An advanced workshop on the comprehensive reform and development of continuing education in regular universities was held recently in Hulunbuir, Inner Mongolia.

The workshop was hosted by the Coordination Group for National University Modern Distance Education and the magazine Distance Education in China. Themed “Practical Personnel Formation Reform for Continuing Education in the New Era”, it was the third workshop in 2018 and the 15th Workshop in the series. About 180 people participated in the study and discussion, including administrators from each provincial administrative department, responsible leaders of continuing education from several universities, responsible personnel from online education schools, continuing education schools, and open universities (radio and TV universities), responsible personnel from education training projects, and relevant middle and senior administrators as well as staff members from enterprise schools, training organisations, and education enterprises. The learners held discussions on practical personnel formation reform for continuing education in the new era, as well as how to ensure the quality of continuing education and improve its social reputation.

Use various practices to cultivate practical personnel for continuing education

Continuing education accounts for half of the lifelong education system and the national education cause. It is blessed with its own distinctive advantages in talent cultivation compared to other types of education. However, the trainees are particular and training is out of step with social demand. As a result, there is a much more urgent need for continuing education to explore practical talent cultivation than other forms of education.

Supported by fresh ideas and new ways, president Ran Shuyang of the School for Adult Continuing Education of Sichuan University indicated that the reform of the personnel formation model for continuing education in universities should be explored by taking into consideration the following aspects. The spirit of the National Conference on College Ideological and Political Work should be implemented. Continuing education in universities should be positioned and organised from the strategic perspective of supply-side structural reform. Under the guidance of education informatisation, the quality-centric intensive development of college continuing education should be advanced through the construction of the vocational education and training system and promoting the integration of industry and education and cooperation between enterprises and colleges in degree continuing education in colleges and universities.

Faced with the ever increasing competency of social training institutions and the lack of momentum in training work among universities, the Training School of Hunan Radio and TV University has set out to improve the capacity and quality of its training faculty. Both senior and junior staff members must overcome the restrictions of the former RTVU so as to improve their own capacity for project development, organisation and management, and project support in line with market concepts. Their thought process must change to suit the requirements of the new era. Whatever the type of education, support for local economic construction must be a focus in order to train skilled talents in combination with the reality of Hunan Province.

By relying on the cooperation between enterprises and colleges, the Information Technology School of Hunan Radio and TV University builds course resources, organises skills contests, strengthens job training, and carries out innovation and entrepreneurship. It attempts to fit in with vocational education and enterprise certification, and works on a pilot overpass for the credit bank.

In order to put standards first, what should be included in the quality of continuing education?

Minister Chen Baosheng from the Ministry of Education indicated that “Quality is king and standards go first.” In all the documents on education quality issued by the State Council, the Ministry of Education, and the China National Institute of Standardisation, including “Opinions on Strengthening the Construction of a Quality Certification System and Promoting Comprehensive Quality Management”, “A National Standard for Teaching Quality of Undergraduate Specialty in Colleges and Universities”, the National Standards for “Distance Education Services” (exposure draft), the focus on education quality standards is clear to see.

“Quality will be the theme of the development of global education in the next 15 years,” said Lin Shiyuan, a research assistant at the Institute for Lifelong learning and ESD, Beijing Academy of Educational Sciences.

There is no doubt that continuing education does not have a good reputation in society or in educational administrative departments. This is due to the fact that no equivalent relationship has been established between the reputation of continuing education quality and the actual quality level. Therefore, practitioners of continuing education must fully affirm what they have done and help outsiders understand the field to improve the reputation of different elements such as personnel training, course construction, teaching organisation, and platform upgrading and improvement.

Quality standards must be established in order to ensure the quality of continuing education. In China, existing practices to ensure the quality of continuing education include the approval system, the annual report, unified online examinations, and the enrolment management system.

According to Lin Shiyuan, the annual report is the most innovative among the four major quality assurance systems because it is process-based. This is one of the most practical innovations that should be further developed in the course of modern distance education trials and national education management or governance.

Education quality standards can be divided into three categories. The first is content standards, also known as academic content standards. This describes what each student should know and do in the core academic field, such as reading, mathematics, science, and history. The second is evaluation standards, also known as performance standards, which mainly refer to how to evaluate how well the students master knowledge and skills based on the content standards. The third is guarantee standards, also known as learning opportunity standards, which generally refer to the nature and quality of the educational experience and resources that educators provide to ensure that the students can meet the requirements of the content and performance standards. The three standards are interwoven with different assessment focuses.

In terms of the issuance of quality guarantee standards, Lin Shiyuan gave the following advice. “The state should introduce national guidelines as a basis. The regions, with consideration of their unique characteristics, should then allow the issuance of local standards with local characteristics based on the national ones. However, the overall requirements should not be lower than the national directory standards. The issuance of industrial standards should be allowed because of the diverse types of education in the education field. It is necessary for each industry to issue their own industrial standards.”

By Xue Jiayi, E-Learning