The Common Program of the People's Republic of China 1949-1954

Article 41 of the Common Program

In 1949, the new government inherited 3 education models. One was based on the GMD program, which was a mixture of traditional schooling and western ideas (following different university models from especially Germany, France, and the United States). The second model was based on the experience of the CCP in the Jiangxi Soviet period (1931–1934), and the Yan’an era (1936–1945), with a focus on the principle of the mass line and practicality. The third example is based on SU education system in the Northeast of China, which advocated the importance of political education as the main goal for schools. In this mix ‘Chinese nationalism, science, and popular’ are also added. The monopoly of power by the CCP is a constant factor in teaching. The CCP stressed the significance of children's social class, asserting that their development was shaped by their social and particularly class relations. Moreover, the CCP emphasized the proactive nature of children, contending that they possessed the capability and initiative to effect change and confront their surroundings. Education served as a tool for political mobilization, with children being mobilized to engage in social and political endeavors within the highly centralized mobilization system. Within elementary schools, the CCP established the Chinese Young Pioneers, comprising children aged 9 to 15, with the primary aim of instilling five civic virtues: love for the motherland, for fellow citizens, for labor, for science, and for public property. Ideological education in elementary schools focused on seamlessly integrating political symbols and activities into children's daily routines, allowing them to naturally form their identities through exposure to these symbols in everyday contexts. The new administration aims to establish clear objectives. During the initial years of the PRC, there was a concerted effort to place children in their designated roles and provide them with a highly defined childhood, encompassing education and a secure, materially comfortable environment. This concept of childhood was partly shaped by the aftermath of the Korean War, aiming to present a portrayal of joyful, thriving children within the socialist framework, which could serve as a tool in the propaganda battle against the U.S.
The shortage of teachers and financial resources forces the CCP to promote the role of the family in the education of the child. Although the party realizes that this is not an entirely reliable environment for properly rearing good socialist children. This ‘household education’ is seen as an important instrument to raise ‘new children’ "– who should be raised in happy comfortable households – were “masters of the future society” (jianglai shehui de zhurenweng)." A series of posters from 1952 educated parents on the best ways to rear their children.
Household education

At the First National Conference on Education (23-31 December 1949), the vice minister of Education, Qian Junrui, pointed out the seven challenges facing the reform and development of education in PRC, namely: (1) building a new democratic system of education by absorbing the useful experiences of the old society and borrowing from the Soviet Union experience; (2) establishing the People’s Universities to cultivate professionals and fast middle schools to cultivate intellectuals; (3) conducting literacy movements across whole country; (4) improving the quality of education in the old liberated areas; (5) uniting and reforming the thinking of intellectuals in the old liberated areas; (6) reforming the old educational system gradually and accumulating experiences; (7) preserving and restructuring private schools administrated by Chinese governments.
Political leaders are confronted with 3 dilemmas in reforming education. 1) Education for political/ideological development versus education for economic development. (see Article 43) 2) Education for social equality versus education for efficiency. (see Article 47) 3) Enlisting intellectuals and high-skilled personnel in socialist development versus treating them as antagonists and suppressing them. (see Article 46)
A two-track system in education can be traced back to the GMD government. The government finances urban schools, the local community in rural areas, finances village schools. On October 1, 1951, with the decision of the GAC on Reforming the Educational System the new regime validates this system. The concept of "selective development" within the education policy implied that rural inhabitants were obligated to shoulder the responsibility of educating their children. Educational costs had to be met and sustained by the rural population, whereas urban residents received subsidies for similar educational necessities and aspirations.
Fig. 41.1 New education system 1951
Source: Wang (1955). Page 28

Fig. 41.2 National education system 1952
Source:Oates (1983). Page 395

Happy children

U (2004) describes the situation in Shanghai where the local authorities are forced to recruit "...large numbers of people whom it regarded as politically suspicious. Among the newcomers, a considerable number had held important positions in the Nationalist regime; some had recently been fired from their jobs because of economic, sexual, or other wrongdoing; and others were former capitalists, landlords, or convicts forced into a different way of life by social and political change." This shortage of reliable teachers is partly caused by the career choice of young graduates. Central ministries, provincial agencies, local governments, factories, and mines are more successful than schools in attracting college graduates. Additionally, the PLA recruits young graduates to become political instructors, propaganda officers, and military journalists. One way of solving the shortage problem is the promotion of primary school teachers to the secondary level. The other way is the recruitment of unemployed managers, brokers, shop owners, and white-collar workers who were fired during the sanfan campaign. Many of them had graduated junior high school and were teacher candidates for primary and secondary schools, despite their backgrounds.The other group of recruited teachers are former staff members and officials who came from the abolished Regional party and state organs. Those new teachers were mostly not highly qualified and had often health problems. In the early years after the overtake in Shanghai, most secondary schools were still private owned and they could still freely hire personnel. Brzycki (2018) concludes "Schools, whether public or private, generally retained the same teachers, who were most often given professional rather than political re-education, and at least in Tianjin, continued to use the many of the same materials from before 1949."
The status of primary school teachers was low. In its "Directive on the Rectification and Improvement of Primary School Education" issued in December 1953, the GAC explicitly urged the "popular masses" to acknowledge primary school teachers as mentors for the new generation, undertaking a commendable yet challenging responsibility. The directive emphasized the importance of respecting and rectifying any derogatory or discriminatory treatment towards these educators. In carrying out this directive, the CCP leadership encountered significant opposition from grassroots cadres, especially in rural areas where cadres primarily consisted of former impoverished peasants who harbored a general mistrust towards intellectuals and teachers in particular. Primary school teachers often found themselves among the most common and vulnerable targets. Teachers in rural primary schools voiced grievances that while the Party's stated policies were commendable, they were not effectively put into practice.

In the period 1950-1952, the total government expenditure on education is 6,43% of the total budget, and this is 1,53% of the national income. In the period of the first 5 year plan (1953-1957), the total government expenditure on education grows to 6,92%, this is 2,3% of the national income.
Fig. 41.3 Number of students 1950-1954
Sources: Pepper (1996). Pages 200-201
Oates (1983). Page 395
*Worker peasant short course middle school

Fig. 41.4 Enrollment secondary schools 1949-1954
Source: Pepper (1996). Page 201
This stacked column chart shows clearly the percentage decrease in fine arts and the percentage increase in engineering and agriculture in a very brief period.
Fig. 41.5 Students peasant- workers background 1951-1953
Source: Pepper (1996). Page 214. % of all students
This chart shows the slowly rise in the particpation of sons and daughters of workers and peasants in tertiary education. The following chart shows the low percentage of women involved in study.
Fig. 41.6 Female percentage of total students 1949-1954
Source: Niu (1997). Page 57.

Zheng (2021). Page 121
"In the elementary schools, the confrontation between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ in education was emphasized. The CCP believed that children could transform their parents’ ‘bad behavior’ if they stood in the Party’s position. With the encouragement of schoolteachers, many children began to accuse their parents of covertly listening to the Voice of America and playing Mahjong at night, which violated the government’s policy of calling for the conservation of electricity to support the Korean War...(however,) On the one hand, children could have the ability to reform the adults’ old thoughts and behavior because they were less ‘polluted’ than the adults. On the other hand, children were required to be obedient to parents and teachers to keep the social order and support the country" Pages 124-125 [↩] [Cite]
Brzycki (2018). Page 114 [↩] [Cite]
Brzycki (2018). Page 109 [↩] [Cite]
Yang (2018). Page 21 [↩] [Cite]
Brzycki (2018). Page 61 [↩] [Cite]
White (2016). Page 28
" Many young Chinese who went to visit or study in the Soviet Union during this period expressed dissatisfaction when they returned home because the prestige of primary and middle school teachers in Soviet society was higher than in China." [↩] [Cite]
Tsang (2000). Page 4 [↩] [Cite]
Teng (2005). Page 2 [↩] [Cite]
U (2004). Page 47 [↩] [Cite]
Tsang (2000). Education and national development. Page 13 [↩] [Cite]

23-12-1949 - 31-12-1949: First National Education Conference
01-06-1950 - 08-06-1950: First National Higher Education Conference
June 1953: Second National Education Conference
Chapter 5 of Common Program