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Review of China’s education reform in 2017

2018-01-05 14:15:00

Throughout 2017 the Ministry of Education has strived to achieve step changes in all key areas of work, focusing on issues and challenges of public concern. On 27 December, the Ministry published its annual work report for 2017, covering 20 major accomplishments.

1. Developing the 13th Five-Year Plan for Education

The Plan, released by the State Council in January 2017, set the direction, principles and targets for the development of national education during the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020). According to The Plan, by 2020 China is expected to rank among the leading countries in terms of human resources, progress in the modernization of education, overall robustness in education and international influence, laying solid foundations for realizing the 2030 vision of a fully modernized education system.

2. Promoting the development of world-class universities and disciplines

Following the Measures for the Implementation of the Overall Scheme for Promoting the Development of World-class Universities and Disciplines (Interim), issued in January 2017, in September the Ministry released a list of universities and colleges selected to participate in the Scheme, including 42 identified as having the qualities required to be ranked world-class overall and 95 nominated to produce world-class disciplines. The development of world-class universities and disciplines is geared to improve the quality of higher education, expand national core strengths and thus facilitate sustainable development in education.

3. Amending the Provisions on the Management of Students in Regular Institutions of Higher Education

In February 2017, the Ministry launched an amended version of the Provisions on the Management of Students in Regular Institutions of Higher Education, which compared to the former version was considered to be more responsive, standard, balanced and practical. This new edition factors in the integration of recent central government policies and strategies on higher education, and is more adapted to the needs of changing socio-economic environments and new developments in higher education governance.

4. Reinforcing ideopolitical work in higher education institutions

In February 2017, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council jointly issued the Opinions on Strengthening and Improving Ideological and Political Work in Higher Education Institutions under New Circumstances. In accordance with the Opinions, universities and colleges have been required to firmly adhere to the correct political orientation and carry out to the full all Party guidelines on education for cultivating first-class talent.

5. Launching the Program for Promoting Senior High School Education

In March 2017, the Ministry and three other state agencies released the Program for Promoting Senior High School Education (2017-2020), aimed at promoting educational equity and raising the gross enrollment ratio in senior high schools to above 90% by 2020. While priority has been given to improving this ratio in poverty-stricken western and central regions, regions inhabited by ethnic minorities, remote inland areas and old revolutionary base areas, the Program also underlines the need to solve an array of outstanding issues, such as ensuring access to education for students with disabilities or from low-income households, and reversing the declining enrollment ratio in vocational schools.

6. Furthering governance reforms in higher education

In March 2017, the Ministry and four other state agencies released Several Opinions on Deepening the Reforms to Streamline Governance, Combine Decentralization with Necessary Control and Optimize Services in Higher Education. Focusing on many deep-rooted problems, governance reforms have driven further decentralization of matters relating to finance, human resource planning, and academic matters within the higher education system, and have been aimed at granting more autonomy and independence to higher education institutions.

7. Implementing the Action Plan for Preschool Education: Phase III

In April 2017, the Ministry and three other state agencies released Several Opinions on the Implementation of the Action Plan for Preschool Education: Phase III, which set out the master plan for reforms and development in preschool education during the 13th Five-Year Plan period. This included the target of an 85% gross enrollment rate in three-year-pre-school kindergartens and an 80% coverage rate in universal preschool education nationwide.

8. Improving campus safety and risk management

In April 2017, the General Office of the State Council issued the Opinions on Strengthening the Development of the Campus Safety and Risk Management System for Middle Schools, Primary Schools and Kindergartens. The Opinions contained a systematic program and detailed roadmap for prevention measures and on-campus safety-risk control.

9. Assisting provincial governments in the fulfilment of their obligations in education

In May 2017, the General Office of the State Council issued the Measures for Evaluating the Fulfilment of Obligations in Education by Provincial People’s Governments. The Measures introduced a requirement for provincial government work to be evaluated in matters relating to leadership, management, security and the promotion of steady development in education. The outcomes of these evaluations are now to be used as a reference during government leadership performance reviews.

10. Promoting reform and development in medical education

In July 2017, the General Office of the State Council issued the Opinions on Enhancing Synergies between Hospitals and Medical Schools and Further Promoting the Reform and Development of Medical Education, marking the first publication of an official document on the subject. The Opinions set out 14 areas for reform and proposed specific steps to address issues ranging from improvement of the quality of medical education and optimization of the structure of medical teaching, to measures to improve synergies between hospitals and medical schools and boost the training and employment of medically qualified human resources.

11. Promoting the development of special education

In July 2017, the Ministry and six other state agencies released the Program for Promoting Special Education: Phase II (2017-2020), following the Provisions on the Management of Disabled Persons in the National Higher Education Entrance Examination (Interim) issued in April. In addition to setting out three priorities, namely completing the special education system, strengthening the institutional assurance for special education and improving the special education quality, the Program introduced the target of achieving over 95% in the enrollment rate of disabled children in compulsory education.

12. Completion of mechanisms to foster people-to-people exchanges

In July 2017, the Central Leading Team for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms considered and approved Several Opinions on Strengthening and Improving People-to-People Exchanges with Foreign Countries, which stressed the need for innovation in high-level mechanisms for people-to-people exchanges, reforming the content, form and working mechanisms of such exchanges, and incorporating the philosophy of communication and cooperation into every aspect of exchanges with foreign countries. Within the year, China consolidated its high-level people-to-people exchanges with Russia, the US, the UK, the EU, France and Indonesia and initiated the exchanges with South Africa and Germany.

13. Ensuring the implementation of compulsory education by controlling dropout rates

In July 2017, the General Office of the State Council issued the Circular on Further Controlling the Dropout Rates to Ensure the Implementation of Compulsory Education. With measures to prevent students from dropping out of school for weariness in study, financial difficulties or inconvenient transportation, the Circular emphasized the development of working mechanisms for controlling dropout rates, which will form a key part of the initiative to support and guarantee the implementation of compulsory education in rural areas.

14. Improving moral development in primary and secondary education

In August 2017, the Ministry released the Guidelines for Moral Education in Primary and Middle Schools, which adopts a multi-faceted approach to moral development goals and will play a significant role in complementing long-standing working mechanisms for moral education and improving holistic moral development in primary and secondary education.

15. Introduction of centrally compiled textbooks for compulsory education

Since September 2017, three sets of textbooks for compulsory education — Chinese, History, and Ethics and Rule of Law — have been introduced in primary and middle schools across the country. The new textbooks, which were centrally compiled by the Ministry and reviewed by the National Commission for School Textbooks, add more emphasis to core socialist values, traditional Chinese culture and the CPC’s revolutionary traditions.

16. Furthering the reform of the education system and educational mechanisms

In September 2017, the General Offices of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council issued the Opinions on Deepening the Reform of Education System and Mechanism. It clearly set out progressive reforms in teaching methods, education models, management institutions and assurance mechanisms, to promote better-conceived, well-rounded education as well as a world-class, modern education system based on socialism with Chinese characteristics.

17. Enhancing the integrated governance to prevent school bullying

In November 2017, the Ministry in association with ten other state agencies released the Proposal for Integrated Governance to Tackle Bullying Incidents in Primary and Middle Schools. It provides guidance on the prevention and management of school bullying, by defining bullying behaviors and offering specific countermeasures.

18. Implementing the Compulsory Education School Management Standards

In December 2017, the Ministry promulgated the Compulsory Education School Management Standards, which for the first time presented a systematic review of the basic requirements for the management of compulsory education schools. The Standards clarifies the management responsibilities of schools and outlines a total of 88 requirements, such as the principle of non-discrimination in enrolling students who live in districts adjacent to the school and the policy of balancing class sizes.

19. Fostering greater integration between industry and education

In December 2017, the General Office of the State Council issued Several Opinions on Promoting the Integration between Industry and Education, which for the first time elaborated on the institutional framework for integrating education with industrial development and the implications of relevant policies. Through increased integration between educational institutions and the industrial sector, China will benefit from the consequent improvements in vocational education and higher education, maximizing the supporting role of education in upgrading industry, promoting a more coordinated workforce and spurring socio-economic development.

20. Launching the education aid program for Tibet and Xinjiang

In December 2017, the Ministry and three other state agencies jointly released the Implementation Guide for the Ten Thousand Teachers' Education Aid Program in Support of Teaching in Tibet and Xinjiang, which is designed to alleviate the shortage of highly skilled teachers and improve the teaching quality in local schools in Tibet and Xinjiang Autonomous Regions. According to the plan, a first cohort of 4,000 teachers will be sent to these regions.

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