Following the Socialist Path of Education with Chinese Characteristics

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2013-02-19 10:35
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Education is the cornerstone of national prosperity and social progress, serving as the fundamental means by which we will foster a more cultivated population and promote the all-round development of our people. Education embodies not only the expectations of millions of families for a better future, but also the hopes for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The Chinese government has always attached a great deal of importance to education. Since the Sixteenth National Congress of the CPC in 2002, China has remained committed to following a socialist path of education with Chinese characteristics, ushering in a new phase of scientific development in education.

Ethnic minority students from outlying border regions in Yunnan Province receive gifts from a European diplomat stationed in China. Friis Arne Petersen, the Danish Ambassador to China, chatted with Miao nationality locals from Huangtupo Village during a tour of Yunnan on December 3, 2012. A delegation of diplomats from the seven European countries of Luxembourg, Belgium, Denmark, France, Romania, Switzerland, and Germany arrived at Malipo County in Yunnan Province on December 3 to learn more about efforts to combat poverty and develop education in border regions. Since 1992, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has provided dedicated poverty relief to Malipo County by organizing and implementing a series of projects to aid the area. / Photo by Xinhua reporter Chen Haining

I. The socialist path of education with Chinese characteristics prioritizes the development of education 

With the increasingly fierce competition between countries and the extremely rapid advances in science and technology that we are seeing in today’s world, human resources have become a strategic resource driving forward economic and social development, while talent has become a crucial determinant of national competitiveness. In the face of increasingly fierce challenges, only by prioritizing the development of education will we be able to take the lead in the development of human resources and succeed in fostering highly capable workers in the hundreds of millions, dedicated talent in the tens of millions, and cutting-edge innovators in large numbers. By turning a heavy population burden into a human resource advantage, we will be able to lay down the solid base of skilled manpower and intellect that we will need to promote the scientific development of our economy and society. On the basis of this realization, China has identified the strategies of reinvigorating the nation through science and education and strengthening the nation through the development of human resources, and made overall plans to prioritize the development of education and establish China as a country with leading human resources. As a part of these designs, it has promulgated the Outline of the National Plan for the Medium and Long-Term Reform and Development of Education (2010-2020), which stipulates that education must be prioritized in plans for social and economic development, that spending in education must be prioritized in the use of budgetary funds, and that satisfying needs in education and human resource development must be prioritized in the allocation of public resources.

Since the Sixteenth National Congress of the CPC in 2002, China has effectively implemented its plans to prioritize the development of education. Firstly, the goal of raising government expenditure in education to 4% of the GDP is in the process of being achieved. Secondly, the development of preschool education has been accelerated. From 2002 to 2011, the number of kindergartens across the country increased by 54,200, and the number of children attending kindergarten increased by 13.88 million, significantly making up for our deficiencies in preschool education. Thirdly, a historical leap forward has also been made in compulsory education. By the year 2011, we had essentially achieved the universal coverage of nine-year compulsory education and eradicated illiteracy among young and middle-aged people in all of China’s 31 provinces (including autonomous regions and municipalities), as well as in the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. In addition, rapid progress has been made towards achieving the universal coverage of senior middle school education, with the gross enrollment rate increasing from 42.8% in 2002 to 84.0% in 2011. Fourthly, major breakthroughs have been made in the development of vocational education, with the number of students attending secondary vocational education and advanced vocational education accounting for half of all students in senior middle school education and higher education respectively. Fifthly, the accessibility of higher education has been further increased, with gross enrollment rate in higher education going from 15% in 2002 to 26.9% in 2011. In 1998, there were twice as many university students in India as there were in China; but by 2007, there were twice as many university students in China as there were in India. In 2010, the number of college-educated (junior college and above) people in China totaled at 119 million. Moreover, the number of college-educated people per hundred thousand people increased from 3,611 in the year 2000 to 8,930 in the year 2010. This indicates that China has successfully made the transition from a country with a large population to a country with a large supply of human resources, and that it is striding towards its goal of becoming a country with leading human resources.

Experience has demonstrated that no cause has a more fundamental bearing on the future prospects of our country and people than education. Prioritizing the development of education is both a major principle that the Party and the government have adhered to on a long-term basis, and also our primary task in following a socialist path of education with Chinese characteristics. Therefore, in order to give full play to the guiding role that education plays as a foundation in the overall cause of the Party and the government, we must clearly define the responsibilities of the government in the development and administration of education, implement the strategy of prioritizing the development of education, and realize the balanced development of education, economy and society. 

II. The socialist path of education with Chinese characteristics emphasizes reform and innovation 

Despite the major achievements that have been made, China’s education system is not yet able to fully satisfy requirements of the country’s social and economic development or meet the public demand for quality education. At present, the systems and mechanisms that we employ in education are in need of improvement; there is a lack of vigor in the running of schools; the structure of education is not optimal; and the layout of educational resources is imbalanced. The fundamental means by which we must resolve these problems, and thereby achieve the scientific development of education, are reform and innovation. In line with the principle that the development of education is for the people, dependent on the people, and beneficial to all the people, the Chinese government has introduced both overall guidelines and specific measures for reform and innovation in education. With regard to deepening the reform of the education system, we have emphasized that the key is embracing new concepts in education; that the core task is redesigning the system by which we cultivate talent; and that the ultimate goal is increasing standards in the fostering of talent. Placing our focus on the creation of new systems and mechanisms, we have highlighted the need to further reform our systems for the appraisal of teaching quality and talent, the running of schools, and the administration of education, so as to develop modern education with Chinese characteristics.

Since the Sixteenth National Party Congress, the central government has placed a stronger emphasis on the top-level design of reform and innovation in education. On this basis, we have implemented a series of major projects and trials aimed at deepening reforms pertaining to teaching, examination and enrollment, modern schools, school operation and administration, and the further opening up of education. Firstly, we have gradually developed systems for the administration of compulsory education, vocational education, and higher education. Compulsory education is primarily administered by county level governments under the coordinated planning of provincial authorities and the overall leadership of the State Council; vocational education is administered on a tiered basis under the overall leadership of the State Council, with local governments playing a primary role under the supervision of higher levels of government, and non-governmental participation also being involved; and higher education is administered by the central government and provincial governments, with the latter playing the main role. Secondly, we have brought the relationship between the government and schools under clearer guidelines, and established mechanisms allowing schools to manage their own affairs, seek their own development, and impose their own constraints in accordance with the law. Thirdly, we have encouraged non-governmental participation in the running of schools, creating a model under which private schools and public schools are able to develop side by side, with public schools representing the mainstay. Fourthly, in an effort to progressively promote the reform of systems for expenditure in education, we have strengthened government obligations in public education through the establishment and gradual improvement of a fiscal system for the funding of public education, and also reformed mechanisms for the sharing of expenses in non-compulsory education. This has allowed us to create a system in which compulsory education is funded entirely by the government, while non-compulsory education is funded primarily by the government but also with funds raised through multiple channels. Fifthly, we have strengthened international cooperation and exchanges in order to open up our education system across a wide range of disciplines and on multiple levels. This has resulted in the simultaneous growth of Chinese students travelling abroad for study and international students coming to China for study.

III. The socialist path of education with Chinese characteristics promotes fairness in education

Having a direct bearing on millions of families and being of benefit to our future generations, education is one of the greatest concerns of the public. China has always identified fairness an important goal of its efforts to develop education. Fair education for the benefit of all is not only the strong desire of the public, but also the ideal that China is striving towards in the reform and development of education. The Chinese government has identified the promotion of fairness as the fundamental national policy on education, with a view to preserving the nature of education as a public privilege to be enjoyed universally. In constantly enhancing our efforts to promote fairness in education, the key task is to promote equal opportunities in education, the fundamental means of action is to allocate educational resources rationally, the basic requirement is to safeguard the right to education that all citizens have by law, and the focus is on promoting the uniform development of compulsory education and subsidizing students from impoverished families. The government, which assumes the main responsibility for ensuring fairness in education, must promote fairness through development, through reform, and through policy support, with a view to satisfying the ever-growing public demand for diverse education on multiple levels. We need to strive to promote fairness in the allocation of public education resources, so as to close the gap in the development of education between different schools, between urban and rural areas, and between different regions. We need to improve state assistance in education and address the issue of schooling for special needs groups, so as to ensure that all people have the opportunity to receive a quality education. We also need to push for fair rules in education, comprehensively promote the governance of education and schools in accordance with the law, and maintain a commitment to safeguarding fairness in education through standardized practices in administration.

Since the Sixteenth National Party Congress, China has made major advances towards fairness in education. We have achieved the free provision of nine-year compulsory education throughout the entire country, benefiting over 160 million children. We have put in place a system for the subsidization of students from impoverished families at different stages of education. Subsidizing nearly 180 million students every year, this system ensures that not a single student loses the privilege to an education due to an impoverished family background. We have also launched a program to improve the nutrition of 26 million rural students in compulsory education, and have basically ensured access to compulsory education for the children of rural migrant workers in cities. Moreover, we have tilted public education resources towards rural areas, outlying poverty-stricken areas, and ethnic minority areas, thereby bringing the major indices of education development in western regions and ethnic minority areas closer to the national average. In addition, we have established a framework for the provision of basic public education services in urban and rural areas, and made progressive advances towards the realization of uniform standards in basic public education services. We have also effectively guaranteed the rights of disabled people to receive education.

IV. The socialist path of education with Chinese characteristics aims to raise standards of quality

In light of China’s current stage of modernization and international trends in the development of education, the time has come when we must identify the improvement of quality as the core task in the reform and development of education. The Chinese government has set forth an overall framework for increasing the quality of education in line with global trends in the development of education: first, we need to develop a scientific approach to the concept of quality in education. We hereby need to identify the raising of quality standards as the core task of reform and development in education, and continue to strike a balance between increasing the scale of our education system and improving standards of quality, with the focus being the intension development of education. Second, we need to improve the systems we employ to guarantee the quality of education. In this effort, we need to speed up the application of information technology in education, channel educational resources and efforts in school towards the enhancement of teaching and the improvement of quality, and establish administrative systems and working mechanisms that are oriented towards increasing the quality of education. Third, we need to rely closely on teachers, and make efforts to build a vigorous, well-structured, and highly-capable contingent of professional teachers with fine teaching ethics and honed teaching skills, thereby providing a substantial base of talent to underpin and guarantee the improvement of the quality of education.

Since the Sixteenth National Party Congress, China has formulated an overall strategy for increasing the quality of education. We have further improved the quality system for the cultivation of talent by establishing national quality standards for education and creating a system for the monitoring and appraisal of teaching quality. This has helped us to promote standardization in compulsory education, diversity in senior middle education, and specialization in higher education. Centering on the cultivation of talent, schools have deepened the reform of teaching and learning by introducing new concepts, modes, methods, and means of teaching as well as new methods of study, so as to raise standards in the cultivation of talent. We have implemented a policy of tuition-free education in teacher-training schools and a national program to train primary and middle school teachers, with the emphasis being placed on teachers in rural areas. As a result, the proportion of rural primary school teachers educated to the level of junior college or above increased from 63.4% in 2007 to 78.6% in 2011, whereas the proportion of rural junior middle school teachers with undergraduate degrees or higher increased from 41.4% in 2007 to 62.8% in 2011. The capacity of education to serve economic and social development has been constantly enhanced. The rate of scientific research achievements in universities that are applied in industry has been further increased, giving play to the supporting and leading role of universities in developing the national innovation system and raising the core competitiveness of industries. Being home to over 80% of research personnel and achievements in philosophy and the social sciences throughout the country, universities have played an even more important role as a think tank and a source of ideas for theoretical innovation and the formulation of major national strategies.

Experience tells us that while scale is a necessary foundation, quality is the key to transforming China from a country with a large education system to a country with a strong education system, and from a country with abundant human resources to a country with leading human resources. Increasing standards of quality is the core task in the reform and development of education, and the fundamental principle in following the socialist path of education with Chinese characteristics. We must base our approach to the development of education around the improvement of quality, continue to balance the relationship between scale and quality, lay emphasis on the intension development of education, and constantly promote the scientific development of education.


(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No.12, 2012)

Author: Minister of Education of the People’s Republic of China

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