A strong nation requires quality education，and quality education is a prerequisite for national development.
In July 2010, China announced its Outline of China’s National Plan for Medium and Long-term Education Reform and Development (2010-2020) (hereinafter referred to as the Plan, presenting a blueprint for achieving the modernization of education in the next 10 years in accordance with China’s overall strategy of reform and opening up and socialist modernization.
This is China’s first national plan for medium and long-term education reform and development since the beginning of the 21st century. It is of decisive significance for our effort to build a learning society, develop human resources, improve people’s living standard and make China a prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious modern socialist country.
China’s education standing at a new historical point
Thinking strategically and with foresight, the central government has presented a blueprint for China’s education reform and development for the next 10 years.
Education is the cornerstone of our national development and social progress. It is the fundamental way to improve the overall quality of our population and promote the all-round development of the people. Education carries the hope of hundreds of millions of Chinese families for a better life.
Since the founding of New China, the Chinese government has always attached great importance to education. For more than 6 decades, and especially in the last 3 decades of reform and opening up, we have made unremitting efforts to explore a path of educational development with Chinese characteristics in this large developing country of 1.3 billion people. We have scored remarkable achievements from various aspects—establishing the world's largest education system to ensure the people’s right to education, universalizing free compulsory education in urban and rural areas, promoting the rapid development of vocational education, popularizing higher education, achieving equal access to education and improving educational quality. The continuous development of our education has greatly improved the overall quality of our population, promoted scientific and technological innovation and cultural prosperity and facilitated China’s efforts to build itself into a country with rich human resources.
Since the 21st century, China has accelerated its efforts in educational reform and development. As a result, education in rural areas has been strengthened, vocational education rapidly developed, higher education popularized, and the quality of teachers noticeably improved. The development of education has played a significant, irreplaceable role in contributing to our economic development, social progress and the improvement of people's livelihood.
As we approach the second decade of the new century, we must work harder to turn China into an educationally advanced country with rich human resources. This is the only way to achieve the future development of the Chinese nation.
In March 2008, im mediately after the conclusion of the NPC and CPPCC annual sessions, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao both gave important instructions, calling for the drafting of a medium and long-term education plan and listing this work as a priority for the new Administration.
President Hu Jintao talked about the significance of formulating the Plan and promoting educational reform and development, emphasizing that the government and the whole country must work hard to develop education, focus on reform and innovation, promote equality, improve quality and facilitate the scientific development of education at this historic stage in order to speed up the process of building China into an educationally-advanced country rich in human resources.
Important guidelines were laid out by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council regarding the guiding principles, strategic goals, overall missions and major policy measures for China’s educational reform and development in the next 10 years, pointing out the directions for the drafting of the Plan:
Educational development should be future-oriented. It is not only necessary to solve pressing problems and meet practical needs, but also necessary to look into the future and clearly understand our long-term objectives and tasks; it is not only necessary to train human resources to meet our present development needs, but also necessary to train more talents for our economic and social development in the future.
Educational development should focus on providing human resources to meet the need of economic and social development and overall improvement in the quality of our population. Fundamentally speaking, a country’s development and prosperity hinge on the quality of its population while education is the key to improving the overall quality of the population.
Educational development should live up to the public’s ever growing expectation for more and better education. Through years of efforts, we have made school education available, but “quality education” is still a problem. To achieve equal access, we must work hard to provide more, better and fairer education opportunities for our people.
Educational development requires further reform. It is not a simple question of an increase in quantity, but should rather entail a focus on quality. The fundamental path to achieving scientific development of education lies in reform and innovation. Reform should be further deepened in areas like training, examination and enrollment, school administration and management.
Under the leadership of the central government, a leading group headed by Premier Wen Jiabao was set up on August 29, 2008 to oversee the formulation of the Plan. Meanwhile, a working group was set up to undertake specific drafting tasks. Eleven thematic panels were formed, involving nearly 2,000 people and more than 500 scholars and experts. The State Council also invited over 100 high-level experts in various fields from the NPC, CPPCC, democratic parties, schools at various levels, research institutions, enterprises, and overseas universities to serve as consultants. Nine regional planning panels representing the eastern, central and western regions and 7 sub-panels for educational planning were set up.
With careful planning and arrangement, the formulation work unfolded in a comprehensive and orderly manner.
Asking for public opinion and feedback
The formulation work has been carried out entirely under the direct leadership of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. It represents the wisdom of the whole nation.
The formulation work took nearly two years. It would not have been possible without the direct leadership of our central government, the active participation of all social sectors and the advice and suggestions from experts and scholars.
In the process, President Hu Jintao made important instructions on some major issues regarding our education reform and development in the next 10 years. He emphasized that we should give priority to education, strive to raise the proportion of national fiscal expenditure on education to 4% of total GDP, build China into a country with rich human resources, promote equal access to education and do whatever we could to address issues of public concern.
To know more about the people’s education concern, President Hu Jintao visited many schools. In June 2009 he visited Liaoyuan Special School for Disabled Students in the city of Harbin during his official tour of Heilongjiang Province. He met with students suffering from mental disabilities and wished them a happy and healthy life. When reviewing the draft Plan, he stressed that attention should be given to special education. As a result, the Plan devoted a chapter, Chapter 10, to "special education" under section “Development Tasks”.
Other top Chinese leaders like Premier Wen Jiabao also paid intensive attention to the formulation of the Plan and offered valuable suggestions.
It has always been a fine tradition of the Chinese government to make decisions in a scientific, democratic manner and listen to the voices of the people. This is also an important guarantee for the drafting of a national education plan to the satisfaction of our people and in line with our national conditions and features of the present time.
The central government have made it clear that education is a major issue of public concern in China and the planners should be open-minded and listen to views from all social sectors, especially from principals, teachers, students and parents. All plans and some major problems should be widely discussed among the public in an effort to seek consensus. The whole process should become one with public participation and agreement.
The draft was made public for comments twice.
In early 2009, the draft was made public for comments for the first time.
It went through two phases. In the first phase the public was encouraged to make comments on major issues about education. People of all walks of life expressed their views through various channels. Over 14,000 letters were received and more than 2.1 million proposals were put forward. In the second phase 20 major issues were shortlisted and were made public for comments. These issues were of high public concern and the proper handling of them would have significant impact on the overall reform and development of education. They fell into 4 categories, namely, strengthening education in rural areas, deepening teaching and management reform, resolving prominent issues in education of all types at all levels and guaranteeing education funding.
Letters, phone calls, and proposals not only carried the new hopes of the whole nation for educational reform and development, but also new ideas for further improvement of the Plan.
By January 2010, after more than a year of effort, the formulation work had made noticeable headway and the second round in the solicitation of public opinion began.
The public responded quickly. Comments and suggestions came from people of all age groups. Within one month, 27, 855 comments were received, involving issues such as preschool education, the balanced development of compulsory education, college entrance examination reform, college management reform, funding increase for education, teacher training and so on. Many comments and suggestions were thought- provoking, insightful, targeted and helpful for the revision and improvement of the draft Plan.
From January 11th to February 6th 2010, Premier Wen Jiabao chaired 5 meetings to discuss topics like higher education, vocational education, basic education, education management and public opinion on the issue. At the meetings, he talked with over 50 representatives from various sectors and listened to their opinions and suggestions. At the fifth meeting, he invited parents, middle school students, farmers, workers, migrant workers and free-lancers to discuss education-related problems.
Every suggestion and letter carried the aspiration and wisdom of the people. After careful going through all of them, the draft Plan was revised. Seventy-two major changes were made to help the Plan better comply with the relevant laws and reflect our national need for scientific development.
The whole of Chinese society welcomed the participatory approach adopted during the formulation of the Plan, and considered it a manifestation of the confidence and determination of the central government to develop education to the satisfaction of the people and to turn China into a nation rich in human resources. The formulation phase of the Plan has greatly promoted our educational reform and development.
Through open discussion, the reform objectives became better understood and a consensus was reached.
On April 15 and May 5 2010, Premier Wen Jiabao chaired the meeting of the National Science, Technology and Education Leading Group and the State Council executive meeting to discuss and review the draft Plan.
On May 27 and June 21 2010, President Hu Jintao, as General Secretary of the CPC Party, chaired two meetings of the Political Bureau to scrutinize and subsequently adopt the Plan. The two meetings spoke highly of the Plan, saying it was a worthy document of strategic importance.
An action plan reflecting our concept of scientific development
The Plan contains a series of important policy measures that respond to the needs and wishes of the people.
A strong nation depends heavily on first-class education and first-class human resources.
The recently concluded National Conference on Education Work, the first of its kind in the 21st century, called for the further promotion of educational reform and development. It urged the whole government and the whole nation to fully implement the Outline of China’s National Plan for Medium and Long-term Education Reform and Development (2010-2020), giving priority to educational development, promoting the scientific development of education, building China into a country with rich human resources, and providing human resource support for our effort to build a reasonably prosperous society and achieve socialist modernization.
The Plan consists of a preamble, four sections, and implementation measures. It consists altogether of 22 chapters, 70 articles and contains approximately 27,000 Chinese words. According to the Plan, the guiding policy for our education work is "prioritizing development, educating people, reform and innovation, promoting equality, improving quality". It proposes the strategic goal of realizing basic educational modernization by 2020, building a learning society, and turning China into a country with rich human resources. The Scientific Development Concept is the overarching principle in the Plan.
The Plan focuses on accelerating education development.
To achieve the scientific development of education at this new historical point, we must give priority to educational development. The Plan clearly identifies three priorities: to give priority to education in our economic and social development planning; to give priority to education funding in our fiscal expenditure; and to give priority to educational and human resource development in public resources allocation. The Plan pledges a substantial increase in education funding, promising to raise the proportion of national fiscal education expenditure to 4% of total GDP by 2012 and to ensure the steady growth of this proportion in the future.
The Plan is forward-looking.
Another important priority in the achievement of scientific development must be the students themselves. According to the Plan, our education reform and development should always be student-oriented and focused on quality education. We must follow the education policy of the central government and answer questions such as what kind of people our schools should produce and how. We must adopt a learner-centred approach, promote overall development of the students and help them develop a sense of social responsibility, innovative spirit and good problem-solving skills.
The Plan is relevant to the ongoing reform.
To promote the desired development, we must adhere to reform and innovation. According to the Plan, we must deepen our educational and teaching reform, pay close attention to systemic design and overall arrangement of the reform, and speed up progress in major reform areas and components. Reform is the driving force to boost development, improve quality, increase vitality, and further eliminate systemic and institutional obstacles that hamper our education development and innovation.
The Plan addresses issues of public concern.
For the successful implementation of development, we must promote education equality. According to the Plan, education should be non-profit making and benefit the general public. Equal access to education is our basic education policy and an important tool to promote social equality. Equal access is the key to education equality. To achieve equality, we must make sure that every individual citizen has a legitimate right to education. We must focus our work on promoting the balanced development of compulsory education and give special support to the poor. One fundamental strategy is the rational allocation of educational resources.
The Plan is practical and realistic.
In the promotion of the scientific development of education, we must pay attention to educational quality. According to the Plan, to improve education quality is of great significance for China’s effort to build itself into a country with quality education and rich human resources. We should take quality improvement as the core of educational reform and development and put it at the top of our agenda, adopt an educational development concept focusing on quality, but paying equal attention to quantity and stressing the development of educational content.
Education carries the hope of hundreds of millions of Chinese families for a better life. Every measure contained in the Plan is a positive response to this public concern.
To address the problem of the "kindergarten crunch", the Plan proposes to boost the development of public-funded kindergartens while giving support to private kindergartens.
To address the problem of "heavy homework burden on students ", the Plan proposes to reduce such burden, regulate school behaviors and establish a homework monitoring and reporting system.
To promote the reform of college entrance examinations, the Plan proposes to gradually introduce a new examination and enrollment system featuring classified exams, integrated assessment, and diverse ways of student enrollment to nurture students with professional and innovative abilities.
To address the problem of “craze for choosing top schools”, the Plan proposes to take action to narrow the gap between different schools and achieve balanced rural-urban development of education at county (district) level as the first step.
The Plan focuses on some of the weak links and key components of education and plans 10 major reform measures to be launched in the near future. These reform measures involve the promotion of quality education, balanced development of compulsory education, vocational education, lifelong education, training of top-notch, innovative talents, examination and enrollment, modern colleges and universities, and further reforming our school management system, local education funding mechanism and provincial education coordination.
It takes a decade to grow trees but a century to nurture a generation of well educated citizens.
By 2020, China will become a society with moderate prosperity, and by the mid-21st century, we will have basically realized modernization. The next 10 years is a critical period for us in which to implement the three-step strategy for modernization. We will build a learning society and become a country with rich human resources by promoting the scientific development of education.
At the recently concluded National Conference on Education Work, President Hu Jintao called on the government and the whole country to implement our education policy, which features " prioritizing development, educating people, reform and innovation, promoting equality, improving quality” and to ensure that we achieve the strategic goal of realizing basic educational modernization by 2020, building a learning society, and becoming a country with rich human resources.
Now the blueprint is before us. It is time to take action. The formulation and implementation of the Plan will surely promote the scientific development of education at this new point in history and make greater contributions to the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and the progress of human civilization.
(Xinhua News Agency, Beijing, July 30, by Xuying Yue, Zhang Zongtang, Wu Jing, Zhao Chao)
Source: People's Daily, July 31, 2010
(Editor: Wang Peng)