China Table of Contents
Many of the problems that had hindered higher educational development in the past continued in 1987. Funding remained a major problem because science and technology study and research and study abroad were expensive. Because education was competing with other modernization programs, capital was critically short. Another concern was whether or not the Chinese economy was sufficiently advanced to make efficient use of the highly trained technical personnel it planned to educate. For example, some observers believed that it would be more realistic to train a literate work force of low-level technicians instead of than research scientists. Moreover, it was feared that using an examination to recruit the most able students might advance people who were merely good at taking examinations. Educational reforms also made some people uncomfortable by criticizing the traditional practice of rote memorization and promoting innovative teaching and study methods.
The prestige associated with higher education caused a demand for it. But many qualified youths were unable to attend colleges and universities because China could not finance enough university places for them. To help meet the demand and to educate a highly trained, specialized work force, China established alternate forms of higher education--such as spare-time, part-time, and radio and television universities.
China cannot afford a heavy investment, either ideologically or financially, in the education of a few students. Since 1978 China's leaders have modified the policy of concentrating education resources at the university level, which, although designed to facilitate modernization, conflicted directly with the party's principles. The policies that produced an educated elite also siphoned off resources that might have been used to accomplish the compulsory nine year education more speedily and to equalize educational opportunities in the city and the countryside. The policy of key schools has been modified over the years. Nevertheless, China's leaders believe an educated elite is necessary to reach modernization goals.
Data as of July 1987