6 Achieve universal primary education

Where we are


Education is a cornerstone of national development and equity in education is an essential part of social equity. The Chinese government has attached great importance to education, endowed education a strategic position and a high priority, raised the strategy of developing the country through science and education and human resource development, promulgated and implemented the Teachers Law, Education Law, Vocational Educational Law and Compulsory Education Law, and formed the legal framework for promoting the sustained development of education. By the end of 2000, the country had basically achieved the goals of popularizing nine-year compulsory education and eliminating illiteracy among young people. In 2006, China revised the Compulsory Education Law and made it clear that free compulsory education should be provided. In 2011, the net enrolment rate of primary-school-age children reached 99.8 percent, accomplishing universal access to primary education ahead of the 2015 deadline.

Target 2A: Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling

The fulfilment of universal compulsory education improved the quality of education in China and boosted equity in education substantially. Some rural schools have undergone tremendous changes. They have improved significantly and the rights of school-age children to compulsory education have been safeguarded.

The government has supported gender equal compulsory education, while generally providing a legal basis for the healthy development of compulsory education. In rural areas tuition and incidental fees, textbook fees, as well as accommodation fees for boarding students have been phased out. The government has aimed to improve the general quality of education, narrowing the gap between schools and regions, and the urban-rural gap. Important to this was the establishment of a new national curriculum for 19 subjects in 2006. P22

The curriculum reform greatly promoted the change of ideas among educators and brought about a wide-ranging teaching reform and the transformation of talent training methods.

The Chinese government urged local governments to ensure that migrant children, children left behind in rural areas, children with financial difficulties and disabled children have equal access to compulsory education. China has continuously stepped up its financial input to promoting the education sector. According to statistics, China’s GDP in 2011 was RMB47.11 trillion of which 3.93 percent was allocated to education, representing an increase of 0.28 percentage points from the previous year.

Nevertheless, challenges remain in relation to the interregional and urban-rural imbalance in terms of educational resources. To promote equity in education and improve teaching quality, it is imperative to strengthen the basic education in rural areas. Establishing a set of national minimum standards, including standards for teaching qualifications, school facilities standards and the maximum number of students per class, will help guarantee equal access to high-quality education. With the number of left-behind children increasing, how to provide better and more comprehensive education for them becomes an issue in urgent need of attention. Efforts should be strengthened to build a registration and tracking system for migrant children and to tackle the education cost problem in the places they live. Finally, the Government needs to further increase the proportion of GDP spent on education and the total fiscal expenditure, to focus on solving problems in rural and remote areas, and to reduce the burden of education costs on individual families and to improve the quality of educational services.

Targets for MDG2
  1. Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling
    • Net enrolment ratio in primary education
    • Proportion of pupils starting grade 1 who reach last grade of primary
    • Literacy rate of 15-24 year-olds, women and men