved, pre-school education will be attached importance and special education will be paid attention to.  In 2008, the gross enrollment rate of children to receive one year pre-school education before primary education reached 70% and that figure for senior secondary education reached 74%.

Education has generated a large number of talents for the socialistic modernization development.  In the previous 60 years, education has produced billions of labors of high quality, millions of experts in various professionals and groups of innovative excellent talents.  At present, the average schooling-year for the people above 15 years old and for the new supply of labor force has exceeded 8.5 years and 11 years respectively.  More than 82 million people in employment have received higher education, making China taking the leadership among developing countries.  This fundamental change represents that we have changed from a country with large population to a country rich in human resources, turning the heavy burden of population into a rich pool of human resources.

Education has made important contribution to national development in terms of knowledge.  In 2008, the research funding in higher education institutions reached 65.45 billion RMB, more than 8 times of that of 1998.  Over 140 national key laboratories and engineering centers and more than 90 national social science bases are located in our universities.  Moreover, 450,000 patterns are owned by our universities.  In addition, we have developed more than 70 national university science parks.  Fruitful outcomes in basic science researches, applied science researches and the industrialization of high technologies have been achieved, representing that universities have become an important force in the development of an innovative nation.

2009-09-11