In the Report on the Work of the Government 2019 (hereafter referred to as the Report), Premier Li Keqiang stressed the need to promote equity in education and improve the quality of education. In line with these guidelines, China’s education sector has shifted its focus from last year to the following priorities:
1. Continuity of education policies. Over the past 70 years since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, the coverage rate of education has increased remarkably. In 2018, the quality of China’s nine-year compulsory education underwent further improvement, and the enrolment rate of students up to graduation from this compulsory period of education reached 94.2%. Gross enrolment rate in three-year preschool education also rapidly increased to 81.7%. The secondary high school gross enrolment rate nation-wide also improved, rising to 88.8%, whilst the rate for higher education reached 48.1%. As stressed in the Report, China’s aim is to “develop more equitable and higher quality education”.
2. Financial support. The Report emphasizes that “despite significant fiscal constraints, government budgetary spending on education will remain above 4 percent of GDP, and central government spending on education will exceed one trillion yuan”, which underscores the importance given to education in China.
3. Precisely-targeted policies. Compared to last year, the Report has put forward more precisely-targeted policies. For example, in regard of promoting the integrated development of urban and rural compulsory education, the Report mentions policies to “move faster to improve conditions in rural schools”, “quickly address the problem of oversized classes in urban schools”, and “ensure access to education for children living with their migrant worker parents in cities”. In regard of enhancing vocational education, it mentions policies to “reform and improve the ways that vocational colleges conduct examinations and enrolment”, “expand the coverage of scholarships and grants for vocational college students” and “achieve a large-scale expansion of one million in student enrolments this year”.
4. Resource sharing. New technologies like internet, big data and artificial intelligence are increasingly merging with education. As such, the Report stresses the need to “develop Internet Plus Education models and promote quality resource sharing”, and has clearly identified the role of information technologies in promoting modern education.
5. Non-state education. Over the past 40 years since the implementation of reform and opening-up policies, China has allowed the market forces to supplement the education sector and be an alternative source for investment in education, leading to rapid development of the non-state education. The Report clearly states that the government “support(s) enterprises and private actors in providing vocational education”, and stresses the need to “increase the supply of pre-school education through multiple avenues”.