Students fly model planes at an art festival held by a primary school in Guizhou province in November. [Huang Xiaohai/For China Daily]
Ending excessive academic work and off-campus tutoring for primary and middle school students has been a prime concern for China's top legislators and political advisers, with the Ministry of Education implementing strong measures to address the issue.
During last year's two sessions, the country's most important annual political event, deputies to the National People's Congress and members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee filed dozens of suggestions and proposals on reducing students' academic burden and regulating extracurricular tutoring, said Song Demin, vice-minister of education.
The NPC made regulating and standardizing off-campus tutoring institutions a top priority and was given 14 suggestions, with the Education Ministry responsible for handling 11 of them, Song said.
To handle the suggestions, the ministry set up a special supervisory office and coordinated with 19 departments to oversee after-school tutoring institutions. In July, the ministry also filed the "double reduction" policy to reduce students' academic burden with the central government, along with 32 supporting documents, to provide policy guidance, Song said.
The ministry also cracked down on summer or underground tutoring activities, noncompliant and illegal tutoring institutions, as well as excessive advertising. In August, the ministry also organized a meeting on the changes. Eight NPC deputies participated and heard work reports from 12 departments, Song said.
By the end of 2021, a total of 91.45 percent of offline tutoring centers and 87.07 percent of online tutoring services had closed or switched to other businesses, according to ministry data. "The somewhat chaotic expansion of training institutions was effectively curbed," Song said.
According to an independent survey, 72.7 percent of parents said their anxiety over education has been to some degree relieved, Song said. "We've formed a good environment of social support and recognition of the double reduction policy," he said.
The Ministry of Education's handling of double reduction-related suggestions is one example of how the government responded to the suggestions and proposal submissions by the NPC deputies and CPPCC members.
According to government data, State Council departments last year handled 8,666 NPC suggestions and 5,718 CPPCC proposals, accounting for 96.4 percent and 93.4 percent of the total numbers, respectively.
The departments have also adopted more than 4,300 suggestions and proposals from NPC deputies and CPPCC members and introduced more than 1,600 policies and measures, which helped in the formulation of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), promoting high-quality economic development and improving social welfare and the environment, as well as revitalizing rural areas, said Shou Xiaoli, a spokeswoman for the State Council Information Office.
The submission of suggestions and proposals at the two sessions is an important way for NPC deputies and CPPCC members to participate in political matters, and handling them has always been a major job for government.
Double reduction will be one of the hot topics at this year's two sessions, which start in early March. Jiang Qihe, member of the China Association for Promoting Democracy, said the central committee of the association, one of the eight non-Communist parties of China, intends to submit 11 proposals on education with many related to the double reduction policy.
Liu Xiya, an NPC deputy who is also the headmaster of Xiejiawan Primary School in Chongqing, told Chongqing Daily that she has 14 suggestions ready to file this year, and many of them are related to education.
She said that during her field research in recent years, people have expressed concern about off-campus tutoring problems. Over the years, she has listened to opinions from the public and put forward a number of suggestions about regulating off-campus tutoring centers, reducing the academic burden on students, improving the quality of teaching, protecting minors and ensuring equality of education.
"I have been calling for years for the governance of after-school tutoring centers and any other activities that undercut the education environment. In 2021, the central government comprehensively regulated these institutions and the strength and determination exceeded my expectation. It amplifies my sense of mission in performing my duties," she said.
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