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Private schools need more support, says minister

By Hu Haiyan | China Daily | Updated: 2013-03-08 00:20

Diversity is key in developing a sound and complete education system

Minister of Education Yuan Guiren called for more government support and opportunities for the development of private education to foster a sound and complete education system.

"Private education plays a very important role in the national education system. I suggest that the Government Work Report should clearly support the development of private education and the government should pay more attention to development of this sector," said Yuan during a group discussion at the session of the 12th Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee.

He pointed out that private education has played an important role in the reform and development of a modern education system and in providing schooling for people.

"It is impossible for a nation to build up a sound education system without the development of private education institutions. We support the development of all schools, be it private or public, as long as they are beneficial for fostering talent. We should also encourage more social funds to be invested in the private education sector to boost education development," said Yuan.

He suggested the government should give more support to this sector, despite huge progress in the development of private education in the past few years.

Yu Minhong, a CPPCC National Committee member and the president of New Oriental Group, said that a lack of consistent standards and regulations constitutes a big obstacle for the sound development of the sector.

"Different cities in China have different regulations for the private education sector, and even regulations among districts in a city, such as in Beijing, are not consistent with each other, which hinders the development of the sector," said Yu.

For instance, many English private education and training institutes employ teachers on contracts from public schools, but in many Chinese cities, public school teachers are prohibited from working as private tutors.

"If a more effective and consistent system of standards can be implemented, the private education sector will attract more capital investment, and then this sector will be boosted further," said Yu.

Qin He, a CPPCC National Committee member and the founder and president of Jilin Huaqiao Foreign Languages Institute, said private education institutions are also confronted with a lack of qualified students and capital.

"People have some prejudices against such institutions, saying they are just for earning money, and private higher intuitions only attract students who haven't been enrolled by public schools. This is not true," said Qin.

"Actually, in many Western countries, private education is a very important part of the education system and many world-renowned universities are private schools, such as the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School," she said.

Zhong Binglin, a CPPCC National Committee member and president of the Chinese Society of Education, said because private education institutions enjoy more flexibility than government-run schools in adapting courses to student needs — such as offering online courses — private education has received a huge boost in the past few years.

"Although the private education industry has not received as much support from the central government as some other industries, such as green energy, the government has been making efforts to boost this industry in recent years," said Zhong.

For instance, the government enacted the Law on the Promotion of Private Education in 2002, which provides some favorable policies. Since then, the nation's private education sector has enjoyed great development, Zhong said.

"Each industry's development is confronted with many challenges. Besides getting more support from the government for private education institutions, the key to tackling such challenges is to improve core competitiveness by providing good quality service and products," Zhong said.

Yu with the New Oriental Group echoed that to survive the fierce competition, innovation and high-quality services are essential.

"Although it is expensive and needs a lot of investment, brand building is necessary for private education institutions. The pain of doing so will pay off in the long term," said Yu.

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