Editor's note: In order to implement the spirit of Opinions on Further Promoting the development of Community Education (shortened as "Opinions") jointly issued by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and eight other ministries and commissions, to showcase the practical results of the system of the Open University of China (OUC) in community education, and to publicise the OUC’s important role in constructing a lifelong education system, from November 8th to 12th 2016, the OUC News Centre organised a group of journalists under the theme A Trip to the OUC: Stepping into Community Education to enjoy an in-depth study of community education in Sichuan Province. The reporters’ group was composed of the Xinhua News Agency, People's Daily, China Education News, China Youth Daily, Farmers Daily, China Society News, China.org.cn, Online Learning and other media groups. The OUC’s news network will reproduce the interviews of the reporters in this column. We sincerely hope you will enjoy this feature.

Community education in China has a history of over 20 years. However, its development has been unbalanced, with a great gap still existing between East and West. To narrow the gap in community education, we must make a breakthrough in legislation and law enforcement and broaden financial investment channels.

The reporter learned from Zhou Yanjun, executive deputy director of the Community Education Research & Training Centre of the MOE and attendee of the Seminar on Vigorously Developing Community Education and Advancing Social Governance Innovation held from November 11th to 12th in Weiyuan County, Sichuan Province, that over the last 20 years of China's community education development, on the one hand, China’s community education has undergone a period of flourishing development. But on the other hand, the development has been unbalanced.

Zhou Yanjun believes that the imbalance in community education lies firstly in the imbalance between the regions. In the eastern coastal regions, to take the Yangtze River Delta area as an example, community education has been carried out on a wide scale. In the central regions, although community education is also gradually advancing, the progress is slower. However in the vast western regions, except for a few cities, community education remains in its beginning stage on the whole, and in some places has yet to even make an appearance. In Shanghai, Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces, per capita funding for community education is more than 8 yuan, while the amount in the western provinces is less than 1 yuan.

"In addition, the development of community education in rural areas lags far behind that of the urban areas. In terms of service objects and groups, it is also very uneven, with more attention given to the elderly and young people and relatively less attention on the education and training of industrial workers and rural residents", said Zhou Yanjun.

The Opinions, jointly issued by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and eight other ministries and commissions, put forward the promotion of lifelong learning for all the people and the formation of a learning society. To achieve this goal, it is necessary to vigorously promote community education and narrow the imbalance between regions.

"The core problems that need to be solved in community education are financial support and the construction of laws and regulations", according to Zhou Yanjun. Community education, like basic education and vocational education, requires a large investment, with which, such problems as personnel, project sites and implementation of projects can progress smoothly and problems can be easily solved. The financial sector must increase spending on community education, while the government also needs to work hard to broaden the sources of funding. Only with a basic government investment will more private and social capital be stimulated to join in, which will then promote the formation of a diversified investment mechanism for community education.

“Furthermore, to eliminate the bottleneck restricting the development of community education, the ultimate measure we could resort to is legislation and strict law enforcement", said Zhou Yanjun. The law of lifelong education that has been brewing for a long time should be introduced by the state as soon as possible. From the local level point of view, local education institutions from various places should take the opportunity of the introduction of the Opinions to urge and assist local legislative departments to introduce regulations on the promotion of lifelong education (community education) as soon as possible.

By Lv Qingfu, Xinhua News Agency