At its first press conference of 2021 held on January 27, the MOE released documents on deepening reforms to promote teacher development and readjust the professional title system in HEIs, and introduced an evaluation for the implementation of the Opinions on Deepening the Reform of Teacher Development in All Respects for the New Era and developments of state-level innovation teams for teachers and teaching in vocational education. Officials present included Ren Youqun, Director-General of the MOE’s Department of Teacher Education, Liu Dongmei, Vice Director-General of the Administrative Department of Technological Professional under the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security (MOHRSS), Yu Fayou, Deputy Dean and Researcher of the National Institute of Education Sciences (NIES), and Gao Xijun, Party Secretary of Beijing Polytechnic College (BPC), and MOE spokesperson Xu Mei served as moderator at the event.
Though China has made great leaps in the development of its teacher workforce, the creation of a high-quality teacher workforce still requires concentrated effort. To this end, according to Ren Youqun, during the 14th Five-year Plan period, the MOE planned to continue removing deep-rooted institutional barriers to teacher development.
1. Comprehensive and systematic planning for HEI teacher development
Ren elaborated on the very first document for HEI teacher development issued since the 18th CPC National Congress, Guiding Opinions on Strengthening Reform in HEI Teacher Capacity Building for the New Era. The document stressed the need to put political awareness and moral integrity at the core of teacher capacity building, and normalize and mainstream teacher morality as an essential part of teacher training and evaluation. It also required a higher bar for entry into the teaching profession, by putting in place a well-designed reporting and exposure mechanism for violations of Teacher Ethics Code and utilizing the National Criminal Database, and a more completed management system for political awareness raising in HEI teachers.
In addition, more rigorous and targeted measures will be necessary to solve existing issues in HEI teacher development.
Ren stated that the Guiding Opinions called for reforms in the four key areas related to teacher employment: officially budgeted posts, professional titles, remuneration, and reform of HEI human resource systems. He added that follow-up action in reforming teacher evaluation would be key to the overall reform process, including the establishment of a review and feedback mechanism featuring graded evaluation results, improvement in the assessment system for teaching quality, and larger weights given on teaching efficacy in evaluations of work performance and professional titles.
To promote capacity building of HEI teachers and reinforce institutional assurance, the Guiding Opinions also emphasized on the optimization of teacher education and training, creation of a platform for HEI teacher development, enhanced support to training of young teachers, incentives for HEIs to expand their post-doctoral training programs, and building of a multi-channel pipeline of young talent.
“We encourage HEIs to take bold moves, making exceptional promotions of talented young teachers, and adopting every method to deal with their concerns and support their development,” said Ren.
When introducing the Guiding Opinions on Deepening the Reform of Professional Title System for Teachers in Higher Education, the Vice Director-General of MOHRSS’ Administrative Department for Technological Professionals, Liu Dongmei explained that, HEIs would have the autonomy to set up new positions in the light of their specific needs, while maintaining the current structure of faculty positions, and that HEIs were required to focus more on teachers’ moral and professional capacity in evaluations and implement categorical grading based teacher evaluations in accordance with their own strengths and needs.
Liu added that, HEIs would have the authority to evaluate and determine professional titles of their own teachers, using evaluation methods and operational schemes of their own design. Some universities and colleges, if possible, could explore reforms of the employment system, by setting up such positions as assistant professors.
2. Development of high-caliber vocational education teachers with industry experience
Since it was selected in 2019 as one of the state-level innovation teams for teachers and teaching in vocational education, the Mechatronics Technology teaching team of BPC has achieved remarkable success: ten technology service projects, ten national patents, training offered to 9,000 teachers, and more.
BPC’s Party Secretary Gao Xijun said, “In the past two years, our team has been working hard in the field of industrial robot application and maintenance and made solid progress in all aspects of capacity building, from the team composition, to curriculum reform and modular teaching methods, and to the development of a cooperation community.”
The Program on the Development of State-level Innovation Teams for Teachers and Teaching in Vocational Education issued by the MOE in May 2019 put top priority on majors in vocational education that are related to key strategic industries or can meet the urgent need in public services. It called for the building of 360 high-standard, structured state-level teams within 3 years or so, which could meet practical teaching and training needs at vocational schools and colleges.
According to Ren Youqun, the first innovation teams that have been established so far are distributed across the country, involving 122 vocational schools and colleges in 27 provinces, autonomous regions or municipalities directly under the central government. These teams demonstrated the ongoing efforts to build a high-quality vocational teacher workforce featuring teachers with a “double qualification”, as part of the reform in vocational education.
For example, the innovation teams have centered their activities around five tasks. (1) Training for all: over 35,000 persons in total have been organized to receive training in 18 selected training centers, Tsinghua University included. (2) Training online: thematic training for teams have also been organized online by Tongji University and BPC, covering accumulatively more than 30,000 trainees. (3) Multi-party collaboration: 19 communities in different fields have been founded and have conducted over 600 joint research projects. (4) Research topics: 123 key research topics have been designated, which helped 122 higher vocational education institutions incorporate occupational skill standards into their courses. (5) Exemplary demonstration: in accordance with local conditions, vocational schools and colleges nationwide have set up 229 provincial-level innovation teams, 1,200 school innovation teams and 40 plus provincial cooperative communities.
3. Significant advancement in the development and reform of the teacher workforce
In 2020, the average proportion of university Party secretaries assuming leading roles in both a Party committee capacity and in academic research exceeded 80% across the country. From 2018 to 2019, the average per-student funding for teacher training university students in 9 provinces under monitoring increased by 7.4%, while the number of people who took the teacher qualification certificate examination rose by 38.5%.
At the press conference, NIES’ Deputy Dean and Researcher Yu Fayou introduced third-party assessment results for the implementation of the Opinions on Deepening the Reform of Teacher Development in All Respects for the New Era.
In the past three years, an assessment group analyzed reports from 31 provincial-level regions, key monitoring data of 9 provinces and their 51 districts and counties, and more than 10,000 teacher surveys, and then produced an assessment report.
“The assessment report indicates significant advancement in the development and reform of teacher workforce in the new era,” said Yu. As shown in the report, the Party’s leadership has been strengthened in all aspects of teacher capacity building, while teachers’ morality has largely improved. At the same time, big strides have been made in the integrated reform of teacher education, along with further optimization of teacher management and greater input into the development of teachers, making the teaching profession more appealing.
Statistics also reveals that, the percentage of students with scores in the top 30% of all those taking the national college entrance exam, who went on to choose teaching related majors, grew from 18.3% in 2018 to 33.4% in 2019. “We have seen increasing competition for teaching positions, and it has become normal in certain places to see dozens of people compete for a single position,” commented Yu.
In response to the shortcomings in teacher workforce development, he talked about the next steps to be taken, such as improving the accountability of local government Party committees, especially the political responsibilities of provincial Party committees, in teachers’ capacity building, building a high-quality teacher education system, and deepening the integrated reform of teacher management, with a view to reducing workload for teachers and developing a long-term mechanism easing pressure on teachers.