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Education and Government Efforts

July 10, 2007





Total Expenditure on Education

(Yuan in Billions)

Government Financial Appropriation for Education

(Yuan in Billions)

Percent of Government Financial Appropriation for Education
to GDP




















4.0 %






Although government funding has increased each year, the percentage of government financial support is a small portion of the gross domestic product.  China did not reach its 4% goal in 2004.

Source: “Higher Education in China—An Overview,” Asian Pacific Association for International Education. 2006.

By Yao Xu

ON AN AVERAGE DAY IN CHINA middle school and high school students spend 90% (average of 58 minutes per day) of their time doing their homework. According to the China Youth and Children Research Center, 87% of the students spend on average 27 minutes per day reading extracurricular books and magazine. 75% of them average 13 minutes per day participating in extracurricular activities. 45% spend 13 minutes per day doing mandatory community service. With the majority of the students immersed in such busy schedules, it is no surprise that they spend, on average, 14 hours at school, with their day usually starting at 6 a.m. and ending at 10:30 p.m. In contrast, students in the United States spend on average 8 hours per day in class and half the time students in China spend (only about an hour each day) doing their homework.

China’s Ministry of Education officials in 2000-2001 instituted non-mandatory evening, weekend, and vacation classes to alleviate some of the pressure put upon students. The emphasis on education may be a bit overwhelming but it prepares students for the competition leading up to China’s National College Entrance Exam and the end of their high school career.  

China Education Yearbook of 2005 reported that in 2000, 99% of the children enrolled in primary school, about the same percentage as those enrolled in United States. However, by high school, China only retained 43% of those students while United States retained 90% of its initial student population. The report for those enrolled in a college or university shows an even narrower margin. Only 12.5% of the students in China enrolled in college compared to the 40% in the United States.

Students must take the National College Entrance Exam to decide whether or not they will receive a college education. This exam is similar to the Standardized Achievement Test (SAT) high school seniors take in the United States (maybe minus the jammed pack libraries full of stressed students, booked taxis, and humid heat during the exam). In 2006, China had a record high of 9.5 million students taking the three-day June exam.  According to the Ministry of Education, 10.1 million applied to take the exam but only 5.67 million will be eligible for college. Despite the competitive admittance, the statistics show improvement. A report from 2000 shows that approximately 4.5 million students took the National College Entrance Exam and 2.2 million students enrolled in a higher education institution. In 2005, 8 million students took the exam and 5.05 million students enrolled in a higher education institution.

China continues to try to improve its educational system. For example, the Tenth-Five Year Plan (2001-2005) attempts to raise the gross enrollment rate of higher education to 15%. The money spent on education also increased from 2% of China’s gross national product in 1999 to 3.19% in 2001. 

China still has a long way to go when compared with other nations in terms of education spending. Its monetary distribution for education increases every year but the percentage of government funding for education in relation to the Gross Domestic Product decreased in 2004 (from 3.28% in 2003 to 2.79%).  Although education spending increased to 2.82% of GDP, China is still lags far behind the global average of 7% and even further behind the 9% average in developed countries.


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[Yao Xu]

Yao Xu completed her undergraduate work at the University of California, Irvine and received a Bachelor of Arts in English.  She wishes to begin to pursuing a Masters of Arts in literary or broadcast journalism by next year.