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CHEN Baosheng: Giving priority to education

2018-01-10 08:41:00

As President Xi Jinping clearly stated in his report to the 19th CPC Congress, “Building a strong education system is the cornerstone to bolstering the country’s foundations. It is therefore of paramount importance to put education first, further educational reforms, accelerate the modernization of education, and offer quality education that meets the people’s expectations.” These words set the direction for the goals we have fulfilled and must continue to achieve in future as we enter a new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Performance and Achievements in 2012-2017

Over the past five years, China has taken a series of decisions and measures to improve its education system, especially in the following three areas:

1. Equal access to quality education

Education is a priority in government spending: as required by the CPC Central Committee, public spending on education shall account for no less than 4% of GDP. Sufficient financial resources shall be used to lay solid foundations to build a more robust and balanced education system.

In 2016, the enrollment ratios for each age group of children were as follows: 3-6 year olds in pre-school education 77.4%, primary education 99.9%, lower secondary education 104.0%, upper secondary education 87.5% and higher education 42.7%. 93.4% of children enrolled in a nine-year compulsory education program (primary to middle school) completed their studies and graduated. Based on internationally comparable data, China ensures greater access to education than many middle- and high-income countries.

Efforts have also been made to promote educational equity. Compulsory education has been strengthened in disadvantaged areas, while initiatives have been implemented to promote higher education in central and western parts of China. A strong system of financial assistance spanning all levels of education has been put in place offering financial support to less privileged children, benefitting over 90 million students in 2016. Another program has been aimed at helping students maintain a more nutritious diet, reaching 36 million rural students in compulsory education every year. Wider opportunities to education have been provided to students with disabilities, and more services and support have been offered to urban migrant children and “left-behind” children (children brought up by extended family in rural areas while the parents move away for work).

2. Educational reform

Examination and enrollment processes across the country have been overhauled. Legislation, including the Education Law, the Higher Education Law, and the Non-State Education Promotion Law, has been amended to consolidate the educational sector legislative framework. A total of 15 procedures requiring administrative approval were removed. Groundwork has been put in place to foster better cooperation and communication between government, schools and society.

In 2016, China received more than 400,000 international students from 205 countries/regions, making it Asia’s largest and the world’s third largest destination for foreign students. A series of joint education programs has been launched while the Confucius Institute network worldwide has continued to grow. This array of initiatives and programs has contributed to strengthening collaboration and exchange between China and the world in the areas of education and culture.

3. Quality education and teacher workforce

Substantial progress has been made at all levels of education: Basic education places more emphasis on developing the creativity and practical skills of students; vocational education has been calibrated to better help students adapt to the increasingly knowledge-intensive market; universities at the undergraduate level are being reshaped to become more practice-based, so that they are more suitably equipped to serve the community and participate more actively in the country’s innovation programs.

Efforts have been made to improve the quality of teacher training and ethics within the profession. Teacher performance evaluation and reward systems have been adjusted to improve stability in the workforce. Incentive policies have been designed to bring teachers to rural areas.

Future Goals and Work Priorities

Guided by the principles set out in the report of the 19th CPC Congress, China has outlined the following further goals and work priorities in education:

1. Moral and all-round education

Reinforcement of student moral development is a fundamental task. Moral education will be stepped up to develop patriotism among students, nurture their understanding of Chinese traditional culture, the rule of law, national defense and sustainable development.

Education will be geared to promote all-round development. Syllabuses and textbooks at all levels in education will be revised to better meet the demands of this new era; physical education will extend to help students build healthier lifestyles; art education will be taught more broadly to raise student aesthetic sensitivity; course content will be dovetailed with labor market and professional practices while work-study programs, volunteering and internships will be further promoted.

2. Educational equity

To ensure more equitable education, it is critical to reduce disparity in rural and urban compulsory education. Priority will be given to county-level rural communities; once satisfactory results have been achieved, this effort will be extended to city-level. Further resources will be invested to increase access to 3-6-year-old pre-school education. Greater support will be afforded to students with special needs: economically disadvantaged students with disabilities, for example, will have free access to secondary high school education. High-school education will be made accessible to a larger number of rural students, thus raising education levels in the workforce.

In order to achieve these goals, government expenditure will give priority to disadvantaged areas and populations, and a synergy will be sought between resources from various levels of society, to ensure that every child is provided with access to equitable and high-quality education.

3. Educational reforms

New demands need to be matched with new approaches and practices at all levels of education.

In practice, this means investing in professional education and training, facilitate the growth of first-class universities, and fostering relations between schools and educational establishments and industry and business, to prepare students to become multi-skilled and creative members of the labor force with in-depth knowledge of modern technology, who are capable of serving the needs of their country and internationally competitive.

Action will be taken to bolster online learning and life-long education. Building on best practices learnt from other countries, China will explore new approaches to build an internet-based life-long learning system that caters for individual diversity, to facilitate the sharing of high-quality learning resources and modernize education.

Efforts will be also made to enhance the quality of and ethics in teaching, while raise the profile and status of the profession.

In sum, China is adopting a variety of approaches and measures to ensure that the vast majority of those entering the workforce have completed their upper secondary education, greater access to higher education are made available, and the quality of continuing education is improved. Further endeavors will be made to build a learning society, allowing anyone to learn anytime, anywhere with fun and to fulfill their aspirations.

(Note: This is an abridged translation of an article by CHEN Baosheng, Minister of Education of the People's Republic of China.)

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