Is Education Really Free in China? Exploring the Truth Behind the Myth

Is Education Really Free in China? Exploring the Truth Behind the Myth


China has come a long way in improving its education system over the years. Known for its rigorous curriculum and high academic standards, China has been ranked as one of the top-performing countries in the world for education. However, there has been a common misconception that education in China is entirely free. In this article, we will explore the truth behind this myth and how education is funded in China.

The Reality of Education Costs in China

While it is true that China has a compulsory education policy that guarantees nine years of free education, this only covers the basic education for its citizens. It does not cover the expenses incurred for higher education, such as college and university fees, textbooks, and living expenses.

The cost of higher education in China can vary depending on the institution and the course of study. Public universities in China offer relatively cheaper tuition fees compared to private universities, but the competition for admission into public universities is incredibly fierce. On average, tuition fees for undergraduate programs at public universities range from RMB 2,000 to RMB 10,000 per year (approximately USD 290 to USD 1,450). Private universities, on the other hand, can charge significantly higher fees, ranging from RMB 20,000 to RMB 50,000 per year (approximately USD 2,900 to USD 7,200).

Government Support for Education

The Chinese government has made significant investments in its education system to improve education accessibility and quality for its citizens. The government’s investment in education has increased over the years, with the education budget increasing from RMB 1.14 trillion in 2017 to RMB 1.26 trillion in 2018.

In recent years, the Chinese government has introduced policies to provide financial support to students from poor families. For instance, the government established the National Grant for Student Aid program to offer financial assistance to students from low-income families pursuing undergraduate degrees. Under this program, eligible students can receive grants ranging from RMB 1,500 to RMB 6,000 per year (approximately USD 220 to USD 870).

Challenges in Education Funding

While the Chinese government has made significant efforts to make education more accessible and affordable, there are still challenges in funding education in China. For example, there is a shortage of qualified teachers, especially in rural areas, which affects the quality of education provided. Additionally, there is a lack of funding for research and development in education, which is vital for innovation and progress in the education sector.

Another challenge is the wage disparity between teachers from urban and rural areas. Teachers in rural areas are paid significantly lower than their counterparts in urban areas, which affects the quality of education provided and the retention of qualified teachers in rural areas.


In conclusion, while China has made significant progress in improving its education system, education is not entirely free in China, and there are still challenges in funding education. While the government has provided financial support to students from low-income families, there is still a need for more investments in education, particularly in rural areas. By addressing the challenges in education funding, China can continue to improve its education system and provide higher quality education to its citizens.

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