“Undoubtedly, this is very beneficial for the learners!”Vice President of the Open University of China(OUC), Li Linshu,could not contain his excitement upon seeing that individual learning accounts,a credit accumulation system, continuing education, and lifelong learning channels were written into the“Thirteenth Five-Year Plan.”

“With this system, learners can reasonably avoid repeating studies, greatly improve efficiency, reduce costs,and substantially arouse their enthusiasm for learning,continuing to gain and maintain motivation toward achieving lifelong learning and sustained development. With the decrease of learning costs, total social costs for human resources development will be reduced. The spillover effects and social value of the system will also be evident.”

As we all know, promoting lifelong learning for all is a critical step in the construction of a learning society and a country with powerful human resources. However, how to implement advanced concepts remains a difficult problem for countries all over the world to explore. What effects will provisions in the Suggestions on Formulating the 13th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development of the CPC Central Committee have on the work? What impact will they have on economic and social development? What changes and arrangements need to be made in the field of education?

Li Linshu told the reporter that, to streamline the channels of continuous education and lifelong learning, we should break down barriers in the original systems and mechanisms affecting the channels and build a flexible, convenient, direct,and efficient channel of continuous learning. Coupled with an “overpass” for the development of lifelong learning and talent growth through system redesign and rearrangement, this will establish a driving mechanism that will so effectively promote universal lifelong learning as to advance the development of the lifelong educational system and learning society.

“Establishing individual learning accounts and a credit accumulation system has a profound meaning.”Li Linshu explained that the establishment of individual learning accounts is not only a traditional information service provided for learners, but will also serve all members of society receiving continuing education and carrying on lifelong learning. In that context, the establishment of a credit accumulation system is not a single path towards accumulating credits, aiming for the results of traditional formal education and official learning. Instead, the system helps accredit, approve, accumulate credit little by little, blend, and admit various learning results obtained through different means and ways, even accepting learning results with no accreditation, while following standards and rules under the credit accumulation system. The system’s eventual goal is achieving and tracking the investment of time in exchange for corresponding degree certificates or career qualification certificates. The system will be called the “Credit Bank System.”

In recent years, China has begun exploring a system of individual learning accounts and credit accumulation. From June 2012 until now, the Ministry of Education(MOE)entrusted the OUC to carry out a project on the Research and Practice of a Learning Results Accreditation,Accumulation, and Transfer System for National Continuous Education and pilot a programme on the Construction of a Credit Bank for Teachers’Lifelong Education. During the period,a National Qualification Framework for Vocational Education was collaboratively researched.Research on the introduction of guiding documents for advancing the development of a learning results accreditation, accumulation, and Transfer system is currently underway. In addition, exploration of resource sharing (mutual recognition of credits) unions or communities and local “Credit Banks”shared among all forms and types of institutions are emerging one after another, lending valuable experience to system design and implementation in China.

The establishment of this system fills a gap in the education management system in China and has a profound impact on the learning management system and learners’means. Li Linshu noted that suggestions from the “Thirteenth Five-Year Plan” reflect the will of the Party and the country, and have created a wonderful opportunity,guaranteeing conditions for the establishment of this system. All we have to do is to follow the five development concepts of “innovation, coordination,environmental-friendliness, opening up, and sharing,”remain firmly grounded in China's national qualities and international perspectives, and innovate boldly.The system will meet the varied needs of stakeholders, which include government,industries, businesses, educational and training institutions, and learners. It will be based on highly moral values, cultivating people and putting the improvement of education quality at its core, creating a healthy,“green” environment for the system’s development on aspects ranging from regulations to policies, management to services, and so on.The system will lead in the development, construction, and collection of various kinds of high quality teaching resources with a more open attitude and actions, guide institutional mechanisms,and remain open to all citizens.

When talking about the foci and difficulties of related future work,and corresponding breakthrough approaches for them, Li Linshu believed that “the key issue to be addressed is public trust in learning results accreditation, accumulation, and transfer. The current international approach to solving this problem is establishing an independent,authoritative national qualification framework based on the existing accreditation system for related results (certificates) led by different sectors."He further explained that, based on the framework, talent development criteria should be developed for different areas so that different types of learning outcomes in different areas can be compared with the same degree(amount) in accordance with the criteria used. This would lend the transfer results public credibility. A “framework and standardized” system will not only increase social acceptance, but also effectively guide and promote the optimization and combination of various learning outcomes, thereby promoting the reform of education and talent training and cultivation models.

As for how to proceed with implementation, Li Linshu recommended the first priority is, “to design at the national level, from the top-down. Secondly, focus on key areas (continuing education and vocational education) and the main body needs (communication and cohesion between non-degree education and degree education, as well as the development of an overpass for learner development).Thirdly, education sectors should play a leading role, carrying out pilot programmes and steadily promoting the programmes. Constructing the Credit Bank System is an extremely complex project as well as an important part of comprehensive education reform in the country. The OUC’s unique role and advantages in fulfilling its historical mission to serve lifelong learning, and its special task exploring the establishment of a“credit banking” system, should be  utilized fully in the first pilot programmes. ”

By Gao Liang,China Education Daily