The private education in China has a long history and already existed during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-475 BC) and the Han Dynasty (206 BC – AD 25). The "modern" private schools were opened by the missionaries after the Treaty of Nankin was signed in 1842 between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the Qing Dynasty of China to mark the end of the First Opium War (1839–42).
The Development of the Private Education
Until the middle of the 20th century, the private education developed a lot:
In 1950, 77 private universities (on a total of 227) welcomed 40 % of the students.
In 1951, under the influence of the Soviet model and the radicals of the CPC, private institutions were closed or transformed into public institutions. From 1952 till 1978, there were in China only educational establishments “managed by the people ", that means by a community of persons or a collective organization.
With the economic Opening of the beginning of the 1980s, the authorities reopened the private institutions. The article 19 of the Constitution of 1982 stipulates that “the State encourages the organizations of the collective economy, the organizations of companies and institutions of the State, as well as other potency of the society to create [...] educational works of any kind”.
In 1992, after a visit of Deng Xiaoping in the South of China, the CPC adopted during its XIV congress the principle of " the socialist market economy ": to face the modernization, the development of the economy, the education had to lean on other strengths that those of the State.
The article 25 of the law relative to education dated 1995, determined that "the State encourages companies, institutions, public and social organizations as well as citizens to set up and to manage schools or other institutions of training ".
The law of 2002 concerning the not governmental education authorizes the development of private initiatives for the cycles of education which are not compulsory to better answer to particular social requests.
(Fig.1: Students in Beijing)
The Classification of Private Schools
According to the official terminology, private schools group include those which don’t appeal to the governmental resources:
Structures implanted within an existing public organization with total or partial sharing of the resources (teachers, buildings, canteen) but with an own budget;
Structures taking advantage of the notoriety and the human resources of an existing public structure but situated on another site and having an own budget;
Structures managed by a company, a group of persons or an individual without being part of public entity.
(Fig.2: A Russian Girl Studied in a Chinese Private School)
The Students Resource of Private Schools
At the beginning of the 1980s, due to their reputation, a lot of public institutions unlock to a private component: were accepted not only pupils having passed the selection examinations but also those having failed, against the payment of a high registration fee. This constituted a second chance to study for them. And so the private institutions developed in the big cities of the coastal provinces.
At the beginning of the 1990s, the emergence of a social category with a high income which had taken advantage of the economic growth as well as the effects of the one child policy expand the request towards institutions having better performances than those of the public.
The transition of the planned economy towards the market economy also inferred a high want of vocational training which the private sector knew quickly how to answer.
Finally for the children of migrants who joined their relatives but have no right of residence “hukou” as well as for the illegitimate children who have no legal status, private schools remain the only solution.