V. Women and Education
In China, women enjoy the same rights and opportunities as men to receive education. Such rights and opportunities are clearly defined in China's Education Law, Compulsory Education Law and Vocational Education Law. The state takes concrete measures and actions to ensure that girls receive nine-year compulsory education and that women have more opportunities to receive secondary and higher education. The state is determined to eliminate illiteracy among young and middle-aged women, promote lifelong education for women and extend their average years of education.
The Chinese government makes great efforts to eliminate gender disparities at the stage of compulsory education, and improve the education environment for girls. In 2004, the enrollment of boys and girls was 98.97 percent and 98.93 percent, respectively. The difference in access to education between boys and girls was reduced from 0.7 percentage point in 1995 to 0.04 percentage point. The government has unceasingly increased its input into compulsory education in the countryside, so as to improve the compulsory education environment there and ensure that all girls, like boys, have the chance to receive compulsory education. In 2004, the educational appropriation from the state treasury for compulsory education in rural areas reached 139.362 billion yuan, two times the amount in 1995. In recent years, the state has raised money from many channels for grants to students in primary and middle schools. Under one policy known as "Two Exemptions and One Allowance," the government provides subsidies so that students from families with financial difficulties in rural areas, particularly in central and west China, are exempt from paying textbook fees and other fees, and students attending boarding schools get allowances. Governments at all levels have formulated special policies and taken measures concerning the education of girls in poor areas and areas inhabited by ethnic minorities, work hard to raise the level of compulsory education for girls in rural China. In addition, the state has adopted special policies to ensure that migrant children (including girls) from rural areas receive compulsory education. For many years, governments at all levels have worked hard to help NGOs in organizing donation activities to pool money to improve the education of girls. The Hope Project and the Spring Buds Program initiated by the China Youth Development Foundation and the China Children's Foundation have provided financial assistance to large numbers of girl dropouts to help them return to school.
The state exerts great efforts to ensure that women have the opportunity to receive secondary and higher education. As a result, the proportion of women in all types of schools at all levels has increased considerably. In 2004, the proportion of girl students in junior and senior middle schools reached 47.4 percent and 45.8 percent, respectively; the proportion of girl students in secondary vocational schools reached 51.5 percent; the number of girl students in institutions of higher learning nationwide reached 6,090,000, accounting for 45.7 percent of all students in such schools and an increase of 10.3 percentage points over 1995. The proportion of female postgraduate and doctoral students was 44.2 percent and 31.4 percent, 13.6 percentage points and 15.9 percentage points higher respectively over the figures for 1995. In recent years, the Chinese government has introduced the state loan system and established state scholarships for students at institutions of higher learning, providing loans at discounted interest, scholarship and stipends to poor students (including girls) to help them complete their studies. Meanwhile, the government encourages enterprises, private institutions and individuals to donate to education and to help female students with financial difficulties receive education. The state attaches importance to the fostering and training of women teachers, and gives full play to their role in promoting women's education. In 2004, the proportions of women teachers in junior and senior middle schools were 45.9 percent and 41.7 percent, respectively; and the proportions of full-time women teachers in secondary vocational schools and institutions of higher learning was 46.5 percent and 42.5 percent, respectively.
For many years, the Chinese government has paid great attention to eliminating illiteracy among women, curbing emergence of new women illiterates, and preventing women from becoming illiterates again. Its policy priority in this respect is to promote illiteracy-elimination education for women in poor areas and areas inhabited by ethnic minorities. Relevant government departments and the All-China Women's Federation have jointly launched the Illiteracy-elimination Program among Women. In 2004, the illiteracy rate among women 15 years of age and above in urban areas was 8.2 percent, a decrease of 5.7 percentage points from that of 1995; the illiteracy rate among women 15 years of age and above in rural areas was 16.9 percent, a decrease of 10.5 percentage points from that of 1995. The illiteracy rate among young and middle-aged women across the country was 4.2 percent, a drop of 5.2 percentage points from that of 1995, and the rate of decrease is higher than the rate of decrease of illiteracy among the general population.
The state has made energetic endeavors to develop vocational education, adult education and technical education, the level of lifelong education of women has been raised and the gap between the genders narrowed. According to the fifth national census, conducted in 2000, the average number of years of education of Chinese women was seven - one and a half years more than in 1990 - and the gap between the genders had been narrowed by half a year in that decade. In 2004 alone, the number of women studying at correspondence and night schools and other higher learning institutions for adults stood at 2.09 million, 50 percent of the total number of students of such educational institutions.
In recent years the state has intensified efforts to train women in vocational
skills. By adopting various training methods, the state aims to help women
in urban areas enhance their competitive abilities, to help women in rural
areas get better harvests and become well-off, and to help migrant workers
(including women) become better qualified for the labor market.