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CHAPTER FIVE

Marching Toward the New Century-- Challenges and Countermeasures

  • --Quoted from the Decision of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on Deepening Educational Reform and Implementing EQO Education in a Comprehensive Way
  • (adopted on June 13, 1999).
  • 5.1 A Brief Account of Educational Development in the 1990s--

    Achievements and Outstanding Issues

    In the period 1991-1998, under the guide of the Guidelines for the Reform and Development of Education in China and being inspired by the World Conference on Education for All, EFA in China has made big strides and its accomplishments have attracted worldwide attention. By 1998 the net enrollment ratio of primary school-age children reached 98.9%, and drop-out rate dwindled to 0.9%, indicating that school-age children's access to primary school has significantly improved, and disparities between various social groups in access to school have become insignificant. The gross enrollment ratio at the lower secondary stage increased from 71.4% to 87.3%. There are 2242 counties (cities and districts) which have met the standards set by the state for basically universalizing 9-year compulsory schooling. There are 9 provinces and municipalities which have passed province-wide (municipality-wide) assessment of making 9-year compulsory education universal, thus in areas inhabited by 73% of the nation's population 9-year compulsory education has basically been made universal. The number of illiterate and semi-literate adults 15 years old and over declined from 182,000,000 to 153,000,000, with adult illiteracy rate reduced from 22.27% to 16.37% (in 1997), being reduced by 5.9 percentage points, with the illiteracy rate among the young and middle-aged adults declining from 10.4% to under 5.5% (in 1997). The enrollment ratios of 3-5 year olds in kindergartens and preprimary classes have significantly improved. Big strides have been made in developing basic education and technical training for adults. These achievements indicate that the targets set by the World Conference on Education for All, such as "basic education should be provided to all children, youth and adults", "consistent measures must be taken to reduce disparities", and "basically attaining the goal of making primary education universal by the year 2000" have largely been attained in China. Based on the achievements made and the trend of development, it can be seen that all main targets set by China for EFA in the 1990s can be attained as scheduled. However, through our monitoring and evaluation efforts we also have found a number of weaknesses and outstanding issues deserving close attention.

    1. Educational Finance

     To ensure adequate educational financing, the Guidelines for the Reform and Development of Education in China: "Steps should be taken to gradually increase the state's fiscal expenditure on education as a percentage of GNP to 4% by the end of the century." And the departments of planning, finance and taxation have been required to formulate relevant policy measures to realize the goal set. However, the actual developments in the 1990s are reduction in the initial stage, fluctuating in the middle term, and slight increase in the final stage, and by 1998 it only reached 2.55%. See Figure 5.1 for detail. In 1998 the CPC Central Committee decided that in the following five consecutive years budgetary allocations on education should increase by one percentage point each year. Even these steps cannot attain the goal of "reaching 4% by the end of the century". The basic cause of this phenomenon is that in the course of making a transition from a planned economy to a market economy, the state's financial revenue as a percentage of GNP tends to decline instead of increase.

    With respect to the distribution of financial resources, the part devoted to EFA and/or compulsory education not only failed to improve as desired but instead tended to decline. See Figure 5.2 for detail. The diagram indicates that from 1991 to 1993 the percentage of fiscal resources devoted to EFA (including primary schools, lower secondary schools, preschool education and special education) drastically declined, being reduced from 58.2% to 53.4%. With the partial revision of budgetary items in 1994 giving rise to a significant increase of expenditures on "other" types of education, the weight of expenditures on higher education and vocational education significantly increased, while the weight of expenditure on general upper secondary education decreased, and the weight of expenditures on EFA didn't improve but tended to decline.

    Figure 5.3 provides information on the part played by public expenditure on the development of compulsory education. It can be seen that the part of public expenditure declined at the initial stage, slightly improved later but the general tendency is to decline. These data indicate that despite the fact that the Chinese government had set the targets for implementing compulsory schooling and had taken measures to augment financial resources on it, such as the institution of an earmarked fund for aiding poor areas in universalizing 9-year compulsory schooling. Taking the picture as a whole, in the 1990s the government has strived to strengthen educational management but actual financial input has failed to reach the target set.

    2. Policy measures

    In the 1990s, in China's effort to implement compulsory schooling, a number of effective measures have been taken, and these measures have played an important role in attaining the goals set for universalizing 9-year compulsory schooling. From the experiences accumulated it is desirable to make some readjustment of policy measures in the light of changing environment.

    The first problem is related to the system of educational provision by level of government. The institution and implementation of this system did serve to mobilize the initiatives of local governments at various level to devote more resources to educational development, but it could not tackle the problem of regional disparities horizontally and reduce unevenness in educational development. In the more affluent areas, it is possible to rely on local resources to realize the targets set for universalizing 9-year compulsory schooling and eradicating illiteracy among adults. In the more developed areas, after the targets set for basically universalizing 9-year compulsory schooling had been attained and accepted through a process of verification, new targets have been set to implement 9-year compulsory schooling at higher standards and to gradually make education at the upper secondary level universal. In contrast, in many poor counties, poor townships, and poor villages, owing to widespread economic difficulties and shortage of financial resources, the people's ability to support education is quite weak. Thus, not only the implementation of 9-year compulsory schooling is a far cry from reality and couldn't be initiated, even UPE is making advance with difficulty. Since the responsibility of educational provision has been devolved to lower level governments, in rural areas the general practice is that primary schools are run by administrative villages, and lower secondary schools are run by townships. But it should be noted that administrative villages do not possess their own financial resources, and the financial resources possessed by township governments are quite limited, giving rise to a divorce of financial powers from powers of office. In the course of reforming the system of the economic structure, the center of gravity of governmental finance tends to rise, and this development has an adverse effect on educational development in rural areas, and the adverse effect is even more pronounced in the poor areas.

    The second problem is concerned with the system of raising educational funds through multiple channels. Instituting and implementing this system has played an important role in effecting a change of the framework of educational finance in which educational financing solely relies on budgetary allocations of the governments at various levels, and in widening the sources of educational finance with the result that financial input for basic education has constantly been improving, and this has found its clearest expression in raising funds for renovating old and building new school buildings. This is one of the reasons why primary and secondary education has been flourishing in the 1990s. However, this increase of total educational input has to a certain extent covered up the objective fact that the government's financial input for compulsory education has kept inadequate for a long time. In 1991 the weight of budgetary allocations in total expenditure on compulsory education was 58.5% and it declined to 54.37% in 1996 (in rural areas the weight was even lower--52.63%). Viewing the same problem affecting separately primary and lower secondary schools, we get the following picture: for primary schools, the weight of budgetary resources declined from 58.25% to 51.92%, for lower secondary schools, the weight of budgetary resources declined from 56.44% to 49.44%. Since about one half of educational expenditure on rural primary and secondary schools depends on non-budgetary resources, such as surcharges levied on certain categories of taxes, funds raised from the rural populace, donations, and fees collected from school pupils. This practice has brought about the following consequences: firstly, increasing to a certain extent the burden of rural people; secondly, inadequate and unpredictable financing of basic education; thirdly, giving rise to such malpractice as unauthorized collection of fees and exorbitant charging of fees, a phenomenon cropping up frequently despite repeated governmental prohibitions. In the mid-1990s, the state repeatedly announced and implemented policies aiming to reduce farmers' burden, and as a result, for a time fund-raising campaigns, collection of surcharges levied on certain taxes, and donations were suspended, creating a big impact on compulsory education, especially in the rural areas. Later on the government, after a comprehensive consideration of lowering farmers' burden and ensuring the financing of compulsory education, reaffirmed that in rural areas educational surcharges should be collected by township governments according to a uniform rate of 1.5-2.0% of the per capita net income of the previous year, and in economically underdeveloped areas, the funds so collected may be managed by the county government; the authority of reviewing and approving projects of fund-raising for rural schools once transferred to upper echelon government was returned to county-level governments with concomitant regulations on the following matters: target groups, scope, principles, and procedures and methods of dispensing. However, the intensity of fund-raising and donating has generally weakened, and it is a widespread phenomenon that educational surcharges cannot be adequately collected.

    These circumstances indicate that while the policy of devolving the authority of educational provision to lower echelon governments and the policy of raising educational funds through multiple channels should still be adhered to in the future, steps must be taken to further improve the policy of educational finance in the light of the realities of rural areas, especially the realities of schools in poor areas, by stabilizing the sources of educational financing, increasing the weight of budgetary allocations, so as to significantly increase the intensity of financial input.

    3. Regional disparities

    The Chinese society is still at the primary stage of socialism, and there coexist economically developed areas, economically moderately developed areas, and poor areas. In the southeastern coastal areas, some affluent localities are approaching the level of economic development of the "four small dragons", and in the meantime, about 50 million people are still living under the poverty line. In the 1990s, the state has taken important steps to aid the poor areas, including the national "8-7" Poverty Reduction Plan [the target being to solve the basic needs of food and clothing for 80 million poor people within 7 years (1994-2000) focusing on poor households] and the institution of a special fund for helping poor areas to implement compulsory education. Despite these efforts, the regional unevenness in educational development is still very striking (see Table 5.1).

    Table 5.1 Regional Disparities in Educational Development at Primary and Lower Secondary Levels by Three Categories of areas (in %)

     

    Total

    1 st

    category areas

    2 nd

    category areas

    3 rd

    category areas

    Primary schools

    Enrollment ratio

    98.9

    99.7

    98.8

    98.0

    Drop-out rate

    0.93

    0.59

    0.57

    2.56

    Transition rate

    94.3

    97.3

    94.8

    87.3

    Percentage of qualified teachers

    94.6

    96.4

    95.4

    89.3

    Lower sec. schools

    Enrollment ratio

    79.7

    96.5

    81.9

    42.3

    Drop-out rate

    3.23

    2.59

    3.03

    5.4

    Percentage of qualified teachers

    83.4

    86.2

    82.8

    79.7

    The data given in Table 5.1 indicate significant regional disparities between the 3rd category of poor areas (located mostly in the western part of the country) and the economically developed first category areas. In the poor areas the percentage of qualified teachers is lower, the enrollment ratios are lower, the dropout rates are higher, the gender gaps are larger, and development is extremely unstable. It is expected that by the end of the century, in the eastern and central parts of the country, nearly all provinces will be able to basically universalize 9-year compulsory schooling, with the most advanced areas proceeding to universalize education at the upper secondary stage. By contrast, many localities in the western part of the country can only universalize primary education or even only the first three or four grades of primary education. With respect to the distribution of illiterate population, the third category areas have much higher adult illiteracy rates. In 1997 the national average illiteracy rate of the population 15 years of age and over was 16.36%, while the illiteracy rates in Tibet, Qinghai, Gansu, Guizhou, Yunnan, and Ningxia--all pertaining to the third category areas, were respectively as high as 54.08%, 43.62%, 26.77%, 25.88%, 25.22%, and 25.83%, and the illiteracy rates among the female adults were even higher, being 62.8%, 55.83%, 36.75%, 38.77%, 34.10%, 35.45% respectively. China has scored commendable progress in speeding up educational development in the poor areas and in narrowing regional disparities. Yet faced by a situation of an increasingly larger gaps in economic development between the developed and underdeveloped areas, the tasks of narrowing and eliminating regional gaps in educational development remain formidable.

    4. Narrowing the gender gaps in illiteracy rates

    Viewing the country as a whole, literacy work in the 1990s has scored certain successes. But there are obviously weak links. In the economically fairly developed areas, such as Shandong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang, the size of illiterate population is still very large, and the reduction of illiteracy rates is not significant in the 1990s. The most outstanding issue is that there has been no significant progress in reducing the excessively high illiteracy rates among young and middle-aged women. In 1990 the total illiterate population in the country was 182,000,000, and female illiterates accounted for 67.9% of the total. Despite literacy education conducted during the 1990s, the weight of female illiterates increased by 4.5 percentage points and reached 71.4% in 1997. With respect to the gender gaps in illiteracy rates in the 1990s, the female illiteracy rate in 1990 was higher than the male one by 19 percentage points, and in 1997 it was higher than the male one by 13.7 percentage points, with a reduction of 5.3 percentage points. However, with respect to the relative gender gaps, we have witnessed their enlargement rather than narrowing down in 17 provinces and autonomous regions (See Figure 3.4). These circumstances indicate that more effective measures have to be taken and efforts have to be redoubled to attain the goal of significantly reducing illiterate population in China and the goal of significantly reduce the weight of female illiterate population.

    5.2 Analysis of the Trend of Development--Challenges and Countermeasures

    During the 1990s China has scored significant successes in promoting education for all, but we are still faced with serious challenges in the light of the trend of development.

    1. Further advances in promoting 9-year compulsory schooling and in eradicating illiteracy among the remaining illiterate population have become all the more difficult, and it is imperative that we must continue to give these tasks the top priority they deserve unswervingly.

    During the 1990s in China, decisive advances have been made in promoting 9-year compulsory schooling and in eradicating illiteracy among young and middle-aged adults. Yet whether we consider the full implementation of 9-year compulsory schooling and the task of eradicating illiteracy among the remaining illiterates or consider the consolidation and further improvement in the "two basics", the tasks lying before us are really formidable.

    First, viewing our tasks from the perspective of full realization of the goals set for the "two basics", even if the goals set by the Guidelines for the "two basics" are fully realized by the year 2000, that is, 9-year compulsory education will be made universal in areas inhabited by 85% of the nation's population and the adult illiteracy rate will be reduced to 15% and the illiteracy rate among young and middle-aged adults will be reduced to under 5%, we are still faced with the stark realities that in areas inhabited by 15% of the nation's population, only primary education or the first 3-4 grades of primary education can be made universal and that the size of the remaining illiterate population is very large and China will remain a country with a large illiterate population. Viewing our tasks from the geographical perspective, we are aware that the task of making lower secondary education universal and the task of making further advances in eradicating illiteracy are mainly to be carried out in the western provinces and autonomous regions, all pertaining to the third category areas, and in the poorer areas of provinces pertaining to the second category areas. Qinling-Bashan mountainous area in Shaanxi, the loess plateau and the prefectures of Yan'an and Yulin threatened by desertification in North Shaanxi, West Hunan, the Dabieshan mountainous areas in Hubei, Henan and Anhui, etc., and the seven provinces and autonomous regions which have not attained the goal of eradicating illiteracy among young and middle-aged adults all pertain to the third category of areas. Among the 737 counties (cities and districts) where the tasks envisaged by the "two basics" are not fulfilled yet, there are 387 state designated poor counties, accounting for 52% of the total and 455 counties (cities and districts) with compact communities of ethnic minorities, accounting for 61.7% of the total. Viewing our tasks from the perspective of population covered, in areas not attaining the goal of universalizing 9-year compulsory schooling, the total population is as large as 230,000,000, of which 130,000,000 or 56% of the total live in state designated counties, and 90,000,000 or 39% of the total live in counties with compact communities of ethnic minorities. It is quite obvious that the tasks of the "two basics" in these areas are really complicated, difficult and formidable and require redoubled efforts.

    Second, viewing from the needs of consolidation and improvement, there are four situations. First, a number of localities passed the acceptance norms at low standards, with their enrollment ratios, retention ratios, completion ratios, and percentage of qualified teachers merely attaining the critical threshold values, or even with a few indicators short of the threshold values, and therefore, a fairly long process of consolidation is needed. Second, the achievement in universalizing 9-year compulsory schooling in quite a few localities depended on concentrated effort exerted in a short period before the verification and acceptance test, when concerted efforts were made by all quarters concerned under the leadership of the main responsible person in charge. Thus, after passing the acceptance, the attention of the people concerned was apt to shift to other matters, and their efforts relaxed, giving rise to the downturn of some indicators soon after, especially the dropout rates at lower secondary level and the rates of relapse into illiteracy. Third, even quite a few schools have passed the acceptance test, their physical facilities, including school buildings, instruments and apparatus, book collections and other information resources, and apparatus for sports and recreational activities, leave much to be desired (some "hardware" indicators are short of acceptance standards), and a lot has to be done to meet set norms and standards. Fourth, in areas where the combined duration of primary and lower secondary schooling is 8 years, efforts have to be made to lengthen it to 9 years according to law. Fifth, no matter if an area is poor or economically developed, the task of strengthening the weak schools remain stupendous, and the pressure resulting from the "choice of school" is far from being relieved, and the task of promoting EQO education remains formidable.

    Third, viewing from the perspective of demographic changes, the impact of effective or not so effective implementation of family planning policy must be taken into account. Since the implementation of this policy was sometimes strict and sometimes relaxed, resulting in fluctuations in the number of new births. At present, the boom of primary school-age population is over, and its size will continue to decline in the early years of the 21st century, while the lower secondary school-age population has kept increasing during the 1990s and will reach the peak by the year 2001, hitting a mark of 77,000,000, recording an increase of 16,000,000 as compared with 1998, and will show significant decline by 2004 (See Figure 5.4 for detail).

    At present, the capacity of school buildings of lower secondary schools is obviously inadequate, giving rise to explosive increase in enrollment and extremely large classes. (Note: In 1998 there were 132,500 large and very large classes with their average number of inmates reaching 66, with a total enrollment of 8,745,000, accounting for one sixth of the total enrollment at the lower secondary level. This phenomenon is even more striking in schools of higher quality in county seats and large and medium-sized cities.) In the next few years, confronted with this phenomenal increase of school population at the lower secondary stage, in order to make steady progress in universalizing 9-year compulsory schooling, we have to redouble our efforts in increasing financial input, in constructing more school buildings and in recruiting additional qualified teachers. It must be noted that these contradictions are mostly concentrated in the economically less developed regions, especially in the poor areas.

    2. Regional disparities are likely to widen in the light of the current trend of economic development, and therefore, an integrated approach has to be taken to promote educational development in the poor areas and macro-level regulations have to be strengthened.

    Since the policies of reforms and opening up were adopted, especially since the advent of the 1990s, the state has intensified its concerns to development in the western parts of the country. The following measures have been taken to enhance the socio-economic development of these areas: speeding up the construction of infrastructure, allocating poverty alleviation funds and other earmarked funds to aid the poor areas in West China, promoting and organizing economically developed coastal regions to extend designated-area-oriented aid to these areas by partnership agreements, and orientating international aids to focus their aid programs in these areas. However, as far as educational finance ia concerned, the gaps between the western parts and the more developed eastern parts of the country are quite large. See Table 5.2 for detail.

    Table 5.2 Per Pupil Educational Expenditure by Category of Areas, 1995

     

    1st

    category areas

    2nd

    category areas

    3rd

    category areas

    Per primary pupil exp. (yuan)

    559

    331

    338

    Annual rate of increase (%)

    17.8

    20.7

    15.2

    Per lower sec. student exp.(yuan)

    976

    617

    630

    Annual rate of increase (%)

    18.9

    13.4

    11.6

    Rate of increase in prices (%)

    13.1

    15.3

    16.7

    Note: In 1995, the per primary school pupil expenditure and per secondary school student expenditure in the 3rd category of areas are respectively 60.5% and 64.5% of similar figures in the 1st category of areas. The growth rate of per student expenditure in the 3rd category of areas is invariably lower than that of the 1st category areas, and considering the rise of commodity prices, the increases in per student expenditure are negative in real terms.

    Inadequate educational financing in the poor areas is quite obvious, and this not only adversely affects all the indicators related to access to school, but also finds expression in a number of factors constraining the enhancement of educational quality which are even more difficult to tackle. The impact of economic conditions on education are twofold: The slow rate of economic growth engenders seriously inadequate educational financing, giving rise to poor physical facilities in general; on the other hand, it is difficult to recruit new teachers and to retain old teachers, and the gaps in the qualifications of teachers between the poor and developed areas are wide indeed. In the 1990s, we have witnessed certain improvement of the percentage of qualified teachers in the poor areas, but it should be noted that the upgrading of teachers' qualifications were mostly achieved through correspondence and radio and television programs or through self study. Although the number of teachers working in the poor areas has increased, the weight of community-aid (minban) teachers is great and the newly recruited teachers are mostly substitute teachers. With the transition of a planned economy to a market economy in progress, the gaps in teachers' remuneration and other benefits between poor and developed areas are widening, and as a result, the well qualified teachers assigned jobs in the poor areas by the state under conditions of the planned economy, especially those working in remote and not easily accessible mountainous and pastoral areas with unfavorable natural environment are constantly moving to county seats, cities and economically developed regions. Although a number of local authorities have adopted the strategy of development based on the principle of "curing ignorance prior to reduction of poverty", and efforts have been made to attract and retain qualified teachers through better remuneration, better policies and affective concerns in an endeavor to stabilize the corps of teachers, these areas are still faced with a situation characterized by these features: new teachers are difficult to recruit, old teachers are difficult to retain, and the vicious circle affecting the relationships between economy-staffing- education-economy has not been effectively altered.

    Table 5.3 gives a general picture of the comparison of the economic development of the three categories of areas mentioned above in terms of the weight of total industrial output in GDP in these areas. It can be seen that With the implementation of the policies of reforms and opening up, especially since the pace of transition to a market economy has been stepped up during the 1990s, the economic gaps between the western poor provinces and autonomous regions and the economically developed provinces in the eastern parts of the country have been continually widening. In recent years, the central authorities have shown great concern to the western parts of the country and have adopted certain policies of economic aid. Yet it is likely that these gaps tend to widen further. In order to reduce regional disparities in educational development, it is imperative for the state to intensify macro-level regulations and take still more effective measures to support development in the poor areas in the western parts of the country.

    Table 5.3 Changes of Weight of Industrial Output in Different Regions

     

    Eastern

    Region

    Central

    Region

    Western

    Region

    Average annual growth rate (%)

    the period 1986-1995

    18.8

    14.9

    13.3

    During the 7th FYP (1986-1990)

    14.3

    11.2

    10.9

    During the 8th FYP (1991-1995)

    23.4

    18.7

    15.8

    Weight of industrial output (%)

    In 1985

    60.3

    27.2

    12.5

    In 1990

    62.7

    25.4

    11.9

    In 1995

    66.0

    23.8

    10.2

    3. Examinations-oriented education has hurt us for a long time, steps must be taken to deepen educational reforms and to promote actively EQO education.

    The essential features of examinations-oriented education (EOE) are as follows: exam scores are the sole criterion used to assess students, and exam performances determine the fate of promotion to the next higher grade and transition to the next tier of education; how to cope with examinations obsesses the mind of students, teachers and school leadership. Perhaps how to cope with EOE is a concern in many countries, and an especially serious one in China. The peculiarities of the current situation in China lie in the following factors: on the one hand, an agelong traditional culture has had its impact on the Chinese people, and most people have a high regard for education; the living standards of the people are gradually improving, and the younger people born after the enforcement of the one-child policy in family planning have reached school entry age consecutively; the broad masses all harbor a strong desire to have their children better educated, having in mind the grim situation of employment for young people in the years to come in the context of the economy making a transition to a market-oriented one; relatively even level of income of the employed and the comparatively low weight of educational expenditure shared by individuals. On the other hand the economy of the country is not yet highly developed and the capability of the broad masses in providing support to education is limited, giving rise to a situation that higher-level education is highly selective and even elitist. In recent years tension has been ever growing in this respect. In various types of education provided after the completion of compulsory education, especially higher education, the competition for entry is extremely acute. Under these circumstances, the examination papers set for college entrance examinations have become longer and more difficult. The exam questions are growing increasingly difficult, queer, and oblique, and the mode of administering rigid and stereotyped, driving students to study mechanically and to memorize dead materials, strangling the student's initiative to study actively and creatively. Schools at the basic education stage, especially the secondary ones, are often required to take part in unified examinations or tests administered by educational bodies, and simulated college entrance examinations are frequently administered. A large amount of materials used for aiding students' review of textbooks and collections of simulated test papers are being published despite the prohibition repeatedly announced by the educational department. Thus, examination scores of students and the transition rates of schools' graduating classes are being used as the main or even the sole criteria for appraising the merits of students, teachers and schools. Under these circumstances, the goals of basic education are seriously distorted, with the result that the policy of the Party and the state to promote the all-round development of students morally, intellectually, physically, aesthetically, and with a correct attitude toward labor cannot be properly implemented.

    In the latter half of the 1990s, the government and the educational community have paid great attention to address the problem engendered by EOE, and it is decided that EQO education should be promoted energetically. A number of directives and instruction have been issued by the educational department. Valuable pilot projects and experiments have been conducted in various localities, and a number of commendable results have been produced, including the typical examples created in Miluo County, Hunan Province, in Yantai City, Shandong, and in Shenzhen, Guangdong, etc. However, taking the situation in the whole country into consideration, tremendous efforts have to be made to change practices of EOE into practices of EQO education. The efforts to be made involve radical changes in the concepts of education, talent or skilled manpower, and educational quality; a mechanism of articulating general and vocational education, facilitating the transition from school to work and the streaming of students in the final year(s) of schooling into general and vocational programs; strengthening the development of weak schools so as to narrow the gaps between schools; reforming college and upper secondary school entrance examinations and the system of assessment, as well as the content and methods of examination and testing; raising the quality of teachers, reforming curricula, the system of teaching materials, and the mode of instruction, and optimizing the whole process of education and teaching--a list of arduous tasks indeed.

    5.3 Marching Toward the New Century, Strategies and Measures

    The Fifteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China formulated the strategies, objectives and more specific tasks to be performed on various fronts in the socialist modernization drive spanning the centuries. In January 1999 the State Council approved and transmitted the Action Scheme for Invigorating Education Toward the 21st Century prepared by the Ministry of Education. In May 1999, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council jointly made the Decision on Speeding up Educational Reforms and Promoting EQO Education in a Comprehensive Way and jointly convened a national conference on education in Beijing, resulting in more concrete arrangements for implementing these documents. These documents have been formulated to implement the strategy of developing the country through science and education and the strategy of sustainable development so as to meet the challenges of the knowledge economy in the light of a sober-minded analysis of economic and political situation in the world and of the implications of the rapid development of science and technology in the world. They aim to speed up educational reforms and promote EQO education in a comprehensive way and enhance the quality and the innovative capacity of the nation. These documents cover all types and levels of education and provide guidance to educational development in the coming years. The following account of our approaches to EFA in the early years of the 21st century is based on a summary of these documents and other relevant documents.

    1. Targets of development

    It is envisaged that by the year 2010 9-year compulsory schooling will be made universal and illiteracy will be eliminated among young and middle-aged adults in areas inhabited by 95% of China's population on the basis of fully realizing the targets set for the 1990s. Efforts will be redoubled to provide support to education in poor areas and minority areas and to the education of various disadvantaged groups so as to further narrow the gaps in access to compulsory education, enabling the enrollment ratios at the lower secondary level to reach at least 95% in the whole country. In areas where 9-year compulsory schooling has been universalized by the end of the century, steps should be taken to consolidate the gains and make further improvement, and in the more favorable areas efforts should be made to make education at the upper secondary level universal. Persistent efforts will be made to eradicate illiteracy among the remaining illiterates, focusing on young and middle-aged adults so as to reduce the illiteracy rates of people 15 years of age and over to under 10%, and the illiteracy rates of the young and middle-age adults to about 1%. Efforts should be made to conduct post-literacy programs so as to consolidate literacy gains and prevent the neo-literate from relapse into illiteracy.

    With the advent of the 21st century the universalization of compulsory education mainly depends on the development of education in poor areas and on improving the education of various disadvantaged groups, the focus of literacy education will also shift to the poor areas, with main efforts devoted to women, old people, mentally retarded people, and people with their residences highly scattered. Thus further advances are far more difficult to achieve than formerly. In this context both the Action Scheme and the Decision point out emphatically that in the early years of the 21st century work on the "two basics" should continue have top priority status in educational development.

    2. Implementing a Program of EQO Education Spanning the Centuries so as to Enhance the Quality and Innovative Capacity of the Nation

    In the latter half of the 1990s, in view of the widespread adverse impact of examinations-oriented education on the implementation of the Party's educational policies, great efforts have been made to explore proper ways to shift EOE onto the track of EQO education, and these efforts involve the following matters: reforming entrance examinations, relieving students' burden of academic work, strengthening the development of weak schools, orientating education toward the whole student body so that all of them can study on their own initiative, and creating an environment conducive to their all-round development. At the threshold of the new century, keeping the strategic goals of enhancing the quality and innovative capacity of the whole nation in mind, MOE's Action Scheme approved by the State Council provides for the implementation of a Program of Promoting EQO Education Spanning the Centuries, followed by the Decision on Speeding up Educational Reforms and Promoting EQO Education in a Comprehensive Way jointly adopted by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. These documents, besides clarifying the significance and connotation of promoting EQO education and stressing the needs to effect a radical change in educational thoughts and ideas, involve mainly the following matters: reforming the framework and standards of curriculum for basic education, reforming the content and methods of education and teaching, reforming the system of examinations and the criteria for assessment, conducting teacher training programs, instituting a new system of curricula and textbooks, initiating experiments on new subjects (courses) taught, reforming moral education practices, reinforcing physical education, aesthetic education, labor skills education and training, and social practice, etc. The educational department is now engaged in elaborating more detailed programs and operation procedures for accomplishing these tasks.

    3. Implementing a "Program of Developing Gardeners Across the Centuries so as to raise the overall quality of teachers

    The qualifications of teachers have decisive influence on the overall enhancement of the quality of education and the effective promotion of EQO education. In view of the current situation of the contingent of school teachers, especially the fact that many of them cannot easily adapt to the demands of promoting EQO education, in the Action Scheme is included a section on a "Program of Developing Gardeners Spanning the Centuries", and in the Decision on Deepening Educational Reforms and Promoting EQO Education in a Comprehensive Way are provisions on "strengthening and improving work concerning teachers and striving to enhance the qualifications of teachers to meet the needs of implementing EQO education". Their essential points are as follows:

    --Raising the academic qualifications required for school teachers. The Decision provides that by the year 2010, in areas with the necessary conditions, efforts should be made to raise the qualifications of primary school teachers to the completion of short-cycle higher education and that of lower secondary school teachers to the completion of first degree level programs. In economically developed areas, a part of upper secondary school teachers should possess master's degrees.

    --Conducting inservice training for the entire body of principals and directors of primary and secondary schools and all full-time school teachers and strengthening the training of backbone teachers. It is envisaged by the national educational department that the following teacher training programs will be implemented with a proper division of responsibilities among educational departments and institutions at different levels: "Training Program for Enhancing Current Job Competencies for School Teachers", "Training Program for Backbone School Teachers", "Scheme for Speeding up the Professional Development of Young Teachers", "Plan for Aiding Teachers Working in Poor Areas", "Computer Literacy Training Program for All School Teachers", "Training Program for Principals and Directors of Primary and Secondary Schools", and a "Program for Developing Teacher Trainers", etc. It is envisaged that these training efforts should play a positive role in helping teachers to internalize correct educational thoughts and ideas, in enhancing their professional ethic, in improving the structure of their knowledge, and in improving their ability of implementing EQO education.

    --Taking positive steps to promote the rational mobility of teachers, focusing on effort to strengthen the development of teachers employed in weak schools, rural schools, and especially those employed in schools in poor areas and in areas with unfavorable natural and living conditions.

    --Optimizing the contingent of teachers. Steps will be taken to fully implement a system of teacher certification, to recruit school teachers from society at large so as to improve the structure of the contingent of teachers. A contract system for appointing teachers through invitation will be adopted, and vacancies are open for competition. School organizations will be streamlined and norms and standards on staffing will be strictly observed, and the redundant staff members should be transferred to other jobs, and the incompetent should be dismissed, so as to raise the quality of the entire body of teachers. The system of salaries and fringe benefits should be reformed on the basis of merits and performance so that one who works more gets more.

    4. Effective steps should be taken to increase financial input

    In order to ensure adequate educational financing, both the Action Scheme and the Decision emphasize that steps should be taken to further improve the existing policy measures aiming to increase the sources of educational funds and facilitate fund-raising for educational purposes so as to guarantee the increase of educational financing and realize the target set for increasing fiscal appropriations to 4% of GNP. Several governmental decisions have been made for this purpose. For example, it has been decided that in case the revenues of governments at various levels exceed the predetermined level, the part of this increment of revenues used for educational purposes should not be less than the percentage of educational expenditure envisaged in the budget at the beginning of the fiscal year, and the same rule applies to the spending of extra-budgetary income. In preparing the budget of the central government from 1998 onward, the proportion devoted to education should increase by one percentage point for 5 consecutive years (an aggregate of 5 percentage points by 2003. Each provincial-level government is required to increase educational expenditure by 1-2 percentage points in the light of its conditions. The programs for aiding compulsory education in poor areas will be continued, with its focus shifting to the third category areas so as to assist the poor areas and minority areas to realize the goal of universalizing 9-year compulsory schooling.

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