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.


  • China has fully implemented nine-year free compulsory education, with the net enrolment rate of primary-school-age children increasing from 99.1% in 2000 to 99.8% in 2014, and illiteracy rate dropping from 6.7% in 2000 to 4.1% in 2014. The school conditions in some rural areas have been notably improved, and the educational system towards special groups is better established.

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

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

Already met


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

China has achieved the goal of realizing universal primary education by 2015 ahead of schedule. By the end of 2011, the two targets of universal nine-year compulsory education and basic elimination of illiteracy among the adolescents were achieved in all county-level administrative units, covering 100% of its population. In 2014, the net enrolment rate among primary school-age children reached 99.8%. The illiteracy rate dropped from 6.7% in 2000 to 4.1% in 2014; illiteracy rate among the adolescents down from 2.8% in 2000 to 1.0% in 2014; and the gap between boys and girls in the years of education they received was narrowed from 1.3 years in 2000 to 0.8 years in 2014. 

Notable progress has also been made in promoting compulsory education in rural areas. Through the rural boarding school programme, a total of 8,300 schools have been built or renovated, meeting the boarding needs of nearly 2 million students from mountainous areas, animal husbandry areas, plateau areas and other remote and needed areas. 

The system for special education has been gradually improved and the professional quality of the educational team has been steadily raised. Statistics show that in 2000, there were 1539 special schools in China, with an enrollment of 377,600 students that were blind, deaf or with mental retardation, a total of 43,700 teachers and staff including 32,000 full-time teachers. 

Challenges Ahead

There is still imbalance in the distribution of quality educational resources. There is an obvious gap among different regions, between urban and rural areas and between various schools in terms of educational quality, and the contradiction between people’s growing demand for quality education and the shortage of its supply remains outstanding. With the acceleration of urbanization, the problem of access of left-behind children and migrant children to compulsory education still needs to be addressed. 

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