Guiding Principles and Action Guide for China’s Education Reform and Development (Extract)

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2011-09-20 13:08
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 The CPC Central Committee and the State Council promulgated the Outline of the National Medium and Long-Term Program for Education Reform and Development (the Outline for Education) as we entered the second decade of the 21st century. The Outline will serve as a significant set of guiding principles and an action guide for the reform and development of education in China over the next decade. Not long ago, the CPC Central Committee convened a national meeting on education to mobilize and make arrangements for the entire Party and all sectors of society to implement the Outline for Education. This is the first national meeting on education that has been held since the turn of the century. General Secretary Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao made important speeches at the meeting, which not only explicitly called for comprehensive efforts to promote the priority development of education by rational means and the development of China as a leading country in terms of human resources, but also detailed the situation and tasks in China’s education reform and development at present and made overall arrangements for the implementation thereof.

  A handicraft worker of the Olunchun ethnic group (left) teaches folk art by invitation of a school for ethnic minority of Olunchun Autonomous Banner in Inner Mongolia (taken May 23, 2008). During the 11th Five-Year Plan period, the government of Inner Mongolia spent more than 10 million yuan for capital construction to develop schools providing education in the Mongolian language for students receiving compulsory education and to launch a program to develop education for ethnic minorities in order to accelerate efforts to build secondary and primary schools for ethnic minorities. / Photo supplied by Xinhua

 Correctly understanding the general requirements for education reform and development in the new century and new stage

 Firstly, we should understand the strategic objectives of China’s education reform and development. In view of the new requirements for attaining the goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, the Outline for Education puts forward the strategic objectives of modernizing education, shaping a learning society and turning China into a leading country in terms of human resources by 2020. In order to modernize education, we need to modernize our concepts, system, curriculum, teaching standards, facilities and methods of education. This reflects the requirements proposed in the report to the 17th CPC National Congress to give priority to the development of education and the modernization of education. To shape a learning society in which every citizen is committed to learning, we need to provide comprehensive, diverse and flexible learning opportunities and platforms to all members of our society that meet the needs for economic and social development as well as the development of the people. This way our society will become one in which citizens are committed to learning and pursue lifelong learning. This is a major objective defined in the reports to the 16th CPC National Congress and the 17th CPC National Congress. To turn China into a leading country in terms of human resources, we need to raise the quality of our human resources to a world- class standard, which will complement the leading edge that we have in the quantity of human resources. This constitutes an important foundation for our initiatives to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects and to turn China into a leading country in terms of talent and innovation. 

 To realize these strategic objectives in China’s education reform and development, we need to make efforts in five aspects. First, we need to further expand the coverage of education. By 2020, the attendance rate in nine-year compulsory education will be 95%; the gross enrollment rate for the first, second and third years of pre-school education will reach 95%, 80% and 70% respectively. Senior secondary education will become essentially universal, with a gross enrollment rate of 90%. The gross enrollment rate in higher education will increase to 40%. Moreover, 50% of employed people will receive further education. The average length of schooling received by the main working population aged 20-59 years will be 11.2 years, while the average schooling for new members of the workforce will be 13.5 years. Second, we need to provide equal education to all of the people. We will gradually achieve unified standards in public education, narrow the gap that exists in education, ensure that every school is well run and that every student is well taught, and guarantee that not a single student loses the right to an education because of a poor family background. Third, we need to provide a more diverse range of quality education. We will promote all-round education, improve the quality of various kinds of education at all levels and continue to modernize education so as to meet the demand for high-quality and diverse education services from all sectors of society and from the public. Fourth, we need to develop a sound system for lifelong education. We will balance the development of credit and non-credit education, tie vocational education in with general education and effectively connect pre-employment training with on-the-job training so as to formulate a system for lifelong education. Fifth, we need to develop a highly dynamic education system. We will deepen reforms and open wider in order to develop a dynamic, effective and more open education system which is more conducive to scientific development and geared towards the socialist market economy and the objective of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects.

 In defining the aforementioned strategic objectives and five requirements for the Outline for Education, we have taken the scale of education in China at present into consideration, estimated the conditions required for national economic and social development and the capacity for the supply of educational resources 10 years into the future, and referenced the development indexes of other countries. With this as a basis, the Outline for Education has rationally summarized the fundamental features of modernized education, defined the system of lifelong education as a fundamental condition for the shaping of a learning society, and established the initiative to turn China into a leading country in terms of human resources as a fundamental objective. The realization of the strategic objectives of education reform and development will provide a major boost to China’s overall national strength and international competitiveness and lay down more solid foundations for the modernization of the country by the middle of this century.

 Secondly, we should understand the guiding principles of education reform and development. In order to ensure the successful accomplishment of the strategic objectives in education reform and development, the Outline for Education defines a set of guiding principles for the future reform and development of education. The principles include giving priority to the development of education, cultivating students, carrying out reform and innovation, promoting equality and improving quality.

 We must regard the cultivation of students as the basic requirement for all initiatives in education. The core of the Scientific Outlook on Development is to put people first. The principle of cultivating students is a specific embodiment of this concept in the field of education. Education is about cultivating people. Therefore, the fundamental objective of the reform of education system should be to improve the quality of our nation and to produce more talent and better talent. In order to cultivate students, we must give priority to the fostering of talent and ensure that this is established as the central task in education initiatives. We must fully implement the Party’s guiding principles on education and make substantive progress in putting people first and promoting all-round education in all respects.

 To cultivate students, we will first need to change our conception of education. We must promote the all-round attainment of students, wherein priority is given to the cultivation of moral integrity, focus is placed on the development of abilities and a balance is established between moral, intellectual, physical and aesthetical development. We must make great efforts to cultivate a sense of duty in students that will drive them to serve the country and the people. Efforts should also be made to cultivate the spirit of innovation and enhance the capacity of students to solve problems in practice. We need to impart knowledge and skills and teach students how to think, how to survive in society and how to conduct themselves as people. We need to nurture builders and successors of socialism that boast all-round attainment in moral, intellectual, physical and aesthetic aspects. We need to establish the notion that talent comes in many forms and that everyone is talented. Education should be tailored to match the traits of its recipients, and we should encourage individual development, teach students to study on their own initiative and create a dynamic environment for learning so that each and every child can reach their potential and serve the country and society in their own way. We need to establish the notion of lifelong education and teach students to pursue lifelong learning independently so that they may take up further education at different stages of their life according to their own will.

 We must regard the enhancement of equality and quality as the two key points of focus in efforts to promote the rational development of education. Equality and quality are the two most important challenges that education in China is facing at the new stage in the new century. Equality in education is an important basis for achieving equality in society in general, and is also the starting point of equality in all aspects of life. Inequality in income may have an impact on a person for a certain period of time, but inequality in education will have an impact on their entire life. Education is a matter of concern for all families, both now and in future generations. Defining equality as the foundation of national education policy is a strategic decision that will promote social equality in the primary stage of socialism, and is also an inevitable step in the development of a harmonious socialist society. It also reflects the principles that schools are there to serve the people and that they should be run to the satisfaction of the people. This is also conducive for the all-round development of the people. The key to equality in education is to ensure equal opportunities, the fundamental requirement is to guarantee the rights of all citizens to an education, the focus is to promote the balanced development of compulsory education and provide support to groups in difficulty, and the fundamental measure is to distribute education resources rationally, wherein resources should be inclined towards rural areas, remote and poverty-stricken areas and ethnic minority areas in a bid to narrow the gap in education at a faster pace. 

 Quality is the lifeline of our initiatives in education and the key to realizing the transition from scale to strength in China’s education system. China already has the largest education system in the world. The main gap that exists between China and developed countries in terms of education lies in quality. Along with the progression of the socialist modernization drive, quality of education will become an increasingly evident issue in China’s shift from a country with abundant human resources to a country with leading human resources and in the transformation of its modes of economic development. Increasing the quality of education will be a permanent initiative, and is urgently required as China seeks to turn itself into a leading country in terms of human resources. Increasing quality should constitute the core of our notions in the development of education, and all-round development should constitute the core in our notions of quality. We must promote the intensional development and distinctive development of various kinds of education at all levels to enhance the cultivation of leading innovative talent.

 We must regard priority development and reform and innovation as the two major assurances for the rational development of education. The priority development of education is a major principle that the Party and State have put forward and remained committed to on a long term basis. It is a precondition for initiatives to promote the rational development of education. Giving priority to the development of education is an essential requirement that conforms to the rules of economic and social development and the cultivation of talent. This has been demonstrated by the successes of late-developing countries, which have caught up with and even surpassed developed countries, and by the continued leading position of developed countries. Specifically, giving priority to education development involves establishing a sound system and mechanisms in accordance with the Outline for Education that ensure education is given priority in the plan for economic and social development, budget funds are used in education first, and public resources are used to satisfy the needs of education and human resources development, so as to allow education to develop faster than other initiatives and better serve the overall socialist modernization drive.

 Reform and innovation are strong forces that can drive on the rational development of education. The development of education depends on reform. Over 30 years ago, education took the lead in the freeing of minds and began to implement the policy of reform and opening up. General reforms in regard to management systems, school operation systems, investment systems, enrollment and employment systems as well as internal management, education and teaching systems in schools provided the foundations for the leapfrog development of education. The experiences of the past 30 years have shown us that we can promote development, drive on the improvement of quality and inject vigor through reform. At present, the development of education has entered a new phase, and the reform of education is nearing the deep end. Emerging situations, issues, and problems that we have never encountered before will require us to further free our minds, seek truth from facts, dispel notions and institutional barriers which hinder education reform and development, continue to push ahead with reforms and innovations and establish systems and institutions which will drive on the rational development of education.

 Fully understanding the basic tasks of education reform and development in the new century and the new stage

 Firstly, we must understand the key tasks for various kinds of education at all levels before 2020. In order to accomplish the strategic objectives of education reform and development by 2020, it is essential that we develop all kinds of education at all levels and define specific tasks in this regard. For this reason, the Outline for Education specifies eight tasks for development. First, we need to actively develop pre-school education and place a particular focus on the development of pre-school education in rural areas. Second, we need to continue to improve the standard of nine-year compulsory education and focus on the establishment of permanent mechanisms to promote the balanced development of compulsory education. Third, we need to move faster toward universal access to senior secondary education. We need to decide upon a rational enrollment ratio between general senior high schools and secondary vocational schools to ensure that new members of the working population are better educated. Fourth, we need to give higher priority to vocational education. We need to develop a sound system for the running of schools which is led by the government, guided by industry and participated in by enterprises, so as to increase the appeal of vocational education. Fifth, we need to comprehensively improve the quality of higher education and boost its capacity to foster talent, engage in scientific research and serve society. We need to optimize the structure of higher education and encourage institutions of higher learning to develop distinctive specialties and areas of excellence so as to accelerate the development of world-class and high quality universities. Sixth, we need to develop further education. We need to take measures such as transferring credit, improving examinations for self-taught students and establishing open universities to build “crossroads” for lifelong learning and promote the development of a learning society. Seventh, we need to emphasize and support the education of ethnic minorities. We need to improve education for ethnic minorities and in ethnic minority areas and make significant efforts in the promotion of bilingual teaching. Eighth, we need to pay close attention and provide support to special education. We need to improve the system of special education and develop a sound mechanism to provide assurance for special education.

 Secondly, we need to fully understand the key areas and aspects in education reform and development. Emphasizing the overall design and implementation of education reforms based on the cultivation of talent, the Outline for Education clearly defines six tasks. First, we need to reform the system of talent cultivation, focusing on updating concepts in cultivation of talent, innovating modes of cultivation of talent and reforming the assessment systems for education quality and talent. Second, we need to reform the system of examinations and enrollment. In line with the principles that the government will oversee management on the macro-level, that schools have the right to make independent decisions on enrollment and that students have the right to make multiple choices, we need to develop a system of examination and enrollment in which entrance examinations are classified according to the type of school, assessment takes account of multiple factors and enrollment is diversified. We need to make efforts to make enrollment a more transparent process and strengthen public monitoring. Third, we need to develop a modern school system with Chinese characteristics. We need to separate government functions from school functions and detach school administration from school operation so as to ensure that schools can operate independently. We will develop a modern school system under which schools are operated according to law, managed independently, subjected to public supervision and participated in by non-government sectors. Fourth, we need to reform the system for the operation of schools. The nature of schools as institutions of public welfare should be emphasized and we should form an educational landscape in which the government plays a leading role, the non-government sectors offer active participation and public and private education develop side by side. Therefore, we need to make great efforts to support the development of private education and administer it according to law. Fifth, we need to reform administration systems by placing the focus on changing the way that the government functions, streamlining administration, and delegating more decision-making power to lower level. We need to develop a system in which administration is separated from schools, rights and responsibilities are defined clearly and education is managed in a standardized and orderly way under overall planning and coordination so as to enhance the standard of public education as a service. Sixth, we need to continue to implement the policy of opening up in education. We need to introduce high-quality education resources, promote the establishment of schools overseas by high-class Chinese education institutions and enhance the level of international exchanges and cooperation in education.

 Thirdly, we need to fully understand the measures to ensure the priority and rational development of education. We must create sufficient conditions and institutions to ensure the priority and rational development of education. For this reason, the Outline for Education defines six measures with regard to personnel, capital and materials, information technology, laws, reform, organization and leadership. First, we need to strengthen our teachers, as teachers are our most important educational resources. We need to improve the management of teachers and increase the social status and incomes of teachers. We need to improve the professional standard of teachers so to develop a contingent of teachers that is characterized by high professional ethnics, high standards, a rational structure and a high level of vigor. We also need to develop a number of educationists. Second, we need to ensure sufficient investment in education. We will continue to improve a system in which the government takes the main responsibility for investment in education and funds will be raised through multiple channels. The expenditure on education from the national budget will account for 4% of the GDP in 2012, and this will continue to increase. Third, we need to speed up the application of information technology. We will set up a national education management information system, strengthen efforts to develop and apply high-quality educational resources and drive on the modernization of education through the application of information technology. Fourth, we need to manage education by law and improve the laws and regulations that underpin education with Chinese characteristics. We need to carry out government duties and run schools according to law, strengthen oversight and guidance on education and enhance accountability systems. Fifth, in view of the overall situation of education reform and development and issues of great concern to the people, the Outline for Education defines 10 trials of reform and 10 tasks of development for the current government to carry out, with the focus being placed on weaknesses and essential areas. Sixth, we need to strengthen and improve leadership of education. Party committees and the government at all levels shall perform their duties in promoting the priority and rational development of education. We need to strengthen and improve the development of the Party in the education system and ensure harmony and stability in education. 

(From Qiushi, Chinese edition, No.17, 2010)

Note:  Author: Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Member of the State Council

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