China's education system is divided into 4 categories: basic education, occupational/polytechnic education, higher education and adult education.
Basic education consists of pre-school education, primary (6 years) and junior (3 years) and senior (3 years) middle school.
The Chinese government has always viewed basic education as one of its top priorities. Since 1986, when the Law of Compulsory Education of the People's Republic of China was promulgated, primary schooling has become available in most areas in China, while junior middle schooling has become widely available in large cities and economically developed areas. In 1999, the enrollment rate of school-age children reached 99.09% - 135.5 million children - and there were 582,300 primary schools around the country.
Also in 1999, there were 64,400 common junior middle schools around China, with enrollment of 58.1 million pupils. There were also 14,100 common high schools nationwide with an enrollment of 10.4 million. In 1998, there were 10,074 occupational middle schools nationwide with an enrollment of 5.416 million.
In 1999, there were 1,520 special schools for the hearing-impaired and also for mentally disabled children, with an enrollment of 371,600. More than half of the country’s children with some sort of disability had access to basic education. There were also 181,110 kindergartens nationwide in 1999, with an enrollment of 23.2 million..
Medium-level Occupational and Polytechnic Education
This category consists of medium-level professional schools, polytechnic schools, occupational middle schools as well as various short-term occupational and technical training programs.
Since the 1980's, China’s occupational and polytechnic education has experienced rapid development. In 1997, there were 33,464 occupational and polytechnic schools nationwide with an enrollment of 18.6 million. The same year, there were more than 2,100 training schools training about 1 million students per year. The proportion of enrollment of high-school-equivalent occupational and polytechnic schools out of the total enrollment of China’s high schools increased from 18.9% in 1980 to 56.47% in 1999.
In 1999, there were 3,962 secondary technical schools nationwide, with an enrollment of 5,155,000, and the number of those enrolled in finance and economics, sports and arts programs increased steadily, while the enrollment in technical subjects gradually decreased. In 1999, there were 8,317 vocational senior middle schools nationwide with enrollment reaching 4,438,400, and 4,098 polytechnic schools with an enrollment of 1,560,500.
Common Higher Education
Common higher education consists of junior college and university bachelor, master and doctoral degree programs. The junior college programs usually last 2 to 3 years, the bachelor programs last 4 years (medical and some engineering and technical programs take 5 years), the master programs take 2 to 3 years and a doctoral program requires 3 years.
Since 1949, China has made significant achievements in higher education. In 1999, there were 1,071 common colleges and universities countrywide. From 1979 to 1997, a total of 829,100 students completed their junior college and bachelor programs at these colleges and universities, 2.58 times the total in the three decades prior to 1979. From 1981 to 1996, colleges, universities and scientific research institutions nationwide granted doctoral degrees to 20,514 students and 285,943 master degrees.
There has been an increase in students specializing in bachelor and junior college programs in finance and economics, politics and law, sports and arts – and a slight decline in admissions in science and engineering.
These colleges and universities included more than 3,400 research institutions approved by the authorities and 150 state-level key labs and specialized labs. About 50% of the award-winning natural science projects in China were completed at these colleges and universities – which directed or implemented nearly 60% of the award-winning philosophy and social science programs completed during the "Eighth Five-Year-Plan.” Adult Education
Adult education includes anti-illiteracy education and other programs aimed at adults.
China's adult education has evolved rapidly since the establishment of the People’s Republic. In 1999, there were 871 colleges and universities focusing on adult education, offering 800 correspondence-based and evening adult education programs, with 1,157,700 places for those pursuing junior college and bachelor programs, and granting 888,200 diplomas.
In 1998, China’s adult education schools aimed at the rural population included 421 secondary technical schools with an enrollment of 200,200, a total of 4,229 middle schools with an enrollment of 439,200, and 454,924 technical schools that provided training to more than 80 million people, or 12.2% of the rural labor force. Adult education aimed at the country’s rural population has made significant contribution to rural development, with more than 200 million farmers receiving training in these education institutions.
Self-taught higher education examination programs also became increasingly popular, with 224 disciplines available in 1998.
In 1998, about 134,200 anti-illiteracy programs were launched nationwide, assisting 3,208,900 illiterate people.