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Thursday, March 09, 2000, updated at 09:30(GMT+8)


Quality Education, Focus of China's Educational Reform: NPC

The heated discussions on education at the ongoing sessions of China's legislature and top advisory body have focused on quality education, which involves improving the students' moral conduct and increasing their innovation capabilities.

Given the common practice of prioritizing academic performance to the neglect of moral education in schools nowadays, quality education has become a must that concerns the destiny of the whole nation, according to deputies to the Ninth National People's Congress (NPC) and members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, who are here attending their respective annual sessions.

"The shift of focus to quality education shows the country's educational sector is effecting a new breakthrough by appraising the traditional practice of dwelling on intellectual education," said Zhang Dejiang, a NPC deputy from east China's Zhejiang Province.

Late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, who initiated China's reform and opening-up drive in the late 1970s, ordered college matriculation exams be resumed upon his rehabilitation, which gave rise to a nationwide thirst and respect for knowledge and prompted students to work harder still to acquire knowledge.

Wang Kezhi, an NPC deputy and a provincial official in charge of education in southwest China's Sichuan Province, noted that " knowledge means strength" has become a top national slogan then as a result of an acute shortage of qualified intellectuals.

A series of radical changes have since taken place: invigorating the nation through education, science and technology has become a national policy; and college graduates are becoming a backbone force of all social sectors.

However, defects of the traditional knowledge-based education have also been revealed in the meantime. A senior teacher from Beijing, NPC Deputy Wu Changshun, said the rudimentary education has basically been successful in the country. But he added that it still has drawbacks: the students are overburdened with home assignments, crammed with too many intellectual facts and blindly working for high grades in exams under an ossified teaching method. Prof. C.N. Yang, a prominent American-Chinese scientist, said students from China, though outperforming American students in rudimentary knowledge, found themselves hard to work out new, creative ideas, and this, to some extent, affects the competitiveness of China's future.

This Nobel Prize winner also raised questions on intensified competition for college enrollment.

Zhao Jiagao, president of the Yingyu middle school in Shanghai and a teacher with 39 years of experience, said it is a shared wish of the parents to have their children study in first-rate universities. Since only a few could succeed, most students have to be turned into "docile machines" merely fit for exams.

The intensified competition exerts too much pressure on both parents and their children, some NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members said, adding that a lack of moral education has led to the failure to imbue a generation of youngsters with upright moral conduct and a high sense of responsibility.

Educational reform, therefore, rose to be an issue of concern to general public and senior leaders. President Jiang Zemin has called for the healthy growth of youths, while Premier Zhu Rongji in his annual work report underlined that quality education be fully stepped up in schools.

Highlighting quality education is to prepare the nation for fierce international competitions China has to face following its accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), and it will also comply with the stark reality and pool strength for future reform and growth, said Zhao Jiagao.

A fundamental reform in education is under way throughout the country, with measures aimed at fostering innovation capabilities and improving practical competence for students. The concept of " lifetime education" is also first proposed in the country, heralding a radical change in its traditional mode of school education.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Education released a circular on replacing the traditional hundred-grade system with a more lenient five-grades one. Meanwhile, the educational authorities also ease the students' workload and ban the use of 39 textbooks in primary schools and high schools.

Moreover, less assignments allow the students to have more after-school time for visiting museums and other outdoor activities, which acquaint them with society at large and enable them to appreciate and enjoy the nature.

At present, China has about 240 million students, or some one fifth of the country's total population.

NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members have noted quality education is targeted at another significant change in China's educational sector after the resumption of university matriculation exams in 1977. The new education, they acknowledged, is bound to trigger radical reforms in many other aspects of society and impact the nation's economic growth.

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