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Put Brakes on Enrollment
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Expanding enrolment of students in higher learning institutions needs to be reasonably controlled, a State Council conference decided on Wednesday.

Universities have been expanding their enrolments by a large margin since 1999, with the total number of students on Chinese campuses jumping from 7.8 million in 1998 to 23 million today.

It goes without saying that the move has considerably increased young people's opportunities of receiving higher education. In 1998, only 6 percent of those who sat the university entrance exams were enrolled. Last year, that figure climbed to 21 percent.

With several millions more high school students enrolled in universities each year, the immediate pressure on the job market has been eased, while the expansion of education as a business has created millions of jobs.

But it has brought about some problems.

The lack of qualified teachers is the most prominent of these issues. To meet the needs, the workloads of teachers have been increased to a point that many are complaining.

If teachers do not have enough time to update themselves with new knowledge or enough energy to reflect on what they are teaching, the quality of teaching will hardly improve and may decline. Some students in master's degree programmes have even been recruited temporarily to teach.

Teaching facilities and resources have also been stretched. It is common for many students to share a single set of experiment equipment and many have difficulty finding a seat in library reading rooms.

It is little wonder that some professors have repeatedly complained about the declining quality of university graduates in recent years. Some argue that brakes need to be put on enrolment expansion and institutions of higher learning need time to get a handle on the inadequate teaching force and build up facilities to meet the increasing needs.

The increasing number of university graduates has exerted such a heavy pressure on the job market that many can hardly land a job. In the past two years, nearly 30 percent graduates were unable to find a job each year.

The government will allow universities to determine the number of students they enrol in accordance with their handling capacity, according to the conference.

At the same time, efforts need to be made to increase opportunities for those high school graduates who cannot further their education so they can receive vocational training to find a job.

This is the right approach.

(China Daily May 12, 2006)

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