On the afternoon of March 12, the Minister of Education Chen Baosheng received journalists for an interview at the fourth “Minister Corridor” press briefing of the “Two Sessions”, giving detailed responses to questions of public concern.
Topic 1: Student Workload
Minister Chen recognized the new challenges facing the implementation of the “academic burden alleviation” initiative, and stated the MOE’s determination to continue its action against both in-class and after-school training programs that put too much pressure on students.
He said: “We have taken measures in four stages to regulate the after-school training market. First, we have examined a total of 401,000 after-school training institutions, of which 273,000 were found to be non-compliant. Second, we required non-compliant institutions to take corrective action and to date, 98% of them have been brought in line with regulations. Third, the State Council issued Opinions on Regulating the Development of Off-Campus Training Institutions, which sets out specific requirements in terms of the establishment and operation of after-school training agencies. Fourth, we are tightening our supervision efforts to ensure that these agencies continue to improve their services.”
However, he also pointed out a new tendency of some training agencies moving their tutoring classes to schools, and added: “we have noticed this problem, and are now preparing a document on measures to control these practices. The document will soon be released, and before that we will regulate on-campus training services in line with our off-campus measures.”
He further explained that the issue of student overload was caused by multiple factors and thus needed to be addressed from various dimensions, including schools, teachers, parents and the society at large.
He noted that schools must control not only the number of courses and total teaching hours, but also what to be taught and to what extent in each course. He also emphasized the importance of ensuring “zero-start” teaching and cautioned against a prevalent wrong belief that extensive learning before school age can better prepare children for future development. “In fact, only when pupils are pieces of clean white paper, can teachers paint the most beautiful picture on them”, said he wittily.
With regard to the duty of teachers, he remarked that they should strictly follow syllabuses and curricula, assign a reasonable amount of homework, and avoid giving excessive and impossible tasks.
He also advised parents to have reasonable expectations for their children, restraining from setting goals that they themselves cannot achieve, and stressed the need to cultivate a favorable social environment for children’s healthy growth through efforts such as stopping the spread and promotion of misleading educational concepts.
Topic 2: School Safety
A number of incidents involving safety and affecting schools have been reported over recent years, causing public concern. Chen said that reducing the number of safety-related incidents required the concerted effort of all related departments. It was estimated that so far, over 86% of kindergartens, primary and secondary schools had been equipped with security guards and 70% of such establishments had security systems in place that met national standards. These efforts resulted in an annual drop of 10 percent in the number of deaths caused by major accidents and a 15 percent drop in the number of deaths caused by drowning, stampedes and traffic accidents.
Noting that new challenges had emerged before old ones had been resolved, Chen further presented measures to be taken in the next stage: a) enhancing capacity building, infrastructure and institutional mechanisms; b) working with the public security authorities and other relevant parties in rolling out “campus security” actions; and c) establishing an accountability system and strengthening oversight.