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Appeals of Urban and Rural Residents and Policy Suggestions on Compulsory Education in China


——An Analysis Based on the Door-to-door Household Survey in Eight Provinces and Cities

by Zhu Xianqiang & Xu Zhaoyuan, Research Team on "China's Livelihood Index" of DRC

Research Report No 153, 2014 (Total 4652)

Since 2006, financial authorities at all levels in China have increased their financial support in education, which gradually realizes the complete exemption of tuition and fees for compulsory education, and also eases the educational burden of urban and rural families. Through steadily advancing comprehensive educational reform and solidly promoting balanced development of compulsory education, urban and rural residents are more satisfied with compulsory education. However, some circumstances of unbalanced development in compulsory education are still visible; urban and rural residents also have many appeals for the improvement of compulsory education. This paper, based on survey data, discuss in detail the prominent problems in the development of compulsory education in China.

I. Generally speaking, half of the urban and rural residents are satisfied with compulsory education.

On the whole, the reform and development of compulsory education have achieved positive accomplishments. According to the survey results, 50% of the respondents are satisfied with compulsory education in general, and less than 10% of the respondents are not very satisfied and dissatisfied (8.7%) (Table 1).

1. Rural residents are most satisfied with compulsory education.

The results show that 54.3% of the rural residents feel satisfied or basically satisfied with compulsory education, which is higher than the satisfaction degree of rural migrating population and urban residents (Table1). Due to the practice of school selection prevailing in cities and towns, although children from rural families migrating to cities have less difficulty in attending public schools for compulsory education, problems of various severity such as undersupply of public schools and varied educational quality still exist in the migration destinations. By contrast, with the implementation of the tuition waiver policy in compulsory education in rural areas, especially since 2007, the policy of "Two Exemptions and One Subsidy" has enabled 150 million students in 400 thousand elementary and high schools in rural areas to have compulsory education, which greatly improves rural education and increases rural residents' satisfaction to compulsory education.

Table 1 Urban and Rural Residents' Overall Satisfaction of Compulsory Education (%)

Type of residents

Very satisfied

Basically satisfied

Slightly satisfied

Not very satisfied


Don't know

rural residents







rural migrating population







local residents in urban areas







Data source: door-to-door interviews data of 8 provinces and cities in 2013 by the research team of the "Research of the Livelihood Index in China", Development Research Centre of the State Council (similarly hereinafter).

Appeals of Urban and Rural Residents and Policy Suggestions on Compulsory Education in China

The proportion of residents' (students' parents with different education levels) dissatisfaction with education

2. Parents with lower education level are more dissatisfied with education.

Among families with school children, 28.4% of the residents respond that among livelihood issues, children's education is the most dissatisfied one. The residents with lower education level are more likely to be dissatisfied with education. Among them, 38.8% of the residents with primary school degree and below are dissatisfied with education; 32.4% of the respondents with junior high school degree, 33.9% with senior high school degree and 33.2% with associate degree, express dissatisfaction with education. In contrast, only a few residents with undergraduate and graduate degrees are dissatisfied with education (see the figure).

II. Some urban and rural residents bear heavy burden of education expenditure

With the implementation of the tuition waiver policy in compulsory education for urban and rural students, the education expenditure within schools has decreased by a great margin. However, the survey shows, due to school selection, tutoring classes and interest classes are very popular, which leads to high expenditure in education of rural and urban families.

1. Expenditure in education for their children is the biggest financial burden for urban and rural residents.

The survey results indicate that, the expenditure in children's education is the heaviest burden for urban and rural families. Nearly 1/4 of families believe that the greatest financial pressure lies in the expenses for their children's education. The percentage is even higher in those families with school children, reaching 38.9%. In 2012, 14% of the families spend more than 10,000 Yuan in compulsory education. It indicates that after compulsory education is widely implemented, explicit charges have obviously decreased, but under the pressure of various selection examinations, there still exist all sorts of implicit charges like school selection and expenditure in tutoring classes that constitute a heavy burden on parents.

2. The expenditure of urban families in compulsory education is significantly higher than that of rural families.

The majority of rural families spend less on compulsory education. In 2012, the annual expenditure in compulsory education of almost 60% of rural families is less than 1,000 Yuan. 22.1% of rural families spend over 5000 Yuan. In contrast, the annual expenditure in compulsory education of 45.2% of urban families is more than 5000 Yuan, among which 16.3% families spend over 10000 Yuan (Table 2).

Table 2 Urban and Rural Residents' Expenditure in Children's Compulsory Education

Annual expenditure in compulsory education

Rural Areas

Urban Areas


share (%)


share (%)

No expenditure





Less than 1000 Yuan





1001―5000 Yuan





5001―10000 Yuan





More than 10000 Yuan










Due to the rising cost of tutoring classes, interest classes and school selection, in 2012, the average expenditure of urban families in their children's compulsory education is 5789 Yuan, 39% higher than 4166 Yuan, the expenditure of rural families. On average, 3073 Yuan out of 5789 Yuan are charged by urban schools, 53% more than rural schools.

3. Parents with advanced degree and high income spend more on compulsory education.

(1) Parents with advanced degree tend to spend more on compulsory education.

Parents with higher degree have stronger paying ability for education. They tend to attach more importance to their children's compulsory education, which leads to the significant growth in their education expenditure. The survey data show that, 80% of the parents with junior high school degree and below spend less than 5000 Yuan on compulsory education, while 53% of the parents with bachelor's degree or above spend more than 5000 Yuan annually, 32% spend over 10000 Yuan.

(2) Families with higher income tend to spend more on compulsory education.

Generally speaking, families with higher income have stronger paying ability. Their expenditure in education rise obviously. The survey data show that 80% of the families with an annual income of less than 30000 Yuan spend, on average, less than 5000 Yuan on compulsory education each year. Nearly half of the families with an annual income of more than 100000 Yuan spend, on average, over 5000 Yuan on compulsory education annually. 33% of those families spend over 10000 Yuan each year.

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