China as a cultural competitor in the 21st century
How and why did China manage to make such a breakthrough in economy and social sphere in 30 years?
One of the factors is the Chinese education system.
In December 2010, OECD published the fourth rating of world’s education systems.
Chinese students took the first place in mathematics among the school students from 65 countries.
In March 2011, the British Royal Society published a report devoted to the number of scientific publications in the period since 2004 through 2008.
According to the report, China has risen to the second place lagging behind only the USA.
It shall be remembered that as of the moment of foundation of PRC in 1949 the share of illiterate population in China amounted 80% and any scientific research was out of the question.
How did PRC do it?
The priorities included the increase of level of secondary and higher education among the youth, development of private education, and strengthening the positions of leading institutions of higher education. In 1965, in PRC there were only 434 institutes and universities and now there are 2,358 of them, 75 of which are subordinated to Ministry of Education, 38 — to central administrative authorities, 1,569 — to local authorities, and 676 are privately owned.
First of all, the state finances rural education (e.g., in 2006-2010, 218.2 billion yuans ($31.6 billion) were allocated to it and it is entirely free of charge) and elite institutions of higher education (in 2010-2012, the budget provided about 85 billion yuans ($13.4 billion) for the needs of the 30 leading universities).
In the result, the share of youth entering the second-level schools (grades 9-11 under the Russian classification) has grown from 27.3% of young persons in the relevant age in 1990 to 83.3% in 2010 and the illiteracy was liquidated practically completely by the end of 1990-s. In doing so, the state managed to shift the obligation to finance the institutions of higher education: today the volume of financing from non-state sources exceeds 60% whereby the charge of education is approved by local authorities, Ministry of Education, and Pricing Policy Committee and shall not exceed 25% of the cost of a university’s work. As a result, the price of education in state institutions of higher education is from 5,000 to 10,000 yuans per year and in private ones it is only 25-30% more. Consequently, the number of students entering institutions of higher education increased from 1.08 million to 6.65 million in the period since 1998 until 2010.
From the very beginning of the reforms, the Chinese authorities have set a course to transparency of higher education.
The first 860 students left the country for education already in 1978.
In 1984, there were 3,400 of such students.
In 2009, the number of them amounted to 2.3 million.
In proportion to the growth of their number the state treated the career of specialists more and more liberally; however, recently the government has made a plan for creation of necessary conditions for their repatriation and managed to return 1.1 graduates of foreign institutions of higher education back to China in 2009.
Simultaneously, China created its own education system for foreign students and specialists.
In 1978, only 78 universities were able to host foreign students, the total number of which was only 469 persons; however, in 2010, 265,000 foreign students entered 620 Chinese institutions of higher education.
In 1978, 102 professors and teachers from other countries worked in institutions of higher education of PRC; in 1989, there were 686 of them, and in 2009, more than 11,000.
In the same period, the number of foreign scientists working in Chinese research centers grew from 2,500 to 480,000 (!) persons.
Thousands of foreign specialists work permanently or temporarily in 126 science towns specially built in China since 2006 including 39 Nobel prize winners.
As of 2009, China has concluded partnership agreements for scientific cooperation with 152 countries and signed 103 inter-government agreements in that field with 97 of them.
However, it is more important that education and science in PRC remain devoted to the economy development tasks.
In the beginning of 1980-s the government changed the secondary education system by converting a part of secondary schools to professional educational institutions or agricultural professional schools.
In the result, the ratio of graduates of such schools to the number of graduates of second-stage secondary schools grew from 4.1% in 1979 to 42.9% in 2009.
From 45,000 scientific institutions and centers working in PRC now only 82.1% specialise in engineering and technical research and only 3.9% in humanitarian and philosophic studies. It is not surprising that the scientific researches are financed by private and state business more and more actively. In 1991, only 28.5% of all scientific research and engineering development were financed by business; however, by 2009, the share increased to 71.7%. Since 1990, on the average, the annual growth of R&D expenses has amounted to 22%.
The scientific research is supported by the development of information interchange between the researchers and registration of intellectual property rights.
In 1978, about 780 scientific magazines were published in China and in 2009 the number of magazines specialising in natural and technical sciences amounted to 4,926 and 2,456 in social sciences. In 1980, in China a Patent Committee was founded, which has been directly subordinated to the State Council since 1998. According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation, in 1991, in China 7,372 patent applications were submitted from residents, 1,311 of which were qualified; in 2009 the figures were 229,100 and 65,400, correspondingly. There is a rapid growth of Chinese applications for international patents: in 2009 the number of them amounted to 11,200, of which 2,900 were qualified. In the period since 2001 through 2008, the share of authors — residents of PRC in the global volume of scientific publications grew from 4.7% to 10.0% and the share of their citation grew from 2.3% to 5.9%.
The lessons, which can be drawn from the history of development of education and science in China in the last 30 years, are quite simple:
- The reformation of this sphere must be subordinated to the goals of national economy development
- The reforms should be implemented with consideration of international experience and must serve the strengthening of connections with scientists from other countries and formation of truly global scientific community.
In this case, the problems remaining in China due to underdevelopment of science and education and their yet insufficient financing will be overcome.