On November 29, the Ministry of Education held a press conference in Changzhi, Shanxi Province, to introduce three newly published MOE decisions, namely the Decision on Enhancing and Improving Work on Teaching Research in Basic Education for the New Era (hereinafter referred to as “Decision on Teaching Research”), the Decision on Enhancing Work on Assigning Academic Tests for Junior High School Students (“Decision on Test Assignment”), and the Decision on Enhancing and Improving Experimental Teaching in High Schools and Primary Schools (“Decision on Experimental Teaching”), and report on progress in implementing administrative reforms for teachers in compulsory education. Lv Yugang, Director-General of the MOE’s Department of Basic Education, said that, “Enhancing the work on teaching research, test assignment and experimental teaching is key to improving the quality of basic education for the new era.”
(1) Decision on Teaching Research
Director Lv pointed out that, for the work on teaching research, several gaps still needed to be filled, such as incomplete systems, shortages in adequately qualified teachers, persistence in use of inappropriate methods, and inadequate assurance. Against this background and based on practical needs, the Decision on Teaching Research stresses the supportive role of teaching research in serving school education, teacher professional development, student all-round development, and decision-making in educational administration.
The Decision clarifies the responsibilities of teaching research institutions at all levels and requires teaching research to be conducted in close coordination with teachers on the frontline. It also encourages teaching research institutions to play to their strengths in advancing regional curricular and pedagogical reforms, pooling curricular and pedagogical resources and promoting good teaching practice.
For the first time, the Decision specifies the qualifications for teaching researchers, including high political awareness, a strong sense of responsibility, an accurate understanding of education, sophisticated research capacity (solid theoretical knowledge, rich teaching experience of 6+ years, and an intermediate or senior professional title), and good professional ethics.
According to the Decision, the working system of teaching research at state, provincial, municipal, county and school levels will be further refined, while the researches should focus on the following areas: well-rounded education, critical segments in an educational cycle such as curricula, teaching, homework, examinations and assessments, innovation of approaches to teaching research, and reform of teaching research models.
(2) Decision on Test Assignment
As stated by Lv, the two essential functions of academic testing among junior high school students should be assessing student academic proficiency on graduation and their academic readiness for entry into senior high school. By abolishing the former Outline for the Academic Test for Junior High School Students, the Decision on Test Assignment aims to improve the quality of tests in strict accordance with the curricular standards for compulsory education.
Specifically, the Decision includes the requirements to optimize the test structure by selecting proper question forms and types, systematically control the test difficulty by arranging the questions in a reasonable manner, and promote the reform of test content by exploring inter-disciplinary subjects as well as improving the quality of test design.
In addition, to provide institutional assurance for implementation, the Decision puts emphasis on the accountability of provincial-level management bodies that handle the work on test assignment, and calls on local education related government departments to set up a selection system and a candidate pool for test developers.
(3) Decision on Experimental Teaching
The Decision on Experimental Teaching makes it clear that experiments should be included in academic testing of junior high school students by 2023, and as part of academic tests for senior high schools students in those areas where conditions allow it.
Local schools are required to provide laboratories for experimental teaching on the basis of given standards and actual needs, and they are encouraged to create more educative spaces for experimentation. Meanwhile, local education related government departments should ensure the funding for experimental teaching, and schools should allocate the funds for experimental teaching in the appropriations for school equipment and facilities per student.
The Decision also emphasizes that, schools need to explore a larger variety of teaching methods in experimentation, integrate traditional pedagogy with emerging modern technologies and provide diversified learning experiences for students, to increase the attractiveness of experimental teaching to students.
(4) Administrative reform on the teacher workforce in compulsory education
So far, 23 provinces had carried out or made plans for the reform of administrative mechanisms regarding teachers in compulsory education, said Liu Jiantong, Counsel of MOE’s Department of Teacher Education. The time is ripe for comprehensive reforms, entailing centralized management of teachers by county-level governments and decentralized employment of teachers by local public schools in compulsory education.
According to Liu, as the reforms involve reallocation of duties among different institutions, concerted efforts and synergy of all parties will be decisive for their national rollout. Cases in point are the reforms in Changzhi, Shanxi Province and in Shaoguan, Guangdong Province.
The reforms have achieved more efficient use of budgeted teaching posts in public schools and facilitated more balanced distribution of faculty resources. By motivating the teacher workforce more effectively and benefiting a broader base of schools and students, they have improved equity and quality in education.