2019 marks the first year of implementation of the decisions made at the National Education Congress and of the China's Education Modernization 2035 plan. In this context this year’s Government Work Report contains many new remarks relating to the education sector.
1. Broadening the reach of education. In the Government Work Report 2018 (hereafter referred to as the 2018 Report), the role of education was primarily included in measures aimed at ensuring and improving people’s wellbeing. In the Government Work Report 2019 (hereafter referred to as the 2019 Report), education is specially emphasized in relation to two specific goals: first, vocational education as a multifaceted lever to “achieving stable and expanding employment through multiple channels”; second, as a means to “speeding up the development of social programs to better ensure and improve living standards”. This reflects the government’s efforts to give education a broader role, and to attach equal importance to vocational and academic education.
2. Raising educational outcomes. The 2019 Report stresses the need to “develop more equitable and higher quality education”, marking a step up from the “developing equitable and high quality education” that appeared in the 2018 Report.
3. Clearer policy goals. The 2018 Report mainly addressed issues such as reducing the extracurricular burden on primary and secondary school students and enhancing safety in kindergartens. The 2019 Report devotes substantial attention to the role of vocational education in enhancing employment and increasing resources to provide more pre-school education. The report states: “The government will employ multiple channels to increase the supply of pre-school education. Whether they be state-supported or private-sector-run, the government will support kindergartens so long as they meet statutory safety standards, charge reasonable fees, and can earn the confidence of parents.” This policy will undoubtedly contribute to boosting confidence among private sector players planning to provide preschool education. The 2019 Report also points out that despite significant fiscal constraints, government budgetary spending on education will remain above 4 percent of GDP.
4. Backing measures up with substance. The 2018 Report did not contain many exact figures in relation to the education sector. In contrast, the 2019 Report provides abundant data. For example, the report mentioned the government “will allocate 100 billion yuan from the surplus in unemployment insurance funds to provide training to help over 15 million people upgrading their skills, changing careers or moving into new industries” and “will reform and improve vocational college examination and enrolment systems to encourage more applications from high school graduates, demobilized military personnel, laid-off workers, and rural migrant workers, with a view to increase one million student enrolments this year;” and that “despite significant fiscal constraints, government budgetary spending on education this year will remain above 4 percent of GDP, and central government spending on education will exceed one trillion yuan.”
5. Greater continuity. On the basis of the 2018 Report, the 2019 Report reiterates key issues such as “increasing the supply of pre-school education through multiple avenues”, “promoting the integrated development of urban and rural compulsory education”, “advancing vocational education”, “addressing the problem of oversized classes in urban schools”, “mainstreaming senior secondary education”, “providing quality ethnic minority education, special education, continuing education and online education” and “develop world-class universities and world-class disciplines”. This clearly highlights the government’s effort to ensure continuity in educational policy.