Fourth Modernization, One Step Up

The days of National Higher Education Entrance Examination or gaokao (高考) count as days of judgment in the lives of those Chinese students who manage to take part in them. Preparing for and taking the exams is said to be extremely stressful – and it is costly, with entire families acting as investors in a hopeful young career.

Xinhua, in an article republished by Enorth, points out the apparent novelties in Beijing’s latest Outline of China’s National Plan for Medium and Long-Term Education Reform and Development for the 2010-2020 period (国家中长期教育改革和发展规划纲要 or shorter, 教育规划纲要), published on Thursday. The Outline wants to overcome the principle of one test defining a lifetime, and “to promote the implementation of quality education and the innovation of talent cultivation”. According to Zhang Li (张力), director of the ministry of education’s National Research Center for Educational Development, the Outline defines enrollment along the criteria of the choice of the best (择优), self-determination (自主), recommendation (推荐), orientation or direction (定向), and liberties to make exceptions (破格). With a more pluralistic set of methods in the enrollment system, the educational system will make good efforts so as not to leave out potentials and talented learners, Zhang believes.

The outline  also aims for more clarity and transparency in enrollment procedures, writes Xinhua, after incidents of fraud (舞弊事件) and confusion concerning extra points (加分) awarded in past exams.

A more pluralistic approach to enrollment notwithstanding, the Outline, for the sake of transparency, also tries to provide for standardization in enrollment.

Starting with elementary schools, teaching qualities are planned to be secured by establishing certification and registration systems, plus regular assessments of teachers’ performances. Payment for teachers, at the same time, should be brought into line with the incomes of other civil servants, the Outline reportedly stipulates. Also to the end of adequate remuneration (and probably because status continues to matter, too), standardized job titles are to be set forth.

People’s Daily Online (in English) lists a number of other (and frequently familiar-sounding) pledges from the Outline, and states that

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the State Council have issued a notice requiring local Party committees and governments to carefully implement the national education outline.  The outline vows to spare no efforts to “run every school well and bring quality education to every student. No child shall be allowed to drop out due to family financial difficulties.”

For sure, every step, however small, that can be made to meet the Outline’s lofty promises will be in the country’s public interest. China runs dry of crude labour, the Economist writes in its latest edition*).The number of 15- to 29-year-olds will sharply from next year, wages are rising, and to make similar gains in productivity as China did in the decade following 1995 (labor costs tripled, but productivity per worker quintupled, according to the paper), the country would have to increase its supply of skilled workers. And as labor is no longer abundant, China’s “floating population” – the migrant workers – needed to be provided with opportunities to “drop anchor” in the country’s urban areas.

According to this logic, “dropping anchor” would therefore be a macro-economic must, as much as a goal in social struggles. Guangdong Province has taken steps into this direction, with a provincial Service Management Regulation on Migrant Population (广东省流动人口服务管理条例), which came into effect all over the province on January 1 this year, after it had been tested in Shenzhen previously.

But there are setbacks, too. In April, precisely in Shenzhen, vice mayor Li Ming, apparently also in his capacity as the head of the police bureau, said that if Shenzhen could get the legal basis, it would restrict migrant workers who have been unemployed for longer than three months from renting houses.

No matter what the CCP’s central committee will tell local officials, neither a possible ease on household registration nor guaranteed school attendence of all children regardless of their families’ financial situations, will be achieved without a lot of fighting. Locally, that is.


*) The Economist, July 31st 2010, p. 7


Education in the PRC, Wikipedia (of today)
Little Desire for Head Teacher Positions, June 15, 2009
Crossroads: China’s Development, Febr 20, 2009

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