During each annual NPC & CPPCC session, numerous proposals are tabled regarding education, which is a priority government issue and a popular subject of public concern. In 2018, the MOE handled 980 proposals from NPC deputies and 810 from CPPCC representatives, which formed 13.7% and 17.5% of all proposals submitted by deputies and representatives respectively. Each of these proposals reflects the voice of the public and contains valuable suggestions on educational matters, and therefore, the MOE attaches great importance to handling these proposals, considering them to be a valuable contribution to educational reform and an effective means to align education with the needs and expectations of people.
Establishing an effective mechanism to speed up the processing of proposals
Handling proposals has always been one of the MOE’s major annual tasks, under the direct responsibility of the Education Minister, assisted by vice ministers who are responsible for reviewing related work in their respective capacities.
The first step in the process following the “Two Sessions” involves the MOE organizing a meeting to assign proposals to appropriate departments for handling. However, the volume and cross-cutting nature of issues touched upon in these proposals, and their complexity mean that dealing with proposals is a challenging and time-consuming task. To increase efficiency, the MOE has established an improved three-step mechanism. First, analysis and capacity-building sessions are organized to prepare the groundwork for processing proposals. Second, whilst proposals are processed, the competent departments are urged to communicate with the deputies and representatives who submitted the proposals, to clarify certain points if necessary, and to garner suggestions and develop investigation plans. Third, once a final decision is made, the whole process needs to be summarized and reviewed and follow-up measures taken to ensure the effective implementation of the decision.
To consolidate the mechanism, the MOE has also produced a string of documents setting out requirements, rules and procedures for each step of the proposal handling process. Rigid quality control guidelines have also been introduced, under which inadequate handling or ineffective communication with deputies or representatives results in rejection of final decisions and a restart of the process by relevant departments.
In 2008, by virtue of these measures, the MOE not only finished handling all proposals within the year of submission, but also completed its work faster than in previous years with positive feedback received from most of the deputies and representatives who had tabled education-related proposals.
Enhancing communication for better response to proposals
A proposal, though normally no longer than three pages, should crystallize the thoughts and investigation results of deputies or representatives on issues of public concern. The best response to these proposals is, therefore, to translate them into concrete measures and actions.
A good example is the “double ten thousand excellent courses” plan based on the proposal of Zhao Ji, a CPPCC member and president of Northeastern University. Zhao said that, to his great surprise, not long after the closure of the “Two Sessions” last year, officials from the MOE’s Higher Education Department contacted him and had in-depth discussions with him, sharing views that were insightful and obviously the product of serious research.
Another case in point is the nationwide campaign targeting after-school training agencies jointly launched by the MOE and other three ministries, which was a response to one of the key suggestions emanating from the 2018 NPC meeting. Based on the suggestion, the MOE organized field investigations in Beijing, Anhui and other provinces to seek more advice from deputies and related departments and gain clearer insight into the problems relating to the operation of after-school institutions and student workload. It also urged the development of local policies on teacher workforce management, to impose a ban on certain malpractices such as moving part of classroom teaching activities to after-school tutoring classes for extra income and working part-time in after-school institutions. To date, all provinces in the country have taken measures to remedy the issue. The effect was widely felt as citizens reported a significant drop in the number of some of the most commonly seen after-school agencies and the disappearance of various competitions organized by these institutions.
Developing new policies to further educational reform
In 2018, proposal handling has also facilitated the development of a number of new policies and initiatives that are conducive to educational reform.
For example, based on “Two Sessions” proposals and through careful study, three guidelines were prepared to integrate Xi Jinping thought, China’s fine tradition and culture, and legacy of the revolution for national liberation into school curricula, with a view to advocating patriotism and boosting cultural confidence. Guidelines for managing the “Changjiang Scholar” Award were drafted, specifying the qualifications and duties of Changjiang scholars, and including a system for revoking the reward where required. A notice on the establishment of modern apprenticeship pilot projects was issued to bolster the training of skilled craftsman. The opinions on increasing the effectiveness of educational funding allocation were developed to optimize the higher education tuition system. These represent only a handful of the proposals that are related to furthering educational reform.
The successful introduction of all these policies can be attributed to proposals tabled at the “Two Sessions”, which included not only strategic and forward-looking suggestions on reforming educational system and models, but also down-to-earth solutions to problems such as student aid and after-school tutoring, offering valuable insights to policy-making and implementation.