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Overview of the Education System in China


Discuss about the Problems Of Quality Of Education In China.

The reason behind choosing this topic ‘Education for all: The problem of quality of education in China' is because education policies in China have been among the most discussed issues since annual sessions of National People's Congress (NPC) and Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC) which took place in March 2010. However, it was also observed in China that just before this annual session, the first draft from the Ministry of Education consisting of the middle as well as long-term educational reforms and development plan was released so that public can give their feedback (Thomas & Postlethwaite, 2014). The guidelines were finalised and the draft was discharged in that very year which holds a number of strategies for the betterment of the education industry in China in the upcoming 10years. This topic is a valid area for investigation because though China has developed as one of the most impactful economies in the world but little has been known regarding their education system or how their students get to learn (Helms, 2015). Therefore, this essay can help in highlighting the mechanism that China utilizes to regulate their education for all.

Thus, the aim of this essay is to review the literature of the education system in China, and further investigate if there is any issue related to the quality of education there.

China consists of a huge education system in comparison with other countries. As estimated by National Bureau of statistics of China (2014) which says that there are around 260 million students as well as well more than 15 million teachers in almost 514000 schools, eliminating the graduate education institutions makes China's education system to be vast and diversified (Lai et al., 2014). In China, as observed by Zhao (2014), that the education is said to be mainly regulated by the state, which has very little participation of private, contributors in the school sectors and are progressively decentralized. It further stated that government of China has the main responsibility for managing as well as delivering school education to its citizens. In recent times, it has been found that the Education Ministry in China has switched from the direct control towards the macro-level supervision of the education system. However, as per the National Centre for Education Development Research, the Education Ministry of China guides the improvement in education through laws, plans, allocation of budgets, information services, policy enlightenment and means of education. Moreover, as listed by Chen (2014), there are various types of educations which are imparted at different stages of the study to children as well as adults and they are preschool education, primary education, secondary education, higher education, vocational education, adult education and special education.

Issues related to the Education System in China

Apart from the educational facilities, the schools in China also provide a training program, which includes training in languages, professional certificate training, early childhood educational training as well as special educations for international students. As stated by Li & Ranieri (2013), that maximum of the students in China is found to spend almost six years in the primary school, which is followed by three to four years of secondary education. Thus, for all people residing in China, it is compulsory to attain nine years of education. Moreover, as soon as the students complete their compulsory education there is a chance that they can choose whether they want to pursue senior secondary education, which takes around 3years.  In contradiction to this, in recent times it has also been observed by Yi et al., (2013), that China has made important moves in order to broaden the participation of their students in the senior secondary school of vocation so that China can effectively meet their fast-growing economic as well as needs of labour. Teichler, Arimoto & Cummings (2013), has also said that not only compulsory primary and secondary education but also tertiary education systems in China has become more diversified in this 21st century. This tertiary education programs, however, guides the Chinese students to get themselves enrolled in the professional programs of higher education that usually takes three years to complete.

Being a country where education is for all is not at all easy. As Bolton & Graddol (2012), says that China has been facing several challenges like the schools need to switch to English in order to keep up with their students of Hong Kong's economic competitiveness and so their students need to get bilingual or trilingual. Thus, to meet this policy in China their schools have to take the extra burden of resources, which has resulted from shifting towards English. According to Cao et al., (2014), China is facing severe land shortage issue for which they are unable to provide an adequate place for tertiary institutions who want to develop themselves in the private universities. On the contradiction, Chung & Mason (2012), has argued that though the education system in China has modernized itself still there are areas which are so remote that their students are still having difficulty in entering school. Therefore, here the local, as well as national government, needs to provide more opportunities so that the children from those areas can also afford to school.

The Need for Enrollment and Quality of Education

China is rapidly developing economically as well as socially for which the demand for higher education and better quality of education is also increasing than ever. Thus, Fang (2012), has said that another major problem of China can be the need for enrollment all of their students in higher quality education. Duffy, Douglass & Autin (2015), argued that apart from all these another issue will be related to the post-graduation employment because after completing graduation due to economic and social development in China the general people will have a demand of higher living standards which is another problem which the government needs to take care. Therefore, for this, the Chinese government needs to provide appropriate employment to the graduates so that they can earn enough to afford a high standard living. However, education to all not only mean that education is accessible to all but rather it means that every child should get equal as well as quality education. Therefore, equal access to education to all is another important problem that China faces. Chen & Feng (2013) has highlighted another issue, which is upon their equal accesses of education to the migrant children. He has further stated that due to a large number of internal migration in China another challenge is providing them an equal education.

Chen (2014), stated that initially it was found that education in China was mainly restricted to few people like the workers, peasants and few selective others and was not open to all but after the new Communist government came in the forefront the education system improvised and was available for all. The policies that China followed so that they can make education accessible to all, they simplified their characters so that their people can rapidly learn them. Moreover, China started training their people with those skills that they use overall to grow. They further included basic medical training practices in their educational policies along with spreading the awareness of the disadvantages of foot binding and female infanticides in the remotest areas where these practices are continuing. Scott (2013), has discussed educational reform policy in China which was adopted by the Chinese government that included all stages of the educational system mainly focuses to narrow down the gap among China and other growing countries.

Contradiction to the above data Lü (2014), has suggested that in China’s educational policy is also their social policy. This is because the rapid development of China in the recent past has been also accompanied by a sequence of social as well as environmental issues. These issues are of unequal income, health care, housing as well as employment and an approach to the overall range of opportunities in educational systems is a key to an inclusive, impactful as well as socially just system. Lee (2012)has stated another effective policy that was taken by China government way back in 1979 is known as one child policy and their early education. This policy though old but have helped China in a much positive way in their economic growth until 2015. Settles et al., (2013), stated in contradiction to this statement that there are many parents in China who felt that their only child is being lonely and is getting deprived of valuable social interactions. Thus, from 2016 the two-child policy came in action.

Equal Access to Education for All

As stated by Li, Whalley & Xing (2014), since 2009 onwards the central government of China was observed to have expended 198 billion on their educational sectors, which actually represented 4.5 percent of their overall central government expenditure for those very years. However, following that every year it has been observed that their budget further increased to 9 percent to 216 billion in the education system. As per Obukhova (2012), who has outlined that as the numbers of graduates are increasing every year that is why the Ministry of Education in China along with other governmental authorities are working together on different initiatives so that they can guide the graduates to find employment. A number of measures have already been implemented like the graduate internship schemes for which China’s employment rate has increased by 17%. On the other hand, Salik et al., (2014), has also stated that not only the internship scheme has helped China to have tackled their employment issue. However, they have also brought certain improvisations in their education system along with developing additional goals for their students like improving the quality of education that is being provided which helped them further at the primary level. The Government has further motivated the graduates to join their army or teach in the remote areas and they have further given the small companies loan incentives so that they get the motivation to hire graduates.

Fang et al., (2012), states that another important initiative that the Chinese government took regarding their educational industry is that they also came forward to distribute education to all by actively improvising the quality of their education system in the rural areas. Therefore, China perceived education was for all and not limited to any one or two areas. To help students who reside in the most disadvantageous areas the government came up with distance education programs. Hansen & Woronov (2013), stated that central government of China has further invested 10 billion Yuan so that they can build boarding schools in the rural areas. This money has supported over 22,000 primary as well as secondary schools to rebuilt, redecorate, extent as well as a construct which has hugely enhanced the conditions of schools in the remotest areas in western China. On the other hand, Hu (2012), has said that Chinese government has not only focused regarding the students of their own country but to provide education to all they have also adopted the principle so that they can impart compulsory education to the migrant students as well who have moved from the rural areas to the cities. Therefore, the local, as well as central government, has further accepted education and custody systems so that the rural children who are mainly "stay-at-home" can also avail compulsory education. Moreover, Kritzer (2012), said that since 2007 the number of special education schools has also increased as China has also focused on their initiative to enhance the minority and special education systems. As the statistics suggest that since 2007, there has been an increase of 67.11% every year in the special classes has been enrolled in the total number of special education schools. Along with this the statistics also reflect upon the fact that Chinese girls also have their access to the education system because as per statistics the net enrollment rates of the boys are 99.46% whereas girls are 99.52%. Therefore, Jones-Smith et al., (2012) have concluded that the gender differences in avail education are no more a barrier in China.

Policies and Strategies for Education Reforms in China

The Ministry of Education of People’s Republic is an agency of State Council that observes educational policy throughout the country. There are 27 departments in education. At the county level, bureaus of education are in charge and policies set by the Ministry of Education are implemented by these bureaus. In China, Ministry of Education manages 32 educational organisations and promote various ranges of educational services. As stated by Zhao (2014), some of the regulatory bodies play significant roles in operating the educational system in China. The Chinese government has always assigned a high value for education. The Chinese government has always believed that education is the threshold of national development and modernisation. Equality of Education for All (EFA) can be reflected in China's adoption of reform and reveal the policy 40 years ago. Compulsory education has taken shape in China and it is impressive till now as they have made achievements in adult's literacy education also (Blanchard & Giavazzi 2016). China government has taken initiative in vocational education and technical learning skills for the adult people, these types of education help the people to take steady progress in life and career. For children, pre-school education helps the children to have quality education as China government made nine-year compulsory education in the country. As mentioned by Hou et al., (2016), in 3200 counties, more than 98% of the total in China, nine-year compulsory education has been universalised. In addition, in the year 2016, there were more than 340,000 primary schools which enrolled more than 17,430,300 students. Between 2014 and 2017, the central government of China invested more than 12 billion Yuan for implementing of constructing schools, boarding schools in rural areas. Several schools and colleges have been reconstructed, extend and renovated and the government provides financial aiding for compulsory education. In most of the rural schools, the government provides free textbooks and government exempts fees from the students.

In China, there are laws and regulations regarding education and they are seen as effective ways of monitoring and steering implementation of the complex and large system. Helms (2015) supported this by saying that Ministry of Education in China drafts the law and it has to pass through National People's Congress. Law on Compulsory Education first enacted in the year 1986 and it was a milestone for China. All school-age children who have Chinese nationality must attend to school and parents must take responsibility to enrol them in school. This law plays a comprehensive role in describing schools, teaching, teacher and legal responsibilities in educational sectors. In addition, according to Price (2017), Regulations on Qualifications of Teachers have been issued as Teachers’ Law and in this set of laws; it is clearly mentioned about teaching qualification, examinations prerequisite for the implementation of education. In last past two decades, massive reforms have been undertaken in order to improve the education system in China as this country has observed rapid economic growth and social transformation.

Initiatives to Tackle Employment Issues

China outperformed other countries during the economic crisis and it optimised the country's progress. However, China needs to reform the education system as not a single university in the top list across the world is from China. Many of the multinational companies cannot find enough skills from China as skilled white-collar workers because China government is focusing to implement education for all sections. It can be recommended to improve the condition:

The Chinese government has been spending a significant amount of money in education as it is their national priority. The funding of the government must be focussed to promote the education in remote, rural, minorities and poor sections. Primary education in rural areas is needed with vocation training and the government needs to focus on giving high-quality teachers to the schools and colleges. Educational funding is basic for government-aided schools and funding is needed to develop a comprehensive and public supervision system. 80% of the funding for education comes from the government. The government of China can build a department to check the performance appraisals of other state-level educational departments and resource allocations. Administrative departments should submit their budget for public scrutiny in order to make the system transparent.  

An educational system may not succeed greatly on the merits of a few teachers who are mostly trained in research, patents and rewards in abroad. However, the great teachers are needed to improve the educational system. The government started a new policy that teachers must take 360 class hours in five years. National Teacher Training Programme is also needed to deliver the better teaching to all. The government needs to take initiative to send the faculties to rural areas that have professional development training. Training and professional development must be given to the teachers to ensure that it must meet the requirement.

In order to ensure compulsory education in the country, the government needs to provide financial aid to the children who are below the poverty line. The Chinese government has started to provide financial aid since 2006 and this exemption of the fees has provided benefits to more than 48 million poor students. The government needs to choose the students accurately to provide help to economically disadvantaged children. The government needs to grant loan for higher education so that children can endeavour for higher education.

Basic education for all must focus on the all-round development of a student. The Ministry of Education should emphasis on intellectual, physical and moral development in order to cultivate disciplines, virtues and ideals. The basic education system needs to shift towards the all-around education to support the skill development through a holistic approach. The emphasis should be made on basic education as well as value development with retaining the skills to all-aged people.



It has been observed that education system in China has been well maintained. The government takes the educational policy seriously and there are wide ranges of laws and regulation governs the education system in China. In China, the government has taken the initiative of compulsory education for all under nine-years of age. In addition, the government has been facing the issue of migrant children as the government tries to focus on each of the children to access compulsory education. The electronic system has been implemented by the government to ensure the impartial enrolment to provide education for all. The education system can be improved through balancing development through groups, introducing education resources and improving teachers' skills and technology-based education. 


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