Ye Zugeng has an unbreakable bond with the Radio and Television University (RTVU). He graduated as a major in Chinese Language from Fujian RTVU with high marks in 1988. He became Party secretary and president at Fujian RTVU’s Ningde branch in 2010, when the Central China Radio and Television University (CCRTVU) was in the early stages of transitioning to the Open University of China (OUC). In 2017, after seven years with Ye Zugeng as president, Ningde RTVU completed its strategic transformation, and is now developing vigorously.

"Focusing on students not only benefitted me while I was an RTVU student, but also let me think more about the development of the university from the learners' point of view once I took charge of Fujian RTVU’s Ningde branch."


Even particles of sand can accumulate to form a towering pile: No pain, no gain

In the autumn of 2010, the CCRTVU was in the process of transitioning into the OUC. Ye Zugeng, who had just taken over the Ningde branch, carefully analysed relevant policy documents, combined with the university’s present situation, and created a university operating concept of "three wheels, three platforms, professionalism, informatisation, and socialization." The three wheels refer to three driving powers: implementing academic education, non-degree training, and community education, promoting teachers' professional development, as well as teaching management informatisation and the socialisation of education services. These will combine to develop Ningde branch into a learning, communication, and development platform (three platforms) in demand by adult students. Through joint effort from every teacher, Ningde branch achieved its transformation goals, and stepped to the forefront of the Fujian RTVU system.

At present, more than 3,800 students are enrolled in degree education at Ningde branch, two times more than than in 2010. Throughout Fujian’s provincial RTVU system, the number of students exceeds 13,000, greater than the number of students studying at general colleges and universities. The size of non-degree training programmes rapidly developed from zero to more than 60,000 students each year, with students coming from backgrounds as civil servants, professionals and technical personnel, workers, and farmers. Community education has been widely developed across urban and rural areas. Rich and colourful cultural activities are held on campus. The university has repeatedly won the honours at district and municipal levels, serves as a base for continuing education for professional and technical personnel in Ningde, a training base for civil servants in Fujian, and an experimental OUC base for community education.

Focus on in-person instruction, remembering the original intent to train talent

Although the university is currently developing well, Ye Zugeng will not forget the hard choices the university once faced: whether to let students follow the crowd and completely rely on the network education platform for autonomous learning, or rise against the difficulties and organise in-person counseling for students. Today, he would still approve the decision made at that time. “Online independent learning can help students break through the restrictions of time and space, and facilitate on-the-job learning. However, it is hard for students to penetrate deeper and fully understand learned knowledge, and teachers and students also lack an emotional connection in online education. No matter how the times change, and how the form of education evolves, the core of education, propagating doctrines, imparting professional knowledge, and answering students’ doubts will not change. To improve the quality of adult education, it is essential to offer off-line counseling. In-person counseling will increase teachers’ workloads and teaching costs, as well as risk a decline in the number of students and revenue. However, for the development of students, we must not hesitate in providing this service."

Ningde RTVU launched a series of teaching management reforms focused on in-person counseling and instruction. It cooperates with various industries to train personnel, sourcing students from more than 10 departments. A full-time counseling team composed of teachers, holding intermediate titles and above, and with rich management experience, was formed to provide learning services for students. Administrative regulations, which clearly define the requirements of the positions and evaluation methods, were put forward for counselors, teachers, and students. The 8-hour administration work system was discarded, and a flexible work schedule implemented so that when students come to participate in in-person instruction on nights or weekends, teachers are available to follow up on a timely basis. Teachers on duty nights or weekends are able to take time off on weekdays. The counseling process was standardised: management team members are required to teach in the classroom, intermediate-level cadres to stay on duty nights and weekends, tutors remain at work, and teaching management and the technical support department must follow up on all issues. Adult education teaching practices were emphasised, and teaching locations established at courtrooms, accounting firms, and large enterprises, where students receive practical training. Students' professional competencies and competitiveness are enhanced through extra classes like an accounting certificate exam class, a training class on modern office skills, and specialised curriculum.

Reforms have won positive feedback from students. Brilliant and illuminated classrooms re-appeared at the university each night, and the rate of students attending in-person classes has climbed to more than 2/3. Teaching quality has gradually improved. A number of graduates have passed their examinations for public service jobs and obtained promotions at work, while more students have enhanced their capabilities. For example, a 2017 law undergraduate, Chen Yanhui, obtained a graduation certificate, a lawyer’s qualification certificate, and an accounting certificate upon graduation. The mixed teaching mode of Ningde RTVU has been ranked first in teaching reform across the entire Fujian RTVU system.

Taking root among the masses, and taking initiative to assume responsibility for all of society’s education

"The pace of urbanization, industrialisation, informatisation, and shifting toward an aged society have accelerated. The government called for the OUC to undertake major responsibilities in the construction of a lifelong education system and learning society. As a member of the OUC system, Ningde RTVU identifies organisational characteristics and fully leverages its resources while striving toward common goals," said Ye Zugeng.

"An RTVU is born to fulfill civilians’ dreams of success. We must always adhere to the concept of open education, making meeting the learning needs of the great masses our primary pursuit. We should disregard educational form, set no limit on the objects of education, break through walls segmenting the university, bring education to the whole of society, and maximise the role of education in promoting social development," said Ye Zugeng. The number of students attending in-person training at Ningde RTVU remains above 3,000 annually. Teachers help to disseminate knowledge to factories and workshops, and into the fields.

Ningde RTVU has only 53 teachers. But, the construction of a large, remote training platform enabled it to complete four continuing education training courses for civil servants, professionals, and technical personnel in Ningde. It cooperated with many departments, including the food and drug supervision, and sanitary control departments, to develop long-distance training for professional and technical personnel. In the past five years, a total of 270,000 students have studied in the distance training programmes, which rank at the top across the nationwide RTVU system. In 2016, the RTVU leaders from 14 municipal-level RTVUs in eight provinces gathered at Ningde RTVU to discuss their distance training experiences.

Despite the fact that there is neither sufficient nor stable teaching resources at the RTVU, it has a solid network covering the entire county. Ningde RTVU flexibly provides education for all types of people through the integration of varied teaching resources. Because of its resourcefulness, Ningde RTVU has, instead of being confined by its limited human, financial, and material resources, extended beyond an RTVU, and become an integrated, large educational resource for social organisations, continuously expanded its organisational space, and served the development of the greater society. It worked with well-known universities and jointly trained on-the-job postgraduates majoring in public management and law, filling a need in Ningde for high-level talents, and creating a precedent of on-the-job postgraduate training within the Fujian RTVU system. With the educational management department's support, and relying on primary and junior middle schools, it has established 152 community schools for both urban and rural students. Ningde branch organises a wide range of community education activities closely related to people's livelihood, industries, culture, and governance, in addition to a family educational activity on "Becoming Qualified Modern Parents," held for the city's 310,000 parents of students enrolled in compulsory state education, all of which were reported on by xinhuanet.com, sina.com.cn, ifeng.com and other eight national media groups.

By Ningde branch of Fujian RTVU