Fairer access to quality education is one of the top priorities of China’s educational agenda in the coming five years, said the minister of education.
“We have been focusing on fairness and quality. In the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020), we will give a special emphasis on quality and ensure fairer access to quality education.”
Yuan Guiren made the remarks when he met with members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference from the educational field on March 8.
He said the importance of education is highlighted in both the government work report and China’s 13th Five-Year Plan.
“Education is where a country’s future and its people’s hopes and aspirations lie,” said Yuan, quoting Premier Li Keqiang’s government work report.
The work report and the 13th Five-Year Plan both stress the importance of educational reform at all levels ranging from preschool to higher education, and call for society as a whole to play a part in its advance.
“They propose practical and specific targets, measures and requirements about education. Based on their overall plan, the ministry of education will work out specific methods to implement and realize the goals,” said Yuan.
During discussions with CPPCC members, Yuan approvingly echoed the words of Lu Jingchao, professor at Communication University, who suggests that “those engaged in education should orient their work towards what students are interested in”.
Lu, who has been teaching for more than 30 years, said he treats students as friends, allowing him to realize that they are open-minded, quick to accept new things and that they care about society.
“If there were not proper channels, their voices would not be heard,” said Lu.
Nodding at Lu’s words, Yuan said, “We firmly believe that the younger generation is better than us.”
“That means we should not see them in the outdated, habitual way. Instead, we should help orient, guide and mobilize them to enhance students’ quality.”
Yuan further agreed with a proposal by Tsinghua University professor Meng Anming for improving young teachers’ professional capabilities.
Meng said colleges and universities should offer young teachers more care in terms not only of their academic careers but also their daily lives as 70 percent of the faculty in Chinese universities is below the age of 45.
Yuan also spoke of ways to balance administrative work and teaching in response to several CPPCC members’ concern that too much administrative work is taking up time that should be dedicated to teaching and research.
He said the ministry of education is deepening reform to devolve decision-making power, noting that it is slashing by one third projects that require examination and approval.
Yuan shared his ideas about private education with Zhang Jieting, chairman of the Siwa Group, which focuses on education.
“Private education, non-profit or not, is in the interest of the public and society as a whole,” Yuan said.
He said private education has played a positive role in China’s educational development by offering diversified service and pioneering reform.
“We must promote private education. We will never stop promoting it or try to curb its development. That is the fundamental principle and direction,” said Yuan.
“The investment required by running a public school can be used to subsidize ten private schools. Which one is more effective? So I support there being more private schools to help meet social demands.”
When Ma Min, Party secretary of Central China Normal University, spoke about dropouts in some impoverished regions in central and western China, Yuan said the government will offer financial support.
He said as long as they study hard, they will gain government support no matter what level of education they are receiving.
China has rolled out a slew of measures to help impoverished students, ensuring them of free access to nine years of mandatory education and now additional years at senior high schools or vocational schools, also free of charge.
Yuan said the ministry of education will train teachers in rural areas to use computers and other tools in the classroom.
“I heard from the Hunan delegation that some schools now have modern teaching tools but teachers do not how to use them. We will include more IT instruction in teachers’ training sessions.”