Beijing, July 29th (xinhua.net) According to the newly promulgated Outline of China's National Plan for Medium and Long-Term Education Reform and Development (2010-2020) (hereinafter referred to as the Plan), China plans “to become a country with rich human resources ” by the year 2020.
The Plan, in about 27,000 words, is China’s first medium and long-term education plan in the 21st century. It sets a series of concrete goals to be achieved by 2020, including universalizing preschool education, improving nine-year compulsory education, raising the senior high school gross enrollment rate to 90%, and increasing the higher education gross enrollment rate to 40%.
UNESCO has highly praised the Plan, saying that it shows China’s long-term determination to make its education one of the best in the world.
The Plan not only proposes concrete measures for education reform at various levels, but also addresses education issues of public concern. For example, in response to the problem of “parents competing to send their children to top schools” during the compulsory education phase, the Plan calls for balanced development of education within a certain region; to ease the homework burden of secondary and elementary school students, the Plan proposes to establish a homework burden monitoring and reporting mechanism, and stipulates that “exam scores and contest awards shall not be used as criteria for school admission in the compulsory education phase”; to solve the problem of using college entrance examination results as the sole criterion for college admission, the Plan suggests “trying multiple examinations in a year for certain subjects”, or “gradually introducing classified college entrance examinations”.
“The Plan spares no effort to address major issues faced by China’s education, including bottleneck problems curbing the development of education, and other issues of public concern,” said Yuan Guiren, China’s Minister of Education.
Back in the 1980s, education reform was one of the pioneering strategies in China’s reform and opening up effort. According to Premier Wen Jiabao, head of the leading group for the education plan, education reform this time shall reflect the determination, will and strategic foresight of the Chinese nation to develop education and build up people’s confidence in China’s education system.
Since the formulation process was launched in August 2008, the Plan has undergone four stages, including preliminary research, drafting, soliciting advice from the public and revision. To encourage public participation, all social sectors such as local authorities, schools and civil society were involved in the process. The plan was twice made public on the Internet for comments, and millions of comments were received. The Plan has undergone some 40 major revisions.
“Every single comment was documented and carefully examined. Some of the comments are very thoughtful, insightful and well-targeted and have been of great value to our revision work as well as our future implementation of the Plan,” said Hao Ping, Vice Minister of Education.
Propelled by public opinion, many policies in the Plan have touched upon “tough issues” in the reforms. For example, to address the problem of inadequate funding for education, the Plan proposes to “increase the proportion of fiscal education expenditure to total GDP to 4% by 2012”; to tackle the problem of “higher education institutions being run as administrative institutions”, the Plan proposes to “promote the separation of administrative and school operational functions”, and to “eliminate the de facto administrative management model”.
According to the World Bank, the Plan has proposed many innovative ideas, and education will serve as the driving force for the future development of the Chinese nation.
However, according to some experts, a number of ideas proposed in the Plan are not new; they were already specified in the 1993 Outline for China’s Education Reform and Development as well as in relevant legal documents promulgated in recent years. Actual implementation of these ideas therefore depends heavily on the genuine efforts of the government and authorities.
According to Ding Xuedong, Vice Minister of Finance, the proportion of national fiscal expenditure for education has increased from 14.9% of total fiscal expenditure in 2004 to 16.3% in 2008, higher than in most countries in the world. Nevertheless, since there are many priority areas including education, agriculture, science & technology, social security and health, and they all compete for fiscal resources, it could be difficult to increase the proportion of fiscal education expenditure to total GDP in the near future. To achieve the 4% target, government at all levels must spare no effort.
Shortly before the release of the Plan, the central government held a national conference on education work in Beijing, the first of its kind in the 21st century. At the meeting, President Hu Jintao urged the government and the whole country to work hard to promote sound education development in the new era and Premier Wen Jiabao stressed the need for local governments to break away from old concepts and institutional limitations and explore new methods of educational development.
Minister Yuan Guiren said that after the formulation of the Plan, local governments would put forward their own roadmaps, timetables and agenda as soon as possible, based on local conditions to promote all-round reform nationwide.
When invited to discuss the Plan with the Chinese leaders, Liu Pengzhi, Principal of the Middle School Affiliated to the China Renmin University, said: “As far as education reform is concerned, it is easier said than done. The drafting of the Plan itself is a top-down education reform in which all social sectors are involved. ”
Source: xinhua.net July 30th, 2010
Editor: Wang Peng