About 50 years ago when New China was founded, 80 percent of the Chinese population were illiterate or half-illiterate, with the total school enrollment only accounting for 4.76 percent of the whole population. Out of every 10,000 people, there were only 2.2 college graduates, 23 middle-school graduates and 450 elementary school graduates. By the end of 1997, the rate of illiteracy had dropped to 12 percent, and by 1998 elementary school education had been popularized among 92 percent of the populated areas, and the state-regulated nine-year compulsory education had been realized in 73 percent of the populated areas in the country, thus making the educated Chinese population reach one-fourth of the total. The rate of illiteracy among the young and the middle-aged had decreased to 6 percent or lower. The average level of getting educated for the Chinese people is now higher than that of developing countries with the same average revenues.
Due to the government policies of encouraging education, the counties and cities, where the nine-year-compulsory education was realized and illiteracy among young and middle-aged was eradicated, numbered 2,242 in 1998. Also in that year, enrollment ratio of schooling children reached 87.3 percent and elementary school 98.9 percent.
Visible progress was seen too in improving secondary vocational education and senior middle-school education. Enrollment ratio of the students in vocational school, numbering over 10 million in 1996 and 1997, accounted for 55 percent of those who were subject to senior middle school education. The senior middle school education was further optimized. In 1998, student enrollment of ordinary senior middle schools came to 9.38 million.
The on-the-job training and continuous education were also progressing, because of which several millions of working adults studied for college-education certificates or special training. The long-distance education network via radio, TV and satellite developed fast, which plays an important role in universal education, teachers' training and continuous education.
The higher-learning education developed rapidly and its structure was greatly improved. In the recent 20 years after the new policy of reform and opening up was carried out, the higher-learning bodies of various types have trained 18 million undergraduates 400,000 graduates.
Progress was also recorded in pre-school education, special education and those for ethnic groups. In 1946, there were only 1,301 kindergartens throughout China with an enrollment being 130,000. The special schools were next to zero. The schools for the handicapped children only numbered 42, with an enrollment of 2,300. By 1997, the number of kindergarten increased to 183,000 with a total enrollment of 25.19 million, thus making the ratio of pre-schooling children in kindergarten coming to 40 percent or more. There were 1,440 special schools, accommodating 341,000 children. The handicapped children who studied in ordinary schools accounted for 55.7 percent of the total subject to special education. In 1997, 1.88 million children of minority nationalities were studying in schools. The budget of government at various levels for education for ethnic groups had kept increasing, and there are policies and measures in favor of those ethnic groups located in economically poor regions.
Emphasis has been given to pedagogical education and teachers' training. In 1995, the system of teachers' certificates began to be adopted the nationwide, which guarantees that the majority of the Chinese teachers are well educated. By 1997, 93 percent of the elementary school teachers, 85 percent of the junior middle school teachers and 60 percent of the senior middle school teachers were proved to be qualified and got their working certificates. The adoption of the "Training Project for Millions of Principals" throughout the nation helped improving the school management to a great extent.
International exchange in education has been broadening in the past 20 years. By now China has established exchange and cooperative relations in education with 154 countries and regions, which have enabled 300,000 Chinese students to study overseas and over 90,000 foreign students to come to China for studying.
In 1980, the 13th Session of the Fifth Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) ratified the Regulation on Academic Degrees in the People's Republic of China, the first education law in China, which marked that the Chinese educational cause began to be on the track of developing according to law. Hereafter, a number of laws were promulgated one after another by the NPC and its Standing Committee, which included the Compulsory Education Law, the Teachers Law, the Education Law, the Law on Vocational Education, and the Law on Higher Education. A legislative framework in this regard has thus basically taken form.