Tar­get­ing ‘cre­ative thought’ as a new ed­u­ca­tional era dawns

China Daily (Canada) - - ANALYSIS - By KARL WIL­SON

Ed­u­ca­tion will be the key as China tran­si­tions it­self from a man­u­fac­tur­ing econ­omy to one based on sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion, and re­search and de­vel­op­ment.

The old sys­tem of ed­u­ca­tion is slowly chang­ing, said Jeong­min Seong, a se­nior fel­low at con­sul­tancy McKin­sey & Com­pany in Shang­hai.

Speak­ing at the 2017 Syd­ney China Busi­ness Fo­rum on Sept 25, he said the fo­cus of ed­u­ca­tion in China to­day is shift­ing from “mem­ory knowl­edge”, where stu­dents mem­o­rize facts, to one more fo­cused on “cre­ative thought”.

He told the fo­rum, ti­tled Cap­i­tal­iz­ing on China’s Dig­i­tal Rev­o­lu­tion, that the pace of tran­si­tion is “hap­pen­ing so fast that the old sys­tem will take some time to change”.

But, does this mat­ter to the tech gi­ants sprout­ing up all over China?

“No, not re­ally,” Seong said. “You find com­pa­nies will take the best and then put them through their own in­house ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams.”

The gov­ern­ment has al­ready set in mo­tion major re­forms to the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem with the re­lease of the National Plan for Medium and Longterm Ed­u­ca­tion Re­form and De­vel­op­ment (2010-20) seven years ago.

“Ed­u­ca­tion is the cor­ner­stone of national re­ju­ve­na­tion and so­cial progress, and a fun­da­men­tal way to im­prove cit­i­zens’ qual­ity and pro­mote their all-round de­vel­op­ment, bear­ing the hope of mil­lions of fam­i­lies for a bet­ter life,” the pol­icy doc­u­ment said.

Ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing is grow­ing an­nu­ally, with 3.9 tril­lion yuan ($586 bil­lion) last year, an in­crease of 7.57 per­cent from 2015, ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary statis­tics re­leased by the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion in May.

Spend­ing on preschool ed­u­ca­tion in 2016 reached 280.2 bil­lion yuan, up 15.48 per­cent from the pre­vi­ous year.

In­vest­ment in com­pul­sory ed­u­ca­tion to­taled 1.76 tril­lion yuan, an in­crease of 9.76 per­cent year-on-year. Chil­dren in China are en­ti­tled to nine years of com­pul­sory ed­u­ca­tion.

Ex­pen­di­ture for high schools was 615.5 bil­lion yuan, an in­crease of 6.75 per­cent from 2015, while the fig­ure for higher ed­u­ca­tion ex­ceeded 1 tril­lion yuan, up 6.22 per­cent from the pre­vi­ous year, ac­cord­ing to Xinhua News Agency.

Since the be­gin­ning of the 21st cen­tury, free com­pul­sory ed­u­ca­tion has be­come the norm in ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas, while vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion has made head­way fast.

Ac­cord­ing to the 2010-20 national plan, “re­mark­able progress” has been made in achiev­ing ed­u­ca­tion equity.

“Ed­u­ca­tion de­vel­op­ment has vastly en­hanced the qual­ity of the en­tire na­tion, and stim­u­lated in­no­va­tion in sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy and cul­tural pros­per­ity, thereby mak­ing ir­re­place­able and sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to China’s eco­nomic growth, so­cial progress, and the bet­ter­ment of peo­ple’s liveli­hood,” the doc­u­ment said.

It noted that to­day’s world is un­der­go­ing great de­vel­op­ment, pro­found changes and major ad­just­ments.

“Both world multi-po­lar­iza­tion and eco­nomic glob­al­iza­tion are wit­ness­ing in-depth de­vel­op­ment. Sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy are mak­ing rapid strides, and com­pe­ti­tion for tal­ent or pro­fes­sion­als is in­ten­si­fy­ing with each pass­ing day.

“China is currently at a key stage for re­form and de­vel­op­ment, as allround progress is be­ing made in eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal, cul­tural and so­cial de­vel­op­ment as well as in pro­mot­ing eco­log­i­cal civ­i­liza­tion.”

As in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion, IT, ur­ban­iza­tion, mar­ket­ing and in­ter­na­tion­al­iza­tion de­velop, China has tran­si­tioned from a pop­u­lous na­tion to one with a larger scale of hu­man re­source depth, the doc­u­ment said.

“China is see­ing in­creas­ing pres­sure from its vast pop­u­la­tion, lim­ited nat­u­ral re­sources, the en­vi­ron­ment, and the trans­for­ma­tion of its eco­nomic growth pat­tern.

“The fu­ture de­vel­op­ment and great re­ju­ve­na­tion of the Chi­nese na­tion are pred­i­cated on tal­ent or pro­fes­sion­als, and on ed­u­ca­tion.”

For an econ­omy to suc­cess­fully tran­si­tion from man­u­fac­tur­ing, an ed­u­cated pop­u­la­tion well-versed in sci­ence, maths, tech­nol­ogy, in­no­va­tion and en­gi­neer­ing is re­quired.

The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has, for a long time now, rec­og­nized that old growth mod­els are no longer rel­e­vant in the dig­i­tal age.

The em­pha­sis to­day is on in­no­va­tion as the key driver to­ward more bal­anced and sus­tain­able growth.

China rec­og­nizes that emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies and the dig­i­tal econ­omy not only im­prove ef­fi­cien­cies but also im­prove pro­duc­tion and ser­vices across all facets of life.

While China prides it­self on its many ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy, it still rec­og­nizes that many will be left be­hind. There is still a great deal of work to does­per­son for the com­pany said.

IMAGINECHINA

Grad­u­ates of Pek­ing Univer­sity at­tend their con­vo­ca­tion cer­e­mony in Bei­jing in July. Ed­u­ca­tion is key as the Chi­nese econ­omy shifts away from man­u­fac­tur­ing to a sys­tem more fo­cused on cre­ative thought.

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