The Ministry of Education (MOE) held a press conference on Sept. 27 to present dramatic changes in China's educational system over the past decade from a statistical perspective. The event was moderated by MOE spokeswoman, Xu Mei and attended by Liu Changya, director-general of the MOE's department of Development Planning, Guo Peng, director-general of the MOE's Department of Finance, Lei Chaozi, director-general of the MOE's Department of Science, Technology and Informatization，and Zhai Zhenyuan, former president of China Association of Higher Education.
1. A historic stride has been made in making primary and secondary education universal and increasing access to higher education. In 2021, China had 529,300 educational institutions of all kinds and at all levels (6,300 more than in 2012), with 291 million students enrolled (28 million more than in 2012).
More specifically, there were:
i. 295,000 kindergartens, with total enrollment of 48,052,000 children (the gross enrollment rate at the preschool level was 88.1%, up 23.6 percentage points from 2012);
ii. 207,000 schools for compulsory education across the country, with 160 million registered students (education at the primary and lower secondary levels is universally available across the country);
iii. 22,000 senior high schools, with 39,764,000 registered students (the gross enrollment rate at this level was 91.4%, up 6.4 percentage points from 2012); and
iv. 3,012 higher education institutions (HEIs), with a total of 44.3 million registered students (11 million more than in 2012) (the gross enrollment rate at this level was 57.8%, up 27.8 percentage points from 2012).
2. Significant progress has been made in achieving educational equity. The number of dropouts at the compulsory education level has been maintained at zero. Furthermore, 2,895 counties have ensured balanced development of compulsory education. A government-led student financial aid system has also been established, covering all educational institutions across the board. Over the past decade, the system has helped nearly 1.3 billion students, ensuring that no one drops out because of financial difficulties.
3. Educational quality has been raised substantially:
i. Physical, art, and practice-oriented education at the compulsory education level has been enhanced in particular. In 2021, the numbers of PE, art, and practical skill teachers reached 674,000, 830,000, and 109,000, respectively, up 55.4%, 52.3%, and 18.3%, respectively, from 2012.
ii. The proportion of large classes (i.e., classes with over 56 students) was reduced from 14% to 0.7% at the primary level, from 28.3% to 0.7% at the lower secondary level, and from 47.8% to 4.8% at the upper secondary level.
iii. After-school tutoring services have been well regulated. Over 90% of students completed written homework within the required time, and extracurricular services are provided by most schools from Monday to Friday for at least two hours.
iv. The vocational education system has been improved remarkably. In 2021, higher vocational education institutes enrolled 5,526,000 students, 80% more than 10 years ago.
v. The number of registered postgraduate students stood at 3,332,000, almost two times the figure in 2012.
4. Talent cultivation has been boosted. Secondary and higher vocational schools (excluding technical schools) have produced a total of 79 million graduates, and HEIs (excluding colleges for adults) have trained over 77 million high-caliber individuals over the past decade. HEIs have taken the lead in developing 38% of national think tanks and conducted over 90% of research projects supported by the National Social Science Foundation, achieving a large number of significant results.
5. Government spending on education has remained above 4% of GDP for 10 consecutive years, surpassing all other items in the national general budget.
6. Teacher workforce development has been strengthened. In 2021, the number of full-time teaching staff was 18.4 million, up 26.2% from 2012. Over 18 million teachers and headmasters have received training under the National Teacher Training Project (NTTP).
7. International cooperation and exchange in education have been bolstered robustly. In 2021, international students from 195 countries pursued studies in China. Furthermore, China has conducted educational cooperation with all 181 countries that maintain diplomatic relations with the country. It has also signed agreements on mutual recognition of academic qualifications with 58 countries and territories. Moreover, it has established 25 Luban Workshops in other countries to help train skilled workers for local communities.