How is the Chinese education system coping with the virus epidemic?

Huang Jianbin, a teacher at Peking University, uses the “Classin” online education system to teach physical chemistry, in Beijing, Feb. 17, 2020. / Xinhua Photo

Huang Jianbin, a teacher at Peking University, uses the “Classin” online education system to teach physical chemistry, in Beijing, Feb. 17, 2020. / Xinhua Photo

Editor’s Note: Wang Yan is a senior specialist and director of the Department of International Exchanges of the National Institute of Educational Sciences. The article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the CGTN.

This week, around 180 million students in China should have returned to school and continued their campus life for the spring semester. But as the coronavirus outbreak continues, the Chinese government remains very strict on measures to contain the spread. As a result, students are required to stay home for the quarantine, but they are not removed from education.

Since the early forties, many of them have started learning online through various online courses and programs, offered by government, educational institutions and tutoring institutions, after the Spring Festival.

The learning fever is at its height. This could be explained by the schools ‘aspiration to their students’ performance in subsequent exams (including high school entrance exams and university entrance exams), the usual diligence of Chinese students, and learning for fun in their 40s as well as their enthusiasm and curiosity for new ways of learning.

However, the holidays are the holidays. On February 4, the Department of Education issued a “reminder” to prohibit offering online courses for new compulsory subjects before the preprogrammed start date of the new semester, to ensure that students are focused on winter vacation homework and not overwhelmed by the learning load.

On the other hand, the ministry has encouraged classes on coronavirus-related topics, mental health counseling as well as arts and sports for entertainment to maintain study-life balance.

For China, the epidemic is a battle, and colleges are also on the front lines, as an infected student could affect many other students and their families.

Education Minister Chen Baosheng stressed that it is imperative to consider the worst-case scenario and take decisive action to prevent the epidemic in middle schools. Students are not allowed to return to campus without approval, and non-professors are prohibited from entering campus.

On the other hand, “Class stops, but not teaching and learning” becomes the primary focus of the education sector.

As the epicenter of the epidemic, Hubei province (central China) is in particular need of educational assistance. To meet these needs, the People’s Education Press offered digital textbooks and application services for three months; and the National Center for Education Technology delivered 6,806 national courses in Hubei for schools with Internet access but lacking quality basic educational resources.

Schools are given a high priority when national financial resources tighten. The ministries of education and finance issued a policy (circular), requiring the financial sector to assess the financial deficits of educational institutions to deal with the epidemic and secure the budget to close the deficit, including allowing local governments to use previously earmarked funds for epidemic control Resources. “A green channel” was also established for the quality and efficiency of procurement during the emergency.

The education systems reacted very quickly. In the higher education sector, as of February 2, 22 online curriculum platforms had opened 24,000 online courses for higher education institutions to choose from, including 1,291 national excellence courses and 401 National experimental virtual simulation courses, covering 12 undergraduate programs and 18 tertiary professional programs.

Hu Xiaoqian, a teacher at Tsinghua University, uses an online education system to teach baseball in Beijing, Feb. 17, 2020. / Xinhua Photo

Hu Xiaoqian, a teacher at Tsinghua University, uses an online education system to teach baseball in Beijing, Feb. 17, 2020. / Xinhua Photo

On February 17, Tsinghua University began its new semester with a national flag raising ceremony, the campus is vacant, but the online classrooms are full. A total of 4,254 courses have been scheduled for this semester, involving 2,681 faculty members (professors and lecturers) and 25,091 students, with 3,923 courses offered online. On the first day of the new semester, 155 courses were opened at 31 colleges and schools.

On the same day, a national cloud-based internet platform opened, offering free digital learning resources to elementary and secondary school students. It was developed through multisectoral efforts and public-private partnership, attracting resources from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Aliyun, China Telecom and China Mobile, Huawei , among others. With 7,000 servers, 90T of bandwidth, the platform can accommodate 50 million students learning online simultaneously.

The cloud learning resources consist of six modules: epidemic prevention education, moral education, thematic education, curriculum learning, digital textbooks, and film and television education. It covers 12 subjects in lower and upper secondary education, with 169 classes available in the first week. China’s education television station will broadcast live parts for primary and secondary schools, 75 classes per week, which will also reach remote and rural areas.

Governments and schools have developed detailed plans to deal with the challenges. Taking the Haidian District in Beijing as an example, the winter vacation has been extended. The municipal government, the district authority and the schools jointly developed learning resources for students for this period. During extended vacations, teachers work with students to formulate daily study plans, online classes are offered with longer breaks and instructions to control how much time students spend staring at the classroom screen. computer.

As in the field of health, China is making enormous efforts to combat what has become a huge educational challenge. It is not at all easy to ensure that more than 200 million students continue their learning given the limited conditions of quarantine compared to the substantial economic costs. This proves China’s commitment to education and its enormous potential to meet the challenges of education governance, which concern the well-being of people, increased productivity, wealth creation and l ‘improved well-being.

For educators and students, this is a learning process. While we hope the epidemic ends soon, students learn new academic, social and emotional skills, and more importantly, they learn to acquire the skills with cutting edge technology and various modes of delivery.

This would hopefully accelerate the modernization of the education system and also better prepare students by increasing their capacities and aptitudes to take on new challenges in a rapidly changing world.

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