Reflecting on the conclusion of the year 2023, the Open University of China (OUC) has been tirelessly advancing its dynamic initiatives, leaving a lasting mark in the annals of time.

The journey through the winds and rains of this year has been akin to a marathon, and as we stand here at this very moment, we are jubilantly crossing the finish line, ushering in the eagerly awaited year of 2024 together.

In the year 2023, we embarked on the journey of implementing the guiding principles outlined in the  20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC). This new era presents us with a unique set of challenges and opportunities, much like a test paper filled with expectations. We, the OUC, have placed our focus on "development in service of a learning-oriented society." Our central mission revolves around addressing two key questions posed by our times: first, our role in contributing to the establishment of a leading educational nation, and second, our response to the relationship between open education and a learning-oriented society. With unwavering determination and unwavering commitment, we have marched forward, taking resilient and tenacious steps towards these goals.

Reflecting on 2023, our steadfast belief that fortifies our core and spirit has fueled our determination to move forward. The OUC Party committee remains committed to upholding the Party's overarching leadership, consistently harnessing the guiding influence of Party-building ideology, and effectively advancing the profound synergy between politics and our endeavours, as well as the harmonious alignment between Party development and business operations.

We have diligently conducted a thematic education campaign aimed at fostering new achievements by fostering a deep understanding through learning. We have innovatively formulated a theoretical learning mechanism with distinct OUC characteristics, which encompass "learning, retelling, testing, practicing, and supervising." We have created a dynamic scenario characterised by "inclusive learning, coordinated processes, comprehensive implementation, and comprehensive practice." The OUC education system and the headquarters staff have received a satisfaction rate of 98.96%. With 56 reports on the central thematic education official website and in mainstream media, we have achieved significant progress in promoting unified thinking, garnering support from the people, and harnessing their collective strength to advance our work.

Three Party branches within the university have been recognised as "exemplary" Party branches within China's state organs, and Li Wei has been honoured as the "Youth Learning Model" among affiliated institutions of the Ministry of Education. Through the promotion of research and studies, we have reached out to regions such as Hunan, Guizhou, Jiangsu, and beyond, gaining a better understanding of the local realities, listening to the voices of the people, and addressing their concerns. This has made our educational efforts more meaningful and heartwarming.

We have thoroughly studied the guiding principles articulated by General Secretary Xi Jinping during the fifth group study session of the Political Bureau of the CPC. By focusing on the contemporary imperative of "Building a Leading Country in Education, with the OUC's Vital Role," we have rallied the OUC education system and our teaching staff to collectively respond to this challenge. As a result, we have strived to identify the appropriate value proposition for delivering open education that truly meets the needs of the people, and to embrace a more noble mission.

We have wholeheartedly embraced the spirit of educators. A variety of teaching skills competitions have been organised. These events have guided teachers to concentrate on their classrooms, pooling their strengths into their teaching, honing their professional ethics, and nurturing their inner values. Additionally, we've initiated programs to identify and celebrate outstanding young teachers. These efforts have inspired numerous young educators to steadfastly hold onto their ideals and beliefs, remain true to their original aspirations and missions, and pursue noble objectives that transcend personal ambitions, always prioritising the welfare of their students. This year, our teachers have achieved remarkable individual and collective successes in various domains. Xiong Ying was honored as a winner in the 7th Selection of Young Teaching Masters of Higher Education Institutions in Beijing. Sun Zhijuan emerged as a winner in the 19th Selection of Teaching Masters of Higher Education Institutions in Beijing. Furthermore, Wang Li's course 'Android Smartphone Programming' was recognised as an outstanding undergraduate course by Higher Education Institutions in Beijing in 2023...

Reflecting on 2023, it's evident that the profound responsibility of addressing the nation's top priorities has enriched the tapestry of our times. The university remains committed to its ultimate goal of serving the national strategy. It embraces the mission of contributing to the country through education and is more prepared and determined than ever to establish our nation as a leader in the educational domain.

In our commitment to implementing the fundamental task of fostering virtue through education, we've advanced with dynamic enthusiasm. We launched a series of live public classes centered around the 20th National Congress of the CPC, hosted high-level forums on contemporary Marxist theory research in China, and diligently prepared for the "Introduction to Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era" course within the OUC education system. Additionally, we've issued guidelines to enhance the development of ideological and political education into courses at OUC. Our efforts have been recognised with three gold awards in the "Youth's Journey for Building the Red Dream" category and six gold awards in the vocational education category at the China International College Students' Innovation Competition.

In our journey towards fostering lifelong learning for all, we've taken decisive steps. We've enhanced the Smart OUC integrated platform, offering 17,000 online courses across 240 specializations, catering to the educational pursuits of 5 million degree-seeking learners. Our commitment to evolving the lifelong education platform has enabled us to support 34 million lifelong learners with access to over 700,000 course resources. Additionally, we've established a national public service platform dedicated to elderly education, which has garnered 2.329 million registered users and offers more than 400,000 course resources, alongside over 4 million minutes of learning materials.

We've also set up a credit bank, effectively bridging the gap between degree and non-degree education. This initiative has led to the creation of approximately 18 million lifelong learning files for community members and the documentation of 3.14 million individual achievements. The practical implementation of the credit bank has been recognised once again, being selected as a case study by UNESCO.

Along the path of the Seniors University of China's (SUC) innovative construction, we have embarked on a new chapter. On March 3rd, Huai Jinpeng, Minister of the Ministry of Education (MOE), attended the SUC's establishment ceremony. He emphasised the urgency of mobilizing the entire education system to ensure the successful development of SUC. It is critical to mobilize resources from all sectors of society and collaboratively develop a boundless, successful university. Embracing the digital trend is essential in developing an open and successful university for seniors. With the blueprint now laid out, a new journey in national elderly education has begun. Academician Zhang Boli personally delivered the inaugural lecture, attended online by 1.2 million senior students. The senior education system has established nearly 3,000 study centres and 55,000 senior learning sites nationwide. The SUC's Health and Happiness Lectures, held during the Double Ninth Festival, have garnered immense popularity, attracting over 4.5 million live broadcast viewers...

In our pursuit of economic and social development, we've created a fertile ground for growth. Our efforts have resulted in the nurturing of a vast number of applied and skilled professionals. Over the past 44 years, we've enrolled a total of 25.72 million students in degree education programs, proudly graduating 19.61 million. Currently, we boast 4.715 million active students in undergraduate and junior college programmes. We have pioneered a new approach to talent development in rural revitalisation, consistently implementing the "One College Student Per Village" Programme for 20 years, thereby cultivating 710,200 local talented individuals in rural areas. Our investment of nearly 100 million RMB yuan in the less developed central and western regions, along with the former revolutionary areas, has directly benefited over 70,000 individuals. Additionally, we've provided a subsidy of 170 million RMB yuan to lessen the financial burden for rural college students. Moreover, we've established the National Silver Age Teacher Resource Pool, which now includes 180,000 registered silver age teachers.

Reflecting on 2023, the determined courage that builds upon past achievements has marked yet another milestone in our journey. The university has concentrated on high-quality development with unwavering commitment, steadfastly aiming towards the long-term objective of evolving into a world-class institution.

We have embarked on the construction of a digital university, taking the lead in fostering the integration and innovation of "digitalisation + intelligent education". Personalised learning support, including course knowledge graphs, student profiles, and adaptive assessments, has been implemented for our students. A data warehouse has been established to manage and store core business data related to enrolment, teaching, examinations, and learning, thereby ensuring precise management through a comprehensive digital "web".

Our commitment extends to the creation of top-tier digital courses. We have invited 30 academicians to contribute to our "Academician Lecture" series and introduced 10 meticulously crafted courses by art masters. These initiatives have garnered over 15.75 million online views, reflecting our dedication to excellence in digital education.

With a global perspective and an open mindset, we are at the forefront of culturally advanced development. Our commitment is steadfast in connecting the world and contributing to the creation of a shared future for mankind. We proudly hosted the inaugural World Open University Presidents Forum and were instrumental in proposing the 'Belt and Road' Open Education Development Alliance. During the 2023 China-ASEAN Education Cooperation Week (CAECW), we initiated and established the ASEAN-China Digital Education Alliance. We also convened the APEC workshop focusing on the digital competency of younger older adults and participated in the 29th ICDE World Conference. These efforts showcased China's significant strides in digital education and lifelong learning to the global community. Furthermore, we have successfully established four open learning centres in Zambia, Pakistan, Tanzania, and Papua New Guinea.

The year 2024 marks a pivotal moment for the implementation of the "14th Five-Year Plan," and it stands as a critical juncture in addressing the significant proposition of "establishing a leading nation in education, with the OUC playing a pivotal role." As the gentle breezes of spring usher in, the OUC's vision for high-quality development beautifully intertwines with its grand journey, enhancing each other's glow. Let us steadfastly adhere to our foundational educational mission, embody the true spirit of educators, and boldly undertake our era's responsibilities. Embracing new opportunities for a fresh beginning, we shall maintain an open-minded approach to contribute the OUC's strength in this new era. With an unwavering educational passion for pioneering in the field, we are ready to contribute to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, building towards a powerhouse in education.

 

By Wu Yaqi, OUC