On the afternoon of March 7, the Minister of Education Chen Baosheng attended the joint session for education at the second meeting of the 13th CPPCC National Committee, to present the MOE’s accomplishments over the past twelve months and listened to proposals from 12 members on topics of public concern and gave responses.
Achievements in the last year
Chen noted that, of the 810 CPPCC proposals handled by the MOE last year, most had been adopted and were either being implemented or had matured into plans, with only a small number remaining at the research stage.
He then introduced the progress made in various aspects mentioned in those proposals. To support growth in rural teaching workforces, the MOE raised the per student funding for small rural schools with less than 100 students, and facilitated the recruitment of 85,000 teachers to fill special posts and an addition of over 10,000 retired teachers to serve in economically disadvantaged regions. Codes of professional conduct for teachers in preschool, primary, secondary and higher education had been issued with supplemental provisions on penalties. To ensure quality-oriented education, a national campaign targeting extracurricular programs had been launched, in which a total of 400,000 after-school training institutions had been examined with 273,000 found to be non-compliant and urged to take corrective measures. To provide a better framework for the training of science professionals, an updated edition of the program had been prepared targeting seven academic fields: engineering, medicine, agriculture, education, law, journalism and communication and basic research. A revision was underway of the Regulations on the Implementation of the Non-state Education Promotion Law, and related local regulations were also being developed by provincial authorities across the country.
Plans to address both entrenched problems and emerging issues
At this year’s CPPCC National Committee meeting, a number of new topics were proposed, calling for research and investigations. The most prominent was capacity building in higher education institutions for the prevention and mitigation of major risks in political, economic, scientific, social and other areas. Chen responded by recognizing that this was a long-term project requiring nationwide awareness-raising efforts. Other emerging issues included the establishment of an evaluation system for the “double world-class” initiative, education for the elderly, educational cooperation for the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, vocational education for military retirees, the improvement of national defense education, and the enhancement of the state key laboratories to boost significant original research.
During the conversation, new insights were also given into old challenges facing the education system as well. Chen also explained the MOE’s future plans to address these intractable problems.
To better support kindergarten teachers, he stressed the correlation between respect for teachers and teaching quality and the need to reverse the tendency in the society of demonizing teachers because of some outlier incidents, which had a damaging and far-reaching impact on education.
To fill the gap in university teachers in underdeveloped regions, he presented institutional arrangements to be rolled out in three stages: curbing the brain drain, attracting talent from other regions and finally producing qualified graduates locally.
He also explained measures to be taken to raise the quality of higher engineering education, including: further improving professional engineering accreditation system, encouraging domestic accreditation agencies to provide services abroad by building on their successful experiences in recognizing engineering programs of some Russian universities, and promoting Chinese engineering education standards and ensuring them to be internationally acknowledged.
While recognizing the fact that making upper secondary education universal was an uphill battle, Chen nonetheless confirmed his ministry’s determination to work steadily toward the goal, including solving possible hurdles one by one in introducing new curricula.
In response to one CPPCC member’s concern about significant imbalance in government funding for higher education institutions, Chen said that the current investment structure for such establishments was generally reasonable, with the HEIs playing the major role in fund raising supplemented by multiple other financial resources. Work would continue to encourage investment from the private sector and social donations, raise funds for universities in central and western regions, and increase teacher salaries as a share of total educational expenditure.
At the end of the three-hour meeting, Chen extended his gratitude to all CPPCC members present for their insightful comments, and pledged to organize research on all the proposals tabled at the meeting for possible translation into specific measures.