On December 22, the MOE held its sixth press conference as part of its 2020 concluding series to review achievements in the opening up of the education sector during the 13th Five-Year Plan (the 13th FYP) period (2016-2020). The event was attended by Liu Jin, Director-General of the MOE’s Department of International Cooperation and Exchanges (Office of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan Affairs), Qin Changwei, Secretary-General of China National Commission for UNESCO, Cheng Jiacai, Director-General of the MOE’s Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange and Wang Yongli, Secretary-General of China Education Association for International Exchange. MOE spokesperson Xu Mei served as moderator at the conference.
Liu Jin said China’s education sector had extended its outreach in the world during the 13th FYP period. Specifically, the following measures were adopted to further open up China’s education sector.
Improving high-level strategic planning
Liu Jin said, China was stepping up efforts to improve its high-level strategic planning for the country’s education development. In May 2020 in particular, the MOE and seven other competent authorities put forward official policies to speed up and enhance the openness of China’s education sector.
Different areas and cities around the country used their own advantages and took different measures: Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area promoted international education cooperation at the higher education level and tried to set an example in this area; Xiong’an City and the Yangtze River Delta made concrete plans to promote education openness; central, western and north-eastern parts of China were also accelerating the opening up of education; Guizhou Province became the permanent host of the annually observed China-ASEAN Education Cooperation Week; and three provinces in north-eastern China and seven provinces in central and western China joined the International Conference on the Cooperation and Integration of Industry, Education, Research and Application.
Providing high quality education to students
During the 13th FYP period, the MOE approved the establishment of 580 China-foreign cooperative educational institutions and projects, among which 356 were above graduate level. The number of current students in graduate-level or above China-foreign cooperative educational institutions surpassed 300,000. China has become a very important cooperation partner for many top universities in the world.
According to Liu Jin, from 2016 to 2019, the number of Chinese students studying abroad and returning after overseas studies were 2.518 million and 2.013 million, respectively. That means 79.9% of Chinese students studying abroad would return to China after their overseas studies.
Cheng Jiacai said, during the past five years, about 80,000 Chinese students were sent to study abroad on government sponsorship. The MOE made great efforts to protect the safety and legitimate rights of these students. Measures included organizing a series of safety awareness raising campaigns, which attracted 11.47 million participants accumulatively.
Wang Yongli pointed out that non-governmental education exchange had seen steady progress. During the 13th FYP period, China deepened cooperation with prestigious education organizations in the world such as American Association of State Colleges and Universities and Group of Eight of Australia. An overseas training program for skilled professionals was launched. Luban Workshop was expanding into a broader alliance. Higher vocational education institutes were establishing branches in foreign countries.
Liu Jin added that the COVID-19 pandemic posed great challenges to China’s education opening up. To tackle these challenges, the MOE, local education authorities, education institutions of all levels and education-related bodies of Chinese embassies and consulates took swift and efficient actions and made commendable achievements. Up to today, none of the teachers and students from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan who studied or worked in Chinese mainland were infected with COVID-19. Also, to better facilitate employment of students whose plans of studying abroad were interrupted by the pandemic, the MOE took the lead to encourage employment expansion. 94 China-foreign cooperative higher educational institutions, agencies and projects thus provided an extra of 3,031 positions for job-seeking students.
Deepening people-to-people and cultural exchange
According to Cheng Jiacai, the MOE’s Service Center for Scholarly Exchange held 22 exhibitions on international students studying in China in 22 cities of more than 10 countries, participated by 460 Chinese education institutions accumulatively.
According to Liu Jin, in 2019, 54.6% of international students studying in China were degree students, up 7 percentage points from 2016. In 2019, 54.1% of international students studying in China came from countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative. In the same year, the total number of Chinese students studying in Russia and Russian students studying in China exceeded 100,000, fulfilling the previously setgoal one year ahead. During the 13th FYP period, China signed 11 agreements on mutual recognition of diplomas and degrees, which involved 54 countries/areas.
Liu said, from 2016 to 2020, more than 400 education institutions were qualified to enrol students from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and among them 225 were qualified to enrol postgraduate students. About 45,000 students from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan studied in higher education institutions in Chinese mainland. More than 2,000 kindergartens, primary and secondary schools in Chinese mainland paired with their foreign counterparts. Also, MOE organized a number of high-level cultural exchange mechanism meetings, and signed 133 agreements on different topics.
During the 13th FYP period, accumulatively 40 million people around the world participated in Chinese language tests such as HSK Test (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi) and YCT (Youth Chinese Test). Liu said this meant Chinese language teaching was now extensively accepted and had a solid foundation. Up to today, 70 countries incorporated Chinese language teaching in their national education systems, and about 25 million people outside of China were learning Chinese.
Promoting global education governance
During the 13th FYP period, China conducted education cooperation with multi-lateral mechanisms such as UNESCO, G20, BRICS, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and Shanghai Cooperation Organization, participating in and leading global education governance.
“As the biggest developing country, China put high priority on international cooperation on poverty alleviation through education. On one hand, China cooperated with UNESCO and other relevant organizations to promote universal access to compulsory education in rural areas, and launch programs to promote teaching quality, and early childhood education and development. On the other hand, China are very willing to share experience and successful stories of poverty alleviation through education.” Liu said.
Qin Changwei said, during the 13th FYP period, China and UNESCO jointly organized many international conferences, including the Second International Conference on ICT for Education (2016), International Conference on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (2017), International Conference “Role of Linguistic Diversity in Building a Global Community with Shared Future” (2018), International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Education (2019) and International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Education (2020). A diversity of topics were covered, such as ICT for Education, artificial intelligence, vocational education and education in the fourth industrial revolution.
Meanwhile, China took an active role in providing international public goods. According to Qin Changwei, from 2016 to 2020, Great Wall Program Scholarships, jointly established by the MOE and UNESCO, sponsored 291 international students from 82 countries to study in China. UNESCO-China-Funds-in-Trust covered 10 African countries, providing financial support for local teacher training and teaching quality improvement.
During the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, China shared to the international community its experience in pandemic containment, extensive online teaching, and support for students’ study at home. China also shared to the world many of its high-quality online education resources and platforms, and provided African countries a number of high-quality online resources for free.
Qin Changwei said, China was a member of SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee and Technical Cooperation Group on SDG 4–Education 2030 Indicators. From 2016 to 2020, China and UNESCO cooperated with Chinese higher education institutions and local governments and jointly established four Category 2 UNESCO Centres, i.e. International Centre for Higher Education Innovation, International Centre for Engineering Education, International Center for UNESCO ASPnet and Teacher Education Centre. Up to now, there are five education related Category 2 UNESCO centres in China.
Liu concluded that China planned to become a leading country in education, and had set clear goals for the 14th Five-Year Plan period. The MOE would continue to promote international cooperation and exchange in education, and build an open and high-quality education system.