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(—the thirteenth part of the “China in the past decade” series) Education is crucial for China.

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), General Secretary Xi Jinping has put forward a series of new concepts, new ideas and new strategies around the fundamental issues of what kind of citizens we should be cultivating, and how and for whom we are cultivating citizens. These important instructions on education, made by General Secretary Xi Jinping, has pointed out the direction and provided fundamental guidelines for the development of education in China in the new era.

Over the past 10 years, under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, the education sector has fully implemented the Party’s education policy, carried out the fundamental mission of fostering virtue, nurtured a new generation of capable young people who have a good and all-round grounding in moral, intellectual, physical and aesthetic aspects, and are well-prepared to join the socialist cause.

The education sector has been promoting education equality, improving the quality of education, and accelerating the modernization of education, so as to build a country strong in education and to provide education that our people are satisfied with. Education in China has displayed more characteristic features and made historic achievements, and is undergoing structural changes.

China: putting people first

I. In the past decade, universal education has expanded remarkably, better guaranteeing people’s access to education and effectively alleviating this pressing problem that is of the greatest concern to the people. At present, China has nearly 530,000 schools of various levels and categories, with over 290 million students currently receiving education. The gross enrollment ratio for preschool education reaches 88.1%, up 23.6 percentage points compared with 10 years ago.

Following its full coverage nationwide, the retention rate of nine-year compulsory education hits 95.4%, an increase of 3.6 percentage points compared with 10 years ago. The gross enrollment ratios for senior secondary education and higher education climb to 91.4% and 57.8%, up 6.4 percentage points and 27.8 percentage points, respectively. The coverage of education in China has either reached or surpassed the average levels of middle- and high-income countries in the world. Specifically, preschool education and compulsory education have reached the average level of high-income countries, and higher education is becoming universal. The average schooling years of the working-age population reach 10.9 years.

All the 200,000 dropouts from compulsory education have returned to school, which means that the long-standing student dropout problem has been solved, making an important contribution to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects. All 2,895 counties across China have passed education inspections, and 99.8% of primary and secondary schools have met the 20 bottom line requirements for running a school.

Schools have undergone fundamental changes, and the country has achieved new progress in promoting balanced and integrated development of compulsory education in urban and rural areas.

The country’s financial aid system for students has covered all educational stages, making nearly 1.3 billion payments over the past 10 years. China has continued to implement special plans for key colleges and universities to admit students from rural and poverty-stricken areas, enrolling a total of more than 950,000 students. All counties with a population of more than 300,000 have special education schools, and over 95% of children with disabilities are enrolled in compulsory education.

II. In the past decade, the educational service capacity has been steadily improved, providing a strong source of talent and intellectual support for the implementation of major national strategies and socioeconomic development. Over 218 million Chinese have a college degree, a substantial growth from a decade ago.

China has implemented a training plan for cultivating outstanding talent in foundational disciplines, deepened the reform of master and doctoral degree programs in engineering, strengthened innovation and entrepreneurship education for college students, and accelerated the training of urgently needed talent.

China has optimized forms of vocational education, promoted the integration of vocational and general education, and deepened the integration of production and education. Secondary and higher vocational schools (excluding technical schools) have cultivated more than 79 million graduates in the past 10 years. China has steadily advanced the development of world-class universities and disciplines. Several disciplines have been placed among the world’s top ranks.

Ethnic unity and progress in the new era

The innovation ability of Chinese higher education institutions (HEIs) has continued to improve. In the past 10 years, HEIs received 67% of all natural science awards and 72% of all technological invention awards. For three consecutive years, HEI researchers have been awarded first-class prizes at the State Natural Science Awards.

HEIs have contributed to innovation and making key technological breakthroughs such as the observation of the quantum anomalous Hall effect for the first time, the quantum computer “Jiuzhang,” China’s first home-developed cutter suction dredger “Tian Jing,” the world’s first pebble-bed modular high-temperature gas-cooled nuclear plant, and China’s first home-developed COVID-19 antibody drug approved for marketing.

China has deepened industry-university- research cooperation and accelerated the commercial application of scientific and technological achievements. The monetary value of patent commercialization has amounted to 8.89 billion yuan, up from 820 million yuan a decade ago.

China has promoted the prosperity and development of philosophy and social sciences in colleges and universities. China has promoted educational exchanges between the mainland and Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and supported youth in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan to integrate into overall national development.

III. In the past decade, the reform and opening-up of education has continued to deepen, and the education system that serves the lifelong learning of people has been further improved. China has ensured that the Party exercises overall leadership over education, followed Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era in educating people, promoted theoretical and political courses in primary and secondary schools as well as universities and colleges in an overall manner, incorporated “work skills” into the Party’s education policy, and fully promoted education in standard spoken and written Chinese across the country.

Students have unswervingly followed the instructions and guidance of the Party and declared their commitment to making due contributions to building a strong country. China has committed to prioritizing the development of education, and Chinese government spending on education has remained above 4% of GDP for 10 consecutive years. The burden of homework and after-school tutoring on students in compulsory education have been further reduced, and the education sector is undergoing changes.

Reforms in areas such as education evaluation, examination and enrollment have continued to deepen, and law-based governance of education has become more strict and powerful. China has exercised full and strict Party self-governance in this regard.

China has ensured that the average salaries of teachers in compulsory education are not lower than that of public servants working in the same locality. In the face of COVID-19, more than 18 million teachers rose to the challenge and switched to online teaching. The national education digitalization strategy to accelerate the digital transformation of education has been launched.

China has been working to build a new paradigm of education opening-up, and deepen cooperation in the field of education among Belt and Road countries. China has strengthened cultural exchanges with other countries, developed closer relations among people, and helped build a community with a shared future for mankind. With an expanded international education platform, China’s education sector is becoming increasingly open and we are more confident about playing a more active role in education on the international stage.

Embarking on a new journey, China will adhere to the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, educate people for the Party, cultivate talent for the country, promote the high-quality development of education, and make new and greater contributions to the realization of the second centenary goal of building a modern socialist country in all respects.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

Li Bijian

The writer is Consul General of China in Karachi

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