Teaching Chinese students about party loyalty and Xi Thought is one thing, but engaging in a massive exercise of developing a basic public education system imparting ideological and uniform education is another. That is precisely what the communist government plans to do, and set up the system by 2027.
The General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council recently issued the guideline called “Opinions on Building a High-Quality and Balanced Basic Public Education Service System”. Is it an attempt to make future Chinese generations turn insular or receive party-sponsored education as a mandatory dole? The government recently brought out an exhaustive guideline on the subject that skirts this question. However, it is understood that the aim might be to have a level playing field for mediated education in the rural and urban areas. Uniformly indoctrinated education is that it may end up being.
It is also not clear if the private education system in China will undergo any changes once the public education system comes into place. The only hint is some top Chinese officials describing the development as an attempt to “further enhance ideological consciousness, political consciousness, and action consciousness…” The guideline says: Adapt to the national population development strategy and service rural revitalization strategy and new-type urbanization strategy, promote the development of urban and rural compulsory education with urban and rural areas as a whole, and effectively solve the problems of urban crowding and rural weakness. Establish a basic public education service supply mechanism that is coordinated with changes in the permanent population, and allocate educational resources according to the actual size of the population served.
The guideline explains: By 2035, the condition of schools, teaching staff, funding and governance system across compulsory education schools will meet the needs of a country that requires a strong education base. The balanced development level of compulsory education in cities will be significantly improved, the majority of compulsory education institutes in counties will have achieved high-quality and balanced development. School-age students will enjoy fair and high-quality basic public education services, and the overall level will be at the forefront of the world. The uniformity principle will definitely extend to the ethnic and religious minorities in China. The education imparted to these minorities will incorporate education so structured as to “a consciousness of the Chinese nation as a community into the whole process of school education, and build a solid ideological foundation of the Chinese national community for teachers and students of all ethnic groups”.
The guideline calls for building an army of teachers in ethnic minority areas who can impart “special training in ideological and political quality, national common language, discipline and professional quality, education and teaching ability…”
Guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, the guideline was conceived to “comprehensively implement the party’s education policy, adhere to the people-centered, serve the national strategic needs, focus on the urgent needs and expectations of the people, take public welfare and inclusive benefits and high-quality balance as the basic direction, comprehensively improve the level of basic public education services, accelerate the construction of an educational power, and run an education satisfactory to the people”. Uniform standard of education means, promoting coordinated regional development. The government will focus on promoting the standardization of school construction, and accelerate the narrowing of regional education gaps. It will continue to increase support for difficult areas in the central and western regions/ Provincial governments should focus on promoting the narrowing of the gap in school-running conditions and levels between different cities, counties and districts within the province. Municipal governments should give full play to the role of regional economic centers, and the focus of resource allocation should be tilted towards economically underdeveloped counties and districts.
At the national and provincial levels, the guideline suggests standardization at all levels — building construction, number of classrooms, students, teachers, curriculum, even meals and lunch breaks. The guideline feels uniformity is one way of ensuring that developed regions do not snatch outstanding principals and teachers from the central and western regions and the northeast region. All regions in China must have identical educational systems churning out uniform standards of education. The government expects the new system to tone up education in the rural areas and bring it to the level of the urban areas, thus achieving national uniformity. The new education format is “compulsory” for all citizens. Much focus will be on selecting teachers after assessing their ability to impart the type of education the government wants. Along the way, there will be focus on “new courses, new teaching materials, new methods and new technologies” as per the “National Training Plan”.
This compulsory education comes with a rider. It will comprehensively promote the policy of exemption from examinations for compulsory education and simultaneous enrollment in public and private schools, to ensure that different groups of school-age children receive compulsory education equally. As students do their duty of learning compulsory education, the state, in turn, will strengthen educational guarantees and care protection, give priority to ensuring boarding, transportation, and nutritional needs, and strengthen humanistic care and psychological counseling without discriminating between students from diverse regions and classes. In what can be a problematic area, the guideline suggests establishing “a monitoring platform for students’ physical health, and publish data on students’ health literacy level every year”. Comprehensive data of millions of students in the government’s hand can be a matter of concern.
How, according to the guideline, will the compulsory education benefit the party? “To strengthen the party’s overall leadership, party committees and governments at all levels should regard the construction of a high-quality and balanced basic public education service system as a major livelihood project to achieve common prosperity, and put it on the important agenda of party committees and governments.”