Education is a pivotal issue on the agenda of the country and the Communist Party of China (CPC). Over the past century, under the CPC’s effective leadership, China’s education system has produced a plethora of talents for the revolution, national development and reform. Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, President Xi Jinping has proposed a series of new views and ideas on talent cultivation, providing guidance for educational reform in the new era. Between 2016 and 2020, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council released 46 education-related documents, the greatest number ever during a five-year plan period in China’s history, reflecting the central government’s determination to prioritize educational development. Guided by these documents, the MOE’s Party Leading Group has been leading all those working in the education sector to roll up their sleeves, making unprecedented advances. As a result, China now appears in the mid-to-top range of world education rankings, with the coverage of different education levels reaching or surpassing the average level of middle and high-income countries.
More specifically, huge progress has been made in the following five aspects:
I. Enhancing party leadership over the whole education sector
Consistent and stronger party leadership is essential to national development, including the education system. To date, party leading groups have been established at national, provincial and local levels as well as in each individual education establishments, to ensure full coverage of party leadership. This allows the socialism of Chinese characteristics in the new era – new outcome arising from the adaptation of Marxism to the ever-changing national situation – to be integrated in every facet and stage of education, thus contributing to a stable, harmonious and vigorous society. Meanwhile, efforts have also been taken to root out formalism, bureaucracy and corruption, to create a favorable environment for educational development. Facts have proved that powerful leadership of the CPC was the biggest guarantee for steady, sustainable and quality-oriented development of education.
II. Moving towards a truly well-rounded education
The fundamental task of education is to train talents with high moral values. To this end, moral and political education has been strengthened to nurture patriotism, love of the Communist Party, a sense of national unity, and inculcate greater awareness of core socialist values. In addition, aesthetic, physical and labor education has also been improved at all education levels. Recent surveys on moral and ethical attainments of higher education students revealed wide-reaching belief in party leadership and strong confidence in the country’s future and realization of the Chinese Dream.
III. Improving equity in education
Educational equity is the cornerstone of social equity. As such, more educational resources have been channeled to vulnerable groups and underprivileged regions to develop balanced and quality basic education system so that all students can have an equal opportunity for success. Through concerted efforts, a number of entrenched problems have been solved: dropout rates in compulsory education have been reduced to historic low; the coverage of universal kindergartens exceeded 80%; the facility and supplies in 99.8% of compulsory education schools met basic requirements; 96.8% of counties have ensured balanced compulsory education; “super-size classes” with over 56 students disappeared as school environments were significantly improved in rural areas; and student support systems were improved with nutritious meal plans benefiting over 40.6 million students. Since 2012, nearly 0.7 million students from poverty-stricken areas have been admitted to first-class universities in the country. A survey organized by National Bureau of Statistics showed that people’s satisfaction with education exceeded 85%, evidencing remarkable achievement in enhancing educational equity as a key to smooth vertical mobility.
IV. Furthering reform and increasing international exchange
Recent years have witnessed a number of innovative measures in reforming education evaluation, and school operation and management mechanisms. The first central government guideline on education evaluation was issued to increase channels for faculty promotion instead of focusing only on student scores, rate of admission to higher education programs, academic degrees, papers or titles. Educational administration was further refined by fully implementing decentralization, lean management and efficient service provision. Quality development has been pursued in tertiary education with the introduction of “Double First-Class” universities and disciplines project and the initiative to crack the hard nuts in technological innovation. A variety of measures have also been taken to develop a modernized vocational education system, producing remarkable result: over 70% of newcomers in modern manufacturing, emerging strategic industries and service sectors were graduated from vocational schools.
Moreover, China has established partnerships with 188 countries and regions as well as over 40 major international organizations to increase education cooperation and exchanges. As a result, China is now the world’s biggest source of international students and the biggest destination for international students in Asia.
In future, education reform is expected to be more systematic and holistic to achieve synergy, and international exchange will also be enlarged and enriched to pave the way for quality development.
V. Building a stronger teacher workforce
Teachers are key agents of change in the cultivation of top-notch talents capable of innovation. To sustain the world’s biggest education system, it is important to enhance capacity-building for over 17 million teachers across the country. In this respect, the improvement of teachers’ professional ethics has been prioritized with the establishment of Ten Codes of Conduct for Teachers. Incentive and honorary recognition system has also been improved, giving rise to a number of prominent educators who play exemplary and inspiring roles. Consistent efforts have been taken to increase teacher pay and raise teachers’ social position to attract more outstanding talents to join the teacher workforce. Special position and national training plans have been implemented to support rural teachers.
In conclusion, all these achievements in the field of education could not be possible without the central government’s guidance based on its correct understanding of education and lessons learned from previous practices. To better serve national development in the new era, the MOE’s Party Leading Group will continue to sharpen its perception, enhance decision-making and raise effectiveness in implementation, so as to speed up the development of a high-quality education system, and eventually build China into an education powerhouse to better contribute to national rejuvenation.