ith the intention of providing deeper insights into the Chinese education system, the Ameson Foundation hosted a keynote speech in Beijing on Monday July 23 by Mr. Zhengguo Yuan entitled "Globalization and China Education Strategy.”
The presentation was one of two keynotes on the day, which were followed by two panel discussions – all of which were designed to share deeper insights into the realities of Chinese education.
In particular, the content of all of the presentations on the day were for the benefit of 21 senior officials from leading western universities including the University of Cambridge, UC Berkely, Vanderbilt University and many others (click here for a full list of attending guests
Mr. Yuan’s speech was particularly relevant: as one of the key architects of the "National Mid- to Long-term Education Reform and Development Plan (2010-2020)
", he was an ideal person to share insights into the long-term reform trends ongoing at the highest levels in China.
What follows is a summary of Mr. Yuan’s presentation
Prof. Yuan's well-structured talk provided rare insights into China's ongoing education reforms
Prof. Yuan opened his talk by introducing the five pillars of the reform plan. Those are:
- Embracing information technology
- A shift away from standardization towards individualization
- Encouraging innovation
- Incessancy, or maintained diligence to see these reforms through
Regarding internationalization, he noted that it “is an inevitable requirement of economic globalization. This involves both education for international understanding and also the upgrading of talent cultivation through international exchange and cooperation.”
To cooperate along these lines, social development is necessary. To ensure that future generations adhere to the idea of fostering cooperation between countries, he stressed that education must shoulder this obligation, in five key aspects:
A global shift towards a concentrated number of ‘universal languages’: “It is predicted that in the next 50 years, exchanges will be concentrated down to 8 to 10 languages. Other language speakers will have to adapt.”
More cross-country student admissions: “In China, the annual number of students pursuing cross-culture education exchanges is increasing. In the future, we expect that China will also become an important study destination, with a peak target of around 1.3 million foreign students pursuing education opportunities here.
More in-depth project cooperation between international education institutions: “There are several stages to consider. First is cooperation between individuals, then cooperation between agencies and institutions, then cooperation between individuals and institutions, then cooperation between schools.”
More extensive mutual-recognition between education systems: “If this happens, we may develop a common standard that bridges the gap between schools. In fact, we are already seeing some international tests becoming more widely recognized and adopted.”
Education institutions oriented towards global services: “As one example, East China Normal University and New York University have built a New York University in Shanghai. I think this may serves as a typical blueprint for future collaborations: unlike other Chinese universities providing services to domestic students and researchers only, the Shanghai New York University has more than 50% of their student body cominges from outside of China. We can expect future collaborations to take on a similar form.”
Embracing information technology
In my opinion, the use of computer multimedia education may become the main form of education in the future. Such a major change in education will create a fundamental challenge to the traditional form of education that is fixed to a particular time and space.
The future of education is on the Internet. This allows for virtual classrooms with no student limits and no limits on time. In addition, students may gain access to a multitude of class content.
As an example, Professor Yuan told the audience: “I recently read a paper that within the next 15 years, universities around the world may be consolidated into around 300 universities while all others are just their affiliates. Whether it is just 300 schools in exact 15 years is not important – the fact that a global network is formed is the most profound idea. This will allow for a great deal of resources to become available online and easy to obtain.”
Of course, for this to be feasible, the language hurdle must be overcome. Fortunately, Professor Yuan noted: “The language barrier is gradually disappearing. For example, I know Microsoft’s Speech Laboratory was established in Beijing and is now able to translate western content into Chinese with an accuracy rate of 95%. Chinese language translation into other languages has currently reached an accuracy rate of 85%. As these figures improve based on translation algorithms, language barriers will disappear and global networking will accelerate.”
A shift away from standardization towards individualization
Education has undergone a long transformation, first moving away from individual tutoring to classroom teaching, but now moving to individualized education again.
2500 years ago, Confucius advocated the idea that since every individual is unique, education delivery should be altered to suit the each student's specific strengths and weakneseses. This would result in different education for different people, which is the most profound meaning of equality.
To achieve this true equality, we must offer a diverse range of education, with a number of different choices. Specifically, we need institutional design with a wide range of elective courses. Beyond basic course content and requirements, we should encourage local curriculum variations, as different areas have different levels of development. We should also encourage local culture courses that will allow for teacher creativity and greater student choices.
A creative education in a creative era can forward a knowledge-based economy that provides all students with outlets for creative expression.
Embracing new technologies brings new ideas, which can become a driving force that guides career development.
In order to promote the enhancement of students creative ability, we focus on stimulating students' interest. Of course, we believe that all students should get a minimum of basic knowledge, but this should not be a forced process.
We all know that we have a very broad college entrance examination system – this system is very important to guarantee a fair selection process for universities. However, this is not the ideal system.
Beyond testing, our education system needs to encourage youth to develop their innate passions. Thus, our grand vision is a system with basic uniform standards that still allows for individual expression.
You know the old saying: give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.
By teaching students methods to acquire their own knowledge, they can independently respond to the needs of their community.
We recently completed a large-scale study that found that among 15-year-old children, knowledge retention from traditional media (books, newspapers, TV) is only around 11%.
So information technology on its own is not sufficient – more information does not equal more knowledge retention.
How students retain information – especially in the information era – is a problem we have not yet solved. So, to focus reforms purely on textbooks and other information sources is not a total solution.
To focus reforms purely on textbooks and other information sources is not a total solution.
Thus the most important thing is to teach students how to selectively filter information that is important to them by teaching them how to decide for themselves.
We also need to postpone high school student orientation choice between focusing on science or humanities as college majors. It would be best not to have a clear differentiation between arts and sciences. Otherwise some students may not be able to develop their capacity in learning math and science.
We also need to emphasize on capacity of using both hand and brain. Problem-solving capability is important. If a student cannot apply his knowledge and learning, he is even less capable than an uneducated labor. In our Plan, we particularly stressed the need for using both hands and brain.
I recently saw a report that the core of a country's competitiveness lies in the quality of its main labor force. As workers, they need to increase their quality by relearning, not basic knowledge but new learning while remaining in the workforce.
Therefore, it becomes more and more important for the state to invest more funds to provide on-job relearning and education.
Life-long learning, a continuing process
Learning becomes a style of life: “You are never too old to learn.” Therefore, continuing education becomes a more important part of education.
We say that learning is no longer a task, but a way of life. No one is too old to learn. Thus we are planning to make continuing education a very important part of our reforms.
For us, a very important task we are undertaking now is to establish learning overpass; each country's education system is not the same, our general education and vocational education, our school education and continuing education, they are divided in different areas. For a very long time in education there have been many obstacles, and poor communication, so we have proposed a target now and it is to make connections among general education and vocational education, education in schools and continuing education. connected, People will be able to take courses, earn credits, and accumulate them through institutional arrangements.
To do this, we have to set up some effective way to allow mutual recognition of credits and degrees. In addition, we want to combine school learning and community activities organically, because a lot of learning activities take place not in school, but in the life of the community. In fact, now communities have many educational and cultural facilities, and whereas these facilities did not have connection with education before in the modern sense, now under the new concept of learning, they are also more and more closely linked.
Why is the pace of internationalization so fast? A very important reason is that the willingness to make personal choices has increased.
We are also establishing a new credit system that may grant credits for what you have learned in school, from the society, through onlinelearning, or in a variety of other ways, all collected into a standard record and put in a specific database.
This is what I would like to report. These are what we are most concerned with in the context of the global economy. All these issues are interrelated, namely, internationalization, information technology, personalization, creative education, and education as a lifelong learning process. They are interlinked and mutually supportive, and transforming the shape of our education. So when we conduct international exchanges, we cannot ignore information technology issues or how to make education more suitable to each person. Why is the pace of internationalization so fast? Both the desire to come to study in China and the number of students going out to study abroad are increasing this year. A very important reason is that the willingness to make personal choices has increased. That is because education in different countries has different characteristics, and these different characteristics provide many students with possibilities to pick their favorite choices. Education in any country is always relatively stable, relatively fixed, and it has its own characteristics, and each person can find what he needs from his own country, or he can also find what he needs from other countries. That just shows how personalization and internationalization are linked and dependent on each other. Therefore, when we consider the future trends in education, we shall take all these aspects into consideration and promote the development of our education reform, and ultimately to provide better service for the educated, for our children, and for our students.