Of major events in China over the past three decades, most Chinese would list the resumption of National Examination for the Entrance of University as number one.
In December 1977, 5.7 million Chinese participated in the national exams, the first since the catastrophic Cultural Revolution (1966-76). One year later, the country's reform, opening up and modernization drive was launched.
Over the past three decades, millions of students have graduated from colleges of various kinds, to form a high-quality workforce for the country. And China has developed into one of the largest economies in the world.
According to official figures, the country's higher educational institutions enrolled about 53.86 million students from 128 million participants of national college entrance examinations over the past three decades.
In the meantime, the government has stepped up effort to develop compulsory and secondary education, to improve the quality of the country's citizens. Over the past 30 years, more than 100 million students have graduated from professional schools of different kinds. In 2007, Chinese professional schools had 80 million students in training.
As of 2000, China had reached its goals to ensure nine-year compulsory schooling for children and to eliminate illiteracy among young and middle-aged citizens.
The great success in the economic reforms has fed back to the country's educational field as the government has increased investment and adopted more favorable policies in education, with greater importance attached to rural education.
In 2003, a remote educational program was launched to cover 360,000 rural elementary and middle schools involving more than 100 million rural students.
In 2004, the central government invested 10 billion yuan (US41.45 billion) to build more than 8,300 boarding schools in rural areas.
In 2006, it amended its Law on Compulsory Education to exempt all school charges for students. This was first adopted in rural areas of the backward western parts of the country in 2006 and nationwide in 2007.
This year, 16 provinces, municipalities and ethnic autonomous regions, as well as five big cities in provincial financial powers, became pilot areas to test the free compulsory education for urban students of elementary and middle schools.
While making great efforts to reach its goal of "Education for All", the government has also encouraged students to study abroad. The number of Chinese studying overseas rose from 860 in 1978 to 144,500 in 2007. So far, 319,700 students have returned home after graduating from foreign schools.
In addition, China has opened up its door to overseas students. Over the past 30 years, 1.23 million students from more than 180 countries and regions have studied in domestic schools of various kinds.
Currently, it has signed agreements on educational cooperation and exchanges with 188 foreign countries and regions, while the Chinese government has agreed with the governments of 33 countries and regions to mutually recognize diplomas issued by their schools.
The successful reforms and increasingly higher international status have made the Chinese language more attractive and useful to foreigners. So far, the number of foreigners studying Mandarin is claimed to exceed 30 million.
To date, 262 Confucius Institutes have been set up in 77 foreign countries and regions to spread the Chinese culture. In addition, 46 foreign countries and regions have held the Chinese Proficiency Test known as HSK.
(Xinhua News Agency September 10, 2008)