Community Learning Centres (CLC) Programme

Country Profile: China



Poverty (Population living on less than US$2 per day)

27.2% (2013)

Total Expenditure on Education as % of GDP (2006)


Primary School Net Enrolment/Attendance (2005–2010)


Total Youth Literacy Rate (15-24 years)

Total: 99.73% (2015)
Male: 99.74%
Female: 99.71%

Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over)

Total: 96.38% (2015)
Male: 98.17%
Female: 94.48%

Statistical Sources

Programme Overview

Programme TitleCommunity Learning Centres (CLC) Programme in Gansu Province
Implementing OrganizationGansu Provincial Institute of Educational Science (SCPIES)
Language of Instructionbilingual
Date of Inception1998 –

Context and Background

China has made great strides in universalising the provision of basic education in recent years. Following the successful implementation of an extensive national literacy campaign since the 1950s, the government of China also introduced the compulsory education law (1986) which guaranteed all children aged 6 to 15 years the right to receive nine years of free education (i.e. from elementary to junior high school). In short, this law made access to education free and compulsory for every child. In 1988, the government also instituted the famous and ambitious “two-basics” system which primarily aimed to further entrench the 1986 law and thus to improve access to quality basic education for all as well as to expand adult non-formal education and eliminate adult illiteracy by the year 2000. Accordingly, State investment into the educational sector was substantially increased over the years in line with these policy initiatives. As a result, the 2010 national census established that China had achieved near-universal primary school net enrolment and youth literacy rates (see above) while its total adult literacy rate rose markedly from 66 per cent in 1982 to 91 per cent in 2000 and 94 per cent by 2010. Overall, the illiteracy rate in the young and middle-aged population group has fallen from over 80 per cent down to about 5 per cent.

However, these impressive gains overshadow the great disparities that continue to plague the country’s educational system. Indeed, it has been established that despite concerted efforts to promote access to education for all, huge disparities continue to exist with regard to the provision of basic education across China’s geographically, economically and demographically diverse regions. For instance, in Gansu – one of the country’s poorest and most underdeveloped provinces – the overall standard of education remains very low and the nine-year compulsory education system has only been partially successful due to a lack of sustained funding and high levels of poverty among the province’s population (although education is free, parents are obliged to pay auxiliary fees which are exorbitant for many). This sad reality is poignantly manifested by the fact that the primary school net enrolment rate in the province was about 79 per cent compared to the national average rate of 99 per cent between 2005 and 2010 and the school dropout rate averaged 15–30 per cent during the same period. As a result, more than 20 per cent of Gansu’s total population of over 24 million was illiterate or semi-literate as of year 2000. Currently, the overall illiteracy rate in the province is about 8.69 per cent while the adult illiteracy rates for men and women are 20 per cent and 40 per cent respectively.

Thus, in an effort to combat the scourge of illiteracy, promote general socioeconomic development and agricultural production in the province (about 75 per cent of Gansu’s population is based in rural areas and thus largely depends on farming for its existence) as well as improving people’s overall well-being, the Gansu Provincial Institute of Educational Science (SCPIES) initiated the Community Learning Centres (CLCs) Programme in 1998.

The CLC Programme

The CLC is an extensive, integrated and community-based literacy and life skills training programme of non-formal education which primarily targets illiterate and semi-literate out-of-school youths and adults (aged 15 to 45) living in the socioeconomically underdeveloped counties of Gansu province. The programme was initially implemented in Shibaxian village, Zhenyuan county (Gansu province) within the context of the central government’s “open the west” policy which is primarily “designed to raise the standard of development [and thus the living standards of people living] in the poorer western provinces lagging behind the prosperous eastern seaboard”. To this end, the programme provides learners with contextually appropriate basic literacy and life skills training in a range of subjects including:

The adoption of such an integrated curriculum is primarily intended to boost programme attendance and retention rates as well as enabling SCPIES to effectively cater for the diverse learning needs of participants, a majority of whom are more interested in acquiring practical life skills that would enable them to improve their living standards as well as being self-reliant.

Aims and Objectives

The CLC programme primarily aims to combat the scourge of illiteracy and to facilitate socio-economic development in Gansu province, particularly in Zhenyuan County which is the poorest part of the province. More specifically, the CLC endeavours to:

Programme Implementation: Approaches and Methodologies

To date, SCPIES have instituted a number of practical steps in order to ensure the efficient and sustainable implementation of the CLC programme. These include:

Recruitment and Training of Programme Facilitators

More often than not, the implementation of community-based non-formal educational programmes is encumbered by the lack of quality human resources. This is particularly the case in Gansu province which is not only under-developed but has been hard-hit by the migration of young and educated residents to the more developed eastern frontier in search of greener opportunities. In order to circumvent this challenge and to ensure the effective and sustainable implementation of the CLC, SCPIES has established functional partnerships with various specialised institutions including: Gansu Provincial Department of Education; Gansu Provincial Academy of Agriculture Science, Gansu Department of Health and the local school, Banpo Village School. These institutions not only provide SCPIES with technical advice for the design and development of the curriculum and implementation of the programme, but also second their professionals to provide specialised training to CLC programme learners. Given that most of these facilitators are not trained in non-formal education and lack practical training experience, SCPIES provides them with a wide range of skills in non-formal educational practices, including:

Once trained, accredited professionals are tasked to provide both literacy and livelihood skills training services to learners for which they are paid a daily stipend of about 1,500 Yuan (about US$155) for their services.

Development of Teaching-Learning Materials

In order to facilitate the efficient and sustainable implementation of the CLC programme, SCPIES has developed a variety of teaching-learning materials for use by learners and programme facilitators. It has also adopted others that were developed and produced by its institutional partners. These include, for example:

Teaching-Learning Approaches

As noted above, the CLC is an integrated basic literacy and life skills programme, thus learners are obliged to participate in both the literacy and life skills classes. The teaching-learning units are therefore designed or structured as follows:

In addition to these central activities, the programme also provides employment awareness training to community members planning to migrate to other regions in search of work as well as centre-based assistance to primary school children. To date, about 425 learners have participated in the employment counselling classes. Furthermore, the centre is also used by community members to host various social activities as well as to conduct income-generating learning activities such as hand embroidery.

Programme Impact and Challenges


The CLC programme has made some impressive contributions towards development, poverty alleviation through improved agricultural productivity, social empowerment, and the creation of literate environments in Shibaxian Village. More specifically, the major impacts of the programme are as follows:


Despite these successes, the programme is also encumbered with practical challenges. More often than not, community members find it difficult to balance the need of participating in the classes with the need to undertake their daily livelihood activities. This has often forced many potential learners to forgo participation in the programme or to participate only on an intermittent basis. Furthermore, cultural traditions such as child rearing have also prevented many women from participating in the programme. The programme also lacks adequate funding since it only has one funding partner (Oxfam Hong Kong). Financial constraints have, in turn, forced SCPIES to maintain a low intake rate as well as to reduce the number of centre-based activities.



Qin Zhigong (Project Leader)
Email qinzhigong (at)
Tel.: 0931 896 06 79
Fax: 86 0931 896 06 79