Figures from China's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) indicate that, over the past five years, China has made great progress in education and has seen marked increases in enrollment and literacy.
According to the NBS, as of 2001, 1.35 million schools had been established, and 320 million people were enrolled in schools, an indicator that one out of four Chinese is a registered student.
China now has the largest-scale educational system in the world, and according to an official with the Ministry of Education, this progress was attributed largely to central government financial support.
He said China allocated 463.8 billion yuan (US$56.08 billion) to education in 2001, six times more than in 1991.
Statistics show that by the end of 2000, 85 percent of the population was benefiting from the nine-year compulsory education program.
According to the national census, by 2001, 48.72 million people had been lifted out of illiteracy, and the enrollment rates of primary, junior high and high schools and universities had risen to 99.1 percent, 88.7 percent, 42.8 percent and 13.3 percent, respectively.
Educational projects like "Project Hope" and the "Spring Bud" program also play an important role in improving the educational situation in poor areas and in implementing the nine-year compulsory education program. Higher education in China has developed a multi-disciplinary, comprehensive system of academic study and subjects. This year's college enrollment stands at 11.75 million, 8.02 million more than that in 1990. This is attributed principally to the 1999 government policy permitting greater access for more students.
Post-graduate enrollment in 2001 stood at 393,200, three times more than in 1990.
While "live and learn" becomes the educational trend in the 21st century, China is also focusing on vocational and adult education. Since 1990, 8.35 million people have graduated from adult institutions of higher learning and 10.18 million from adult secondary schools.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government has enacted a series of regulations and laws related to education. Following passage of the Regulations of the People's Republic of China for Awarding Academic Degrees in 1980, laws such as the Law on Compulsory Education and the Law on Vocational Education were also signed into law.
Many economists believe that the first 20 years of the 21st century marks a crucial phase for the Chinese economy and society. The money that the Chinese government has spent thus far on education represents one percent of the world's total expenditure for education. With China's population at more than 20 percent of the world total, the sustainable development of the education sector in China remains a daunting task.
(Xinhua News Agency October 27, 2002)