During the 60 years after the founding of the PRC, Sichuan education shared weal and woe with the country and advanced with the times. Under the correct leadership of the CPC Central Committee, the State Council, the Party committees and provincial governments of Sichuan province, and thanks to the concern and support of all social sectors as well as the hard work and endeavor of the mass cadres and general public in the education circle of the province, Sichuan made historic strides and glorious accomplishments in education, thus setting a solid foundation for the economic and social development of the province.
I. Compulsory education, higher education and education in ethnic minority regions saw great-leap-forward development, while secondary vocational education realized major breakthroughs.
Before the founding of the PRC, Sichuan education was rather backward. There were only 21 thousand educational institutions (kindergartens included) of various types at all levels, with 1.546 million enrolled students. Most towns had no schools at all and the enrollment rate of school-aged children was about 20%. There were only 243 primary school students per 10,000 people. Since the founding of the PRC, a national education system with Sichuan characteristics has been established in Sichuan. At present, there are 37 thousand educational institutions of various types at all levels in the whole province, with 18.769 million enrolled students, and 901 thousand teaching staff. Specifically, Sichuan education has experienced “three historic strides” and “a major historic breakthrough”.
Sichuan realized the first historic stride of universalizing nine-year compulsory education. At the end of 2008, nine-year compulsory education was universalized in 178 counties (cities or districts) among the 181 counties (cities or districts). There were 18 thousand schools for compulsory education with 10.122 million enrolled students. The enrollment rates of primary-school-aged and middle-school-aged children rose to 99.13% and 95.9% respectively.
Sichuan realized the second historic stride of popularizing higher education. Sichuan’s higher education experienced adjustment of colleges and departments in 1950s, Chongqing’s becoming a municipality directly under of the Central Government in the middle of 1990s, and enlarged recruitment in higher education institutions at the beginning of the 21st century. At the end of 2008, there were 92 regular higher education institutions, among which 5 were included into the “211 Project” and 2 were included into the “985 Project”, and there were 6 national demonstrative higher vocational colleges. 1.056 million students were enrolled into regular higher education institutions and the gross enrollment rate reached 22%. Sichuan’s education has stepped into a popularization stage acknowledged internationally.
Sichuan realized the third historic stride of great development in education in ethnic minority regions. The whole province invested 6 billion yuan accumulatively in this regard, and started in 2001 the implementation of the Ten-Year Plan of Developing Education in Ethnic Minority Regions of Sichuan Province. Currently, education in ethnic minority regions is no longer backward, and nine-year compulsory education has been popularized in 48 out of all the 51 ethnic counties (cities), covering 95.6% of all ethnic population. There are 4,432 schools of nine-year compulsory education, with 1.328 million enrolled students; and senior secondary education grew steadily with 136 senior high schools and 129 thousand enrolled students.
Sichuan realized the major breakthrough of accelerated development in vocational education and fruitful adjustments of educational structure. The development of secondary vocational education of Sichuan had experienced several rises and falls before, but in the new century, especially after the commencement of the priority vocational education program in 2008, institutional scale of vocational schools and colleges was greatly enlarged. At the end of 2008, there were 676 secondary vocational schools (including 105 technical schools), and the recruitment scale was larger than that of regular senior high schools, with 1.225 million enrolled students. Adult education started from scratch. At the end of 2008, there were 22 higher educational institutions for adults with 274 thousand enrolled students. Technical training schools for adults reported 2.782 million student-times of training.
II. Great changes happened to the educational system and education opened wider to the outside world.
While the reforms in economic, political and cultural systems in the past 60 years progressed in China, Sichuan province firmly adhered to the “three orientations” in education, took its initiative to meet the needs of economic and social development, strongly promoted reform and innovation in terms of system and mechanism, and thus established an education system consistent with the socialist market economy.
First, reforms were carried out in respect of the educational administration system and a new system has been established where education administration was exercised at different levels of the province, municipality and county. The administration of compulsory education was exercised by education authorities at different levels under the leadership of the State Council; local governments were responsible for specific execution of compulsory education and counties played the main part in it. The administration of vocational education was exercised by education authorities at different levels under the leadership of the provincial government; municipal and prefectural governments were responsible for overall planning and specific execution of vocational education and social institutions took part in it. Higher education institutions were run at the levels of the state, province and municipality and its administration was exercised by provincial and municipal authorities where province-level administration played the main part; municipalities, prefectures, or specific industries were responsible for the establishment and management of higher education institutions and multiple patterns of institution-running were allowed.
Second, reforms were carried out in respect of the funding system for institution-running and a system has been gradually established where the main source of fund came from financial provisions and other education funds were raised through various channels. In the current education fund raising system in the province, state financial provisions are the major source and auxiliary sources of funding come from education taxes and charges, tuition fees for non-compulsory education, revenue from school-run industries, donations from social institutions and organizations as well as education foundations. Compulsory education has been fully secured by public finance, and thus compulsory education is free in a real sense. Meanwhile, a cost-sharing system in higher education institutions has been initially established.
Third, reforms were carried out in respect of the institution-running pattern. As a result of the reforms, governments have been playing the main role and social institutions and organizations started to participate in the establishment and operation of education institutions. Non-government-funded education developed rapidly, and penetrated from informal education to formal education. The types of investors and institution-running patterns became more diversified. As of 2008, there were 16 thousand approved non-government-funded schools and vocational training institutions, with 2.269 million enrolled students and trained students reached 501 thousand.
Fourth, reforms were carried out in respect of the graduate employment system, and a system has been established step by step where graduates were free to choose their jobs in the job markets. In recent years, the employment rates for graduates from higher education institutions and secondary vocational schools in Sichuan remained fairly high.
Fifth, education was open wider to the outside world. Now, Sichuan has established exchange and cooperation relationship in education with over 60 countries and regions around the world, and there have been 50 Sino-foreign cooperative education institutions and programs.
III. The objective of “education serves the people” was upheld, and fairness in education was greatly improved.
First, great efforts were made to alleviate people’s economic stress in seeking education and key and controversial issues concerning the vital interests of the public were tackled. Policies were thoroughly implemented in respect of the reform in the funding mechanism for compulsory education, and the policy of “two exemptions and one allowance” was put into effect. (In 2008, tuition and school sundry fees were exempted for 9.48 million rural students receiving compulsory education and textbooks were offered free of charge; tuition and school sundry fees were exempted for 954 thousand urban students receiving compulsory education; 1.32 million impoverished boarders were provided with living allowances.) In this way, receiving compulsory education became free in a real sense. The subsidization system for impoverished students in higher education institutions and secondary vocational schools was established and perfected. Scholarships were granted to rural students in Grade One and Grade Two of secondary vocational schools, and state subsidies were provided to over 20% of the impoverished college students. (In 2008, state subsidies and encouragement scholarships totaling 300 million yuan were granted by the Central Government and the province to more than 240 thousand impoverished college students, accounting for 28% of all the enrolled students; nearly 30 thousand extraordinarily-impoverished college students acquired subsidies from their colleges and universities. Through the program “Green Channel”, impoverished students were encouraged to apply for student loans in their original localities, and various subsidization measures guaranteed the students admission into colleges and completion of their studies. 670 thousand students in secondary vocational schools were aided by state scholarships. Provincial public finance has appropriated 78.056 million yuan, and from this autumn semester, will exempt tuition for students in 6 classifications going to secondary vocational schools and Tibetan students going to secondary vocational schools totaling more than 78 thousand students.) Public education sources were more in the favor of rural population, ethnic minority groups and distressed groups. And particular efforts were made to ensure compulsory education for the children of migrant workers, the left-behind children in the countryside and handicapped children. (In 2008, 334 thousand children of migrant workers received compulsory education, and 37 thousand handicapped students were enrolled in schools.)
Second, a fair and open education system was formed. Through a campaign to build “demonstrative counties of fair educational charges”, local governments were encouraged to regulate educational charges. Institution-running was regulated; efforts were made to rectify problems in relation to system transformation in middle and primary schools and teaching stations outside adult colleges, and the “sunshine project” in enrollment was promoted in higher education institutions. Education management was carried out in accordance with laws. Openness in school governance and government governance in relation to education administration was highlighted. Scientific and democratic education management was emphasized.
IV. By giving full play to the advantages in human resources, education was playing an increasing role in serving the economy and society.
During the past 60 years, the province trained a large number of high quality laborers, which provided intellectual support and talent resource for the economic and social development of Sichuan and even for that of the whole China. Based on the major needs of national and local economic and social development, higher education institutions have paid particular stress on their scientific research, and taken an active part in serving national and local economic development.
According to incomplete statistics, higher education institutions in Sichuan have established cooperation connection in science and technology with almost 200 cities and counties and over 1000 enterprises, and from 1977 to 2008, they have contributed to the acquisition of 232 national awards for science and technology. At present, there are 41 state-level laboratories of various kinds in higher education institutions, 27 research centers and technology parks (bases), and 25 province-level key laboratories. In 2008 alone, there were 16,403 scientific and technological programs, to which almost 3 billion yuan was allocated as funds for science and technology; nearly 600 scientific research results were promoted and transformed, producing economic benefits of over 4 billion yuan. Higher education institutions have also made great contribution to the theoretical innovation, regional strategic decision-making and consultancy as well as cultural development of Sichuan province, becoming the main forces for basic research and the fresh forces for applied research and technological development of Sichuan province.
V. Quality-oriented education was practiced on an all-round scale, while reforms in education and teaching were further deepened.
Years’ exploration and practice pushed forward quality-oriented education, and reforms in education and teaching has started a new phase featured by integrated promotion, breakthroughs in key points and all-round development.
First, reforms in education and teaching were further deepened. Positive effects were achieved in a new round of curriculum reforms in compulsory education. Modern education technologies were widely adopted, and quality education resources were shared. Vocational education emphasized employment, and adapted itself to market needs, enterprise needs and rural needs. Talent cultivation models like cooperation between schools and enterprises, combination of work and study, and half-work-half-study was widely promoted. In higher education, teaching assessment in undergraduate education and the Quality Project were taken as the major tasks. Education investment was reinforced, teaching management was enhanced, and education and teaching reforms were promoted. Meanwhile, higher education attached more importance to intension development to extension development. Students’ morality education was reinforced, improved and innovated, which meant a lot to the cultivation of students’ sound morality and behavior habits, as well as the maintenance of schools’ stability. Physical education, aesthetic education, labor education and mental health education were emphasized more than before.
Second, reforms in enrollment and test-assessment system proceeded in attempts. Breakthroughs were made in the pilot program for the reform of senior middle school entrance exams and were promoted in the whole province. Assessments by grades and evaluations of comprehensive qualities were widely adopted. Reforms in college entrance examinations advanced steadily, and exam items and forms as well as the enrollment model became more diversified. Reform measures, like independent exam-compiling in college entrance exams and separate selection and recruitment in certain higher education institutions, played a positive leading role in pushing forward quality-oriented education.
Third, eminent achievements were accomplished in the development of teaching staff. In 2008, there were 743.2 thousand full-time teachers, 1.4 times that in 1978 and 11 times that in 1949. The academic qualifications of full-time teachers were raised to a large extent, and the ratio of teachers with high academic qualifications increased year by year. The teacher qualification system and the continued education program for middle and primary school teachers were carried out in an all-round way. In vocational education, outstanding effects were achieved in expanding teaching staff with “double-qualifications”. The “High-Level Creative Talent Plan” in higher education institutions saw smooth progress. Teachers’ morality was promoted continuously and a batch of advanced models emerged. Especially in the Wenchuan earthquake, teachers in Sichuan province went through tough trials and won high praises from the Party and governments, as well as sincere acknowledgements from the masses.
VI. Great progress was achieved in post-quake reconstruction in respect of education.
The achievements in respect of education that Sichuan province made in the past 60 years proved to be consolidated foundation for the province to face harsh trials calmly. Sichuan education suffered great losses in the Wenchuan earthquake last year. After the earthquake, the education circle of the province called for everybody’s actions to tackle tough problems with whole heart and passion, and successfully carried out rescue and relief work, settled the teachers and students in disaster areas, resumed school, held two sessions of college entrance examinations, offered psychological assistance, completed the formulation of reconstruction plans, and promoted educational one-to-one aid. In accordance with the requirement of the CPC Sichuan Provincial Committee and Sichuan Provincial Government of “taking school reconstruction as the first priority, accelerating school reconstruction, and promoting sound and fast school reconstruction”, the education circle immediately started the new phase of post-quake reconstruction. Sichuan education circle conquered difficulties and forged ahead in the promotion of post-quake school reconstruction, in order to realize the goals of basic completion of school reconstruction tasks and 95% students studying at permanent school buildings at the end of 2009, and all quake-area schools have permanent buildings instead of mobile plank houses when the 2010 spring semester starts except for a few schools that had to be relocated for reconstruction. Over the past year, under the firm leadership of the CPC Central Committee, the State Council, the CPC Sichuan Provincial Committee and Sichuan Provincial Government and thanks to the selfless aids from brother provinces and cities and unreserved support from all social sectors, Sichuan post-quake school reconstruction advanced in a vigorous, orderly and effective way and witnessed fruitful achievements at the present stage. At the beginning of the new semester in September this year, 91.6% of the students in severely-hit counties had permanent school buildings to study in, and in 39 most severely-hit counties, 88.6% of the students had permanent school buildings to study in. Post-quake school reconstruction has been leading reconstructions of other aspects in the province. Hopefully at the end of the year, the goal that over 95% of all affected students can study in permanent school buildings will come true.
Though having made great achievements in the past 60 years, Sichuan education still has a long way to go before it can adapt itself to the new social and economic development trends, meet the new needs of the state in cultivating talents, and live up to the new expectations of the masses. In the coming future, Sichuan will continue to take the development of education as the strategic priority, and in line with the requirements of the Scientific Outlook on Development, take reform and innovation as the strong force for development, take the improvement of education quality as the strategic key point of reform and development, and take the promotion of fairness as the essential education policy, so as to realize sound and fast development of Sichuan education, and to win people’s satisfaction with it. This is the goal we shall pursue and shall make unswerving efforts to achieve.