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Adult Education Faces Pressures
On May 11 and May 12, more than 170,000 adults in Beijing took part in the entrance examination of National Adult Education, which sets a new record compared with last year. With the rapid development of Chinese society and economy, more and more people in recent years are embracing adult education.

China's higher education system includes three divisions: higher education (including private universities), adult education and self-study examinations. Among them, adult education faces the most challenges in a struggling to survive.

Adult education first of all faces pressure from the self-study exam, one of the national examinations to test a person’s educational attainment and open for anyone at anytime with few restrictions. But even though the door is open so wide for the exam, a passing grade strictly guarantees graduation and a diploma.

Two important policy adjustments have been made in relation to adult education in Beijing this year. One is that graduating students from polytechnic schools, vocational schools as well as technical schools can apply for higher vocational courses for adults. The other is new acknowledgement of certificates issued by the state or Beijing for skills such as in computers, English, and accounting -- people who have these certificates now can ask to be exempt from examinations in related subjects. The two changes ease restrictions on enrollment and help to attract more students.

The Ministry of Education last year issued a regulation permitting anyone, no matter what their marital status or age, to participate in the national entrance examinations. Students graduating from polytechnic schools also can apply for regular college programs and professional training schools. Adult education needs to adjust its policy accordingly to attract more students to compete with regular higher education.

When the National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s top legislature, was in session in March this year, some NPC deputies called for “regulation of some odd phenomena in adult education.” Problems cited included school facilities that are too simple and crude; schools that focus too much on economic benefits (as a result, some elementary and middle school students are allowed to study for college courses); teaching materials that don’t meet standards; school management difficulties; and rampant cheating during examinations.

The rapid development of Chinese education has produced growing pressure on adult education to provide more opportunities for adults who are desperate for knowledge. To meet the challenge, it is important for organizations engaged in adult education to find their right place, improve quality and management and increase competency.

(北京青年报[Beijing Youth Daily], translated by Zheng Guihong for china.org.cn, June 4, 2002)

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