On December 24, the Ministry of Education (MOE) held the seventh of its 2020 press conference series reviewing the country’s achievements in textbook system development during the 13th Five-Year Plan (the 13th FYP) period (2016-2020). Attendees to the event included Tian Huisheng, Director General of the MOE’s Textbook Bureau, Shen Jiliang, Level I Counsel at the MOE’s Textbook Bureau, Song Yi, Level I Counsel at the MOE’s Department of Higher Education, and Wang Yangnan, Director General of the MOE’s Central Institute for Vocational and Technical Education. MOE spokesperson Xu Mei served as moderator at the conference.
Tian said that, to facilitate the modernization of the textbook system, the MOE had innovated and made breakthroughs in five textbook-related mechanisms: the leadership and working mechanism, planning and management mechanism, quality control mechanism, resources support mechanism, and the new textbook development mechanism.
Establishment of sound institutional mechanisms
In July 2017, the National Textbook Committee (NTC) was established, consisting of one director who is also a leader of the State Council, 22 members from the central government, and 26 expert members. The Committee was mandated to give guidance on and coordinate textbook development around the country. “Its establishment means that a leadership mechanism was set up at the national level to enhance the unified management of textbook development,” explained Tian.
He also said that educational authorities at different levels had optimized their own textbook management mechanisms during the 13th FYP period: the MOE had integrated the textbook management function of its five departments and established the Textbook Bureau – a stand-alone organization to handle all textbook-related matters and serve as the NTC’s office; half of provincial educational authorities had also set up specialized textbook management units. In addition, professional support for textbook development was also enhanced with the establishment of a number of research institutions: a textbook research institution under the MOE, and major research organizations serving as textbook development think tanks created by qualified Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) (the initial 11 such organizations built by Peking University, Tsinghua University and other HEIs were put into operation in 2019).
Tian noted that, during the same period, a textbook working mechanism had also been put in place and improved to incorporate decision making, execution, research and counselling, which aims to strengthen consolidated coordination as well as interaction and cooperation between educational authorities at different levels and education institutions.
The textbook planning and management mechanism had been established with the issuance of a series of documents, i.e. the National Teaching Material Development Plan for Higher, Secondary and Primary Education Institutions (2019-2022), representing the first overall planning for the textbook development across the board and in all disciplines since 1949; and four methods with regard to textbook management in primary and secondary education, vocational education, higher education, and the selection of overseas materials, respectively. These methods specify the management requirements in various areas such as the compilation, amendment, approval, publishment, selection and use of textbooks. A national award system was also set up to motivate textbook development efforts and improve their overall quality.
Tian added that more management methods were planned concerning digital teaching materials, materials related to ethnic minority languages, and extracurricular tutorial and reading materials. The implementation of the existing methods was integrated into the evaluation system of provincial governments and HEIs and would be further subject to specialized inspection.
Tightening quality control of textbooks before their entry into classrooms
A quality control mechanism has been established covering the development, assessment and selection of textbooks, to ensure that they follow the right political direction, highlight moral values, and are science-based and reflect cutting-edge domain expertise.
More specifically, according to Tian, the requirements and qualifications for textbook development were specified, emphasizing well-rounded education. Evaluation teams comprised of experts were set up and the evaluation mechanism were improved to include five steps, namely the assessment of political direction, professional quality, and themes and subjects, and integrated and comparative review, each complete with rigorous criteria and procedures. Clarifications were also provided on who can take charge of textbook selection for use in classrooms, and the relevant principles and procedures.
Tian also introduced the increase in the support for textbook development, especially in terms of financial resources. A central government funding mechanism was established to steadily raise investment in textbook development, focusing on textbooks aimed for nationwide application through unified compilation, textbooks in dire need, and basic research on textbook development. Local educational authorities and individual education establishments were required to guarantee adequate funding for textbook development. Publishing organizations were also encouraged to increase spending on the research, development and compilation of various textbooks.
Textbook modification and introduction of new textbooks
According to incomplete statistics, a total of 190,000 different textbooks were put in use across the country, including nearly 10,000 for basic education, 80,000 for vocational and continuing education, and 100,000 for higher education. Tian said that, during the 13th FYP period, overall planning of textbook development covering all education levels had been bolstered to improve the adaptiveness of textbooks to the new era and their capability of enlightenment and dissemination of moral values.
Tian noted that textbooks in use at different education levels were being modified to integrate the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era. Compiled through unified organization, the textbooks on three subjects – morality and rule of law, Chinese language and history – for both compulsory and upper secondary education had been put into use and were expected to cover all grades across the country by 2025. A multi-stakeholder cooperative development model was also established for vocational education, involving school backbone teachers, experts in the industry and senior technical staff of enterprises, to ensure textbooks have rich and up-to-date content that can reflect relevant standards in the industry and enterprises and requirements for diploma-certificate integration. Major progress had been made in the production of textbooks in philosophy and social sciences under the guidance of Marxism. The MOE organized the compilation of 96 such textbooks, and to date, two thirds of these books were published and put into use.
Finally, Tian pledged that, in the next stage, the ministry would further pool all possible resources to promote textbook development in the new era, so as to facilitate the establishment of a high-quality education system suitable for the cultivation of well-rounded talents.