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Views on China's Educational Reform and Development


Ge Yanfeng

I. Educational Reform and Development Should Be Focused on Addressing Issues Cared about Most by the Public

Since the establishment of the People's Republic of China, especially since the reform and opening up, great achievements have been made in the development of China's educational undertakings. The 9-year free compulsory education has been carried out in an all-round way; senior high school education and vocational education have been popularized considerably, and more and more people can have access to university education. However, there is no denying that, under the influence of various factors, problems do exist in China's educational field that merit attention and some of the problems have evoked much negative repercussions among the masses. The major problems are: 1. The distribution of public resources for elementary education is quite uneven and there is a world of difference in conditions available for running schools; 2. The content of courses, teaching methods and the examination and evaluation system are not reasonable, the school assignments for primary and middle school students are overloaded and the quality-oriented education has not been practiced to the full; 3. The quality of university and vocational education is low, which is hard to adapt to social demands and meet the requirement of the students for their personal growth; 4. Some schools seek economic benefits in an excessive way and do not standardize their fee-collecting behaviors, thus placing an overly heavy financial burden on many families;and 5. Injustice, even corruption and malfeasance occur in enrolling students through examinations, thus severely impairing the basic rights and interests of the people. Such problems have not only given rise to the dissatisfaction among the public and hampered the social harmony, but have also produced conspicuous negative influence on the overall quality of the next generation. We would pay a high social price if those problems were not solved in due time. Therefore, the educational reform and development to be carried out over a future period of time should be oriented toward the resolution of those outstanding problems to pave the way for the long-term sound development of the educational undertakings.

II. We Should Make Great Efforts to Push Forward the Equalization of Compulsory Education

The guideline of promoting the equalized development of the compulsory education among and within various regions has been universally recognized by all social strata. The equalized development of the compulsory education between urban and rural areas and among various regions calls for enduring efforts. Recently, what merits more attention is the disequilibrium within various regions, particularly in urban areas. The issue of "school selection" and the overly heavy burdens on primary and middle school students currently cared about most by the public are closely related to this disequilibrium and have resulted in various distortions and corrupt practices, which should be cleaned up with great efforts.

Many factors have induced the enormous differences among schools within various regions. The core problem is that ways of support have been wrongly differentiated and the motivation mechanism has been distorted. Public funds, project funds in particular, tend to flow to schools with better conditions. Charging through school selection can bring more benefits to superior schools and can in fact be directly or indirectly linked to teachers' salaries. Therefore, the core problem should be solved institutionally, or, policies regarding "computer-aided allocation system for school enrolment" and "attending schools locally" could be of no help. Firstly, input of public funds in running schools should be standardized. Regular inputs should be strictly linked to the number of students and classes; on the premise of standardizing criteria for running schools, the capital construction and equipment-oriented investment should firstly go to schools that have not lived up to the standards; the unified planning should be strengthened and the blind expansion and construction of schools should be brought under rigorous control; and the transparency and accountability system for the use of public funds should be set up. Secondly, the financial management in schools should be conducted rigorously, the limit for income and expenditure of primary and middle schools and the related standards should be clarified, and the supervision should be stepped up. At present, some localities have achieved good results by bringing the financial affairs of primary and middle schools under the centralized management of county governments, which can be popularized in various localities on the basis of summing up the relevant experiences; in view of the particularities of compulsory education, it should be explicitly provided that any charges, such as "school selection fees" and "temporary schooling collected from students without local residence", may not be collected during the period of compulsory education. And the uses of other donated funds for school students should be elaborated and the relevant transparency system should be set up accordingly. Thirdly, resources of qualified teachers should be equalized. The binding alternation system should be set up for primary and middle school leaders and teachers to take turns on a regular basis within their own regions in connection with the guarantee and standardization of teachers' salaries and this should be deemed as a lawful duty for gaining the teaching qualifications.

III. Senior Middle School Education Should Be Developed in an Equalized Way As Well

At present, among or within various regions, disparities in conditions for running senior middle schools are very conspicuous. Many think it acceptable and even hold that encouragement should be given to the differentiation and diversification during the period of senior middle school education. In our view, importance should also be attached to the equalized development of senior middle schools. There are two basic reasons: firstly, the economic and social development will sooner or later bring the senior middle school education into the scope of compulsory education. As a result, it is quite necessary to lay a good foundation through equalized development for the future instead of the contradictions and obstacles that may arise the other way round. Secondly, the problems such as "school selection" that have cropped up currently during the period of compulsory education have a lot to do with the unbalanced development of various senior middle schools. Should the disparities between various senior middle schools be continually aggravated, the target of realizing the equalized development of compulsory education will inevitably be held in check and it would become difficult to solve such problems as "school selection" during the period of compulsory education and the "school selection" during the secondary school entrance examinations that are strongly opposed by the public. In consideration of their particularities, the senior middle schools can be allowed to operate with their own characteristics within limits. For example, some schools can be allowed to offer selective courses closely linked to students' interests and employment and to launch cultural and sports activities in various forms. Nevertheless, importance should still be placed on the equalized development in terms of the basic school conditions and the number of qualified teachers.


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