Constitutional & Legal Foundations
The Chinese have always regarded education as a tool for strengthening the country instead of cultivating individuals, which dictates that learning for the sake of knowledge is not enough. Students are expected to develop, first, as patriotic Chinese with strong morals, then as individuals with the necessary skills to serve the country and people. Throughout the educational system, the ideal of a well-rounded, cultured person with a strong socialist consciousness is deeply embedded. Article 46 of the Constitution, adopted on December 4, 1982, stipulates that "citizens of the People's Republic of China have the duty as well as the right to receive education." It also states that minorities "have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages" (Article 4), and the blind, deaf-mute, and other handicapped citizens should receive help from the state to improve their education (Article 45). The most important provision of the 1982 Constitution on education is Article 19. It states that "the state develops socialist educational undertakings and works to raise the scientific and cultural level of the whole nation." It sets the nation's educational goal as "to wipe out illiteracy and provide political, cultural, scientific, technical, and professional education" for China's citizens, and "encourages people to become educated through self-study." These principles set the keynote for subsequent legislation in the 1980s and 1990s.
The document that led to the rehabilitation and expansion of education in post-Mao China was the 1985 Decision on the Reform of China's Educational Structure. It stated that the major goal of the reform was to develop education as a significant tool of socialist construction, economic expansion, and modernization. To this end, the reform document specifically called for a commitment to a compulsory nine-year cycle of primary and middle school education, diversifying high school education, expanding vocational education, improving teaching quality, granting more autonomy to higher educational institutions, reforming the job assignment system, and allocating more responsibility to education professionals over party officials.
In February 1993 the Central Committee of the Communist Party, together with the State Council, officially distributed the Outline for Reform and Development of Education in China. This document details strategic tasks to guide education reform in the 1990s and into the next century. The Outline calls the nation to make education a strategic priority because of its fundamental importance to China's modernization drive to raise the ideological and ethical standards of the entire population, as well as to raise its scientific and educational levels. The main tasks include gearing education to the needs of the future modernization efforts, improving the quality of the workforce, and establishing an educational system suited to a socialist market economy (Ashmore & Cao 1997).
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