Unprecedented changes have taken place in education in Xinjiang since 1949, said a white paper issued by the Information Office of the State Council here Monday.
Before the founding of the People's Republic China in 1949, Xinjiang had but one college, nine secondary schools and 1,355 primary schools, according to the paper titled "Development and Progress in Xinjiang."
At that time, only 19.8 percent of school-age children attended primary school and the overall illiteracy rate was a shocking 90 percent.
Now Xinjiang has basically made the nine-year compulsory education universal and eliminated illiteracy in the young and middle-aged population. Adult and vocational education started from scratch, and has been developing steadily.
According to the paper, since 2006, with the introduction of a new mechanism that guarantees rural education funding, Xinjiang's primary and secondary school students have enjoyed free compulsory education.
In 2008, the government granted living subsidies to all underprivileged students who live at school and exempted urban students from tuition fees during their compulsory education period.
Since 2007, the state has initiated an annual budget of 129 million yuan for the education of 51,000 very poor university students and 95,000 secondary and higher vocational school students in Xinjiang, 70 percent of whom come from ethnic minorities.
In 2008, the Xinjiang autonomous region government invested a total of 18.77 billion yuan in the region' s education system, representing a year-on-year increase of 32.3 percent.
Statistics from that year show that Xinjiang had 4,159 primary schools with 2,012,000 students, and a 99.6 percent enrollment rate for school-age children.
There were 1,973 secondary schools with 1.72 million students, and 32 institutions of higher learning with 241,000 undergraduate and 10,300 graduate students in total.