Community education is giving more meaning to our children’s summer vacations. Rural libraries are becoming a source of spiritual nourishment for farmers. Online courses are stimulating people's interest in learning.

The emergence of new learning models and forms of education has attracted attention from the masses. General Secretary Xi Jinping has emphasised that "Building a learning society in which anyone can learn anytime and anywhere and cultivating a large number of innovative talents are major issues facing mankind." Community education is an important starting point for this process and it is expected to have a brilliant future.

Community education is an educational activity aimed at improving the quality of all members of communities and their quality of life, promoting the all-round development of residents and the sustainable development of communities through the development and use of various educational resources in urban and rural communities. It is known as a "second classroom" for teenagers, a “fuel station" for employees, a "spiritual home" for new citizens, a "new stage" for an elderly life, and a "booster" for social governance. "China Education Modernisation 2035,” which was published earlier this year, puts forward the idea of "expanding the supply of community education resources", which has important guiding significance for the development of community education in China.

In order to successfully run community education, it is imperative to strengthen the basic capacity construction of community education and improve its school-running network. Taking Zhejiang Province as an example, there are 100 community education institutions at district, city, and county levels in the province, achieving full coverage of community education in the province. Under the county (district) level, 1,332 community schools at street (township) level have been established by integrating existing educational and cultural sites in the streets and communities. At the neighbourhood (village) level, the coverage of community schools is close to 60%. Only by fully integrating the resources of primary and secondary schools, libraries, science and technology museums, schools opened for citizens, and rural cultural auditoriums, and carrying out down-to-the-earth educational activities, can community education enter people's lives.

In order to speed up the development of community education, we need to form a cooperative governance system and operation mechanism with the leadership of Party committees, the overall planning of the government, the responsibility of education departments, the cooperation of relevant departments, the active support of society, the effective intervention of the market, and the broad participation of the masses. For example, Chengdu has established a "joint conference system for learning city construction and community education.” The general convener of the joint conference is the executive deputy mayor and it consists of 27 units as members, including the Civilisation Office, the Development and Reform Commission, and the Education Bureau. Its duties include the overall management and coordination of decisions, the formulation of work plans and supervising their implementation, and the compilation and publication of annual community education resources and lists of education and training services. Only by straightening out the mechanism can the development of community education enter the fast lane.

Promoting the standardisation and institutionalisation of community education is a fundamental guarantee for its healthy and in-depth development. Since 2005, regulations and rules for promoting lifelong education (community education) have been issued in many places. In Shanghai, for example, the Guiding Opinions on Promoting the Construction of a Learning Society in Shanghai were issued in 2006; the Three-Year Action Plan for Promoting the Construction of a Learning Society and Lifelong Education in Shanghai was issued in 2011, and, in 2016, the Shanghai Education Commission released 10 documents on regulating community education and elderly education. This continuously improved and well-directed policy system construction has played a coordinating, supporting, and standardising role in the reform and innovation of community education and promoted the rapid and healthy development of community education.

In order to ensure the implementation of all policies and measures, it is necessary to incorporate community education into the overall planning of educational modernisation and establish an objective responsibility and assessment mechanism. For example, since 2010, Fujian province has integrated lifelong education and community education into the content of supervision and evaluation for a "strong educational county,” which was a measure to strengthen government supervision from the aspects of a safeguard mechanism, the implementation of plans, and the forms of activities. The provincial Education Department also included community education in its education development plan and annual work plan, so that community education will be deployed, implemented, and inspected along with the overall education work in a unified manner, which has played a strong guiding and promotional role.

Community education is an important part of education in China and is also "education around the people.” Efforts to solve a series of problems restricting community education and improve the modernisation level of community education will play a better role in improving the overall quality of our population and promoting the all-round development of human beings, and lay a solid foundation for accelerating the construction of a learning society.

Author Profile: Zhou Yanjun is a former executive vice director of the Vocational Education Steering Committee Office of the Ministry of Education(MOE), a member of the MOE Expert Group on Community Education, and a member of the Expert Committee on Community Education and Education for the Aged of China Adult Education Association. He has been engaged in distance Internet teaching and research and training in community education and elderly education for many years. In recent years, he has presided over and organised topic research on the Demonstration of the Applications of the Public Service Platform for Lifelong Education by the Ministry of Finance and the MOE, and the Development of Institutionalisation and Standardisation of Community Education of the MOE and has published several theses on these topics.

By People’s Daily