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Education to Open Wider to Foreign Investment


Chinese educational sector will open wider, as economic, scientific and educational sectors join international competition with China's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), a top education official said.

"Higher-learning, vocational, adult and secondary technical education institutions will work with overseas partners to run corresponding schools in China," Minister of Education Chen Zhili said.

To help foreign institutions learn more about China's educational policies, the Chinese government will work out a set of provisions on Sino-foreign joint schools to guarantee their quality," Chen said.

Policies concerning the investment from overseas individuals for operating schools on the Chinese mainland will also be stipulated, Chen said.

Moreover, efforts will be made to expand bilateral and multilateral educational exchanges and to accelerate the work of mutual recognition on academic degrees between colleges and universities of China and other countries.

However, such institutions involving military affairs, police, politics, party schools and preliminary education will not open to any foreign organizations, though the country has become a WTO member, the minister said.

Another important goal is to cultivate higher-level talents to boost the country's high-tech industries. "Priority will be given to the nurture of talents with finance, trade, law, accounting and management expertise to meet the demand of economic restructuring caused by the country's entry to the WTO," said Chen, China's first female education minister.

"Meanwhile, in-depth training programmes covering WTO rules will be launched among governmental civil servants and enterprise executives to help bring their performances closer to international standards," she said.

The minister pins high hopes on overseas Chinese scholars as well as domestic university teachers.

"Chinese students and scholars who study abroad are encouraged to contribute to the country's economic development through various ways, such as returning to the motherland, operating laboratories and technological firms, or giving regular academic seminars," she said.

The ministry will continue to implement the Hong Kong-based Cheung Kong Scholars Program and the Cross-Century Talent Program, to assist outstanding university teachers to gain breakthroughs in cutting-edge academic fields, Chen pledged.

Higher learning institutions have played an active role in the country's major scientific programs in recent years.

Last year, for example, universities undertook one-third of studies for 18 national basic scientific programs.

Some 22 university-born scientific parks and six university-based centres for commercializing technological findings have sprung up.

These parks and centres will be further developed to help reinforce technological innovation and fuel the development of information technology, biotechnology and other high-tech industries, Chen said.

Regional education departments should further improve efficiency of vocational schools, in order to upgrade skills of massive labourers throughout China.

The country's 20,000 vocational schools have trained more than 10 million specialized workers during the past few decades for agricultural, industrial, medical, health and financial sectors.

"But industrial and service sectors are still in need of highly skilled specialists," Chen pointed out widening the recruitment of senior-level vocational schools is significant for labourers to compete in today's job markets.

Providing lifelong education opportunities for the 1.3 billion population is a long-term task, Chen said.

"Plus regular school education, the Chinese government will speed up distance-learning projects via broadcast, television and the Internet-based facilities to open diversified learning courses for people of different ages," Chen added.

In addition, 28 pilot centres have been set up across the country to promote community-based education programs.

Such centres are expected to be expanded to offer pre-employment and job-training programmes for people, said Chen.

The minister, who is born into a teacher's family, is also concerned with education development in remote and poor areas.

She revealed that the State has allocated 5 billion Yuan (US$602 million) to further popularize primary and middle school level education in central and western regions for the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-05) period.

China's better-developed eastern areas have, basically, popularized primary and middle school education, while the underdeveloped central and western regions have much to be desired in this respect, due to adverse geographical and relatively poor economic conditions, sources from the Ministry of Education said. (China Daily February 20, 2002)


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