Shunde has always placed utmost importance on education. Historically, Shunde had given birth to four top scholars in the imperial examinations. The advent of the knowledge economy has made human resource a core element of reform and development, and education is the foundation for cultivating talents. Basic education as a public product is also responsible for achieving social equity, cultivating modern citizens, and maintaining social stability. Over the years, Shunde has adhered to the principle of ‘standards, service, and support’ and has established a complete education system covering pre-school education, basic education, higher education, vocational education, adult education, community education, and special education. The system has given local residents a good cultural foundation, and has also provided a large number of talents for regional economic development. A development strategy of ‘opening and innovating’ has produced many educational milestones in basic education, vocational education, high-end private education, higher education, special education and other aspects. This article will explore how Shunde creates talents from its resident pool.
An overview of Shunde’s education system
In the 1990s, Shunde, as a pilot reform city of Guangdong Province, carried out a series of changes in the field of education. It established a multi-prong investment mechanism, and the education industry has since been significantly developed. Today, Shunde is recognised as a strong education area in Guangdong Province, an advanced area for promoting education modernization in Guangdong Province, and an advanced area for promoting the balanced development of compulsory education throughout the country. It has established a comprehensive and balanced modern education system ranging from pre-school education, basic education, vocational education, adult education, community education, special education to higher education. There are 228 elementary and middle schools in Shunde (including 205 public schools and 23 private schools), of which 192 are compulsory education schools (including 17 private schools), 22 are high schools (including 6 private schools), and 13 are vocational and technical schools. There are 2 colleges and universities, and 1 special education school. The pathways between the different schools are inter-connected and meet the educational needs of the society.
Shunde’s education development has always been at the forefront of the country. In the 1980s and 1990s, Shunde’s elementary and higher education became universal. Today, the enrollment rates in kindergartens, elementary schools and middle schools are as high as 100%, and high schools’ enrollment rate is 99.36%. The elementary and middle school enrollment rates of the disabled and intellectually disabled groups also reached 100%. In recent years, Shunde has been recognised many times as an advanced area in education modernization and balanced development at the provincial and national levels, and was selected as a pilot unit for education reform.
In 2016, Shunde launched a comprehensive reform in education, focusing on the transformation of school management system, management mechanism, human development and education branding. Efforts were made in aspects such as reforming the education management system, building a modern school system, innovating the talent training model, and promoting professional growth of teachers. The aims were to further boost the vitality of Shunde’s educational development, form a Shunde education brand, meet the talent needs of Shunde’s economic and social development and meet the increasingly diverse educational needs of the citizens.
According to ‘Shunde District Education Development 13th Five-Year Plan’, ‘Shunde District High School Education Development Strategy Implementation Plan (2017-2021)’, ‘Shunde District Compulsory Education Construction Plan for the Next Five Years’ and other educational programmes, the Shunde District Government will be creating a number of benchmark schools, including 2 leading high schools, 4 major vocational education groups, and 6-8 high-quality compulsory education schools, in order to build a balanced, high-quality, diverse and distinctive system.
Basic education: balanced development, fruitful results
As early as 2004, all 10 towns (streets) in Shunde have become models of strong education to be emulated by other towns in Guangdong. In 2008, under the continuous and unremitting effort of the Education Department, unified education standards and compulsory education were achieved through a two-prong approach of using hardware and software. In 2009, Shunde attained basic education for all urban and rural areas. All of the compulsory education schools in Shunde have become standardized schools, as measured by the compulsory education criteria in Guangdong Province. In terms of quantity, there are 213 ordinary elementary and middle schools in Shunde, including 190 public schools and 23 private schools with more than 300,000 students. In terms of quality, the inter-school equilibrium coefficient of Shunde is the lowest in the five districts of Foshan, while its equilibrium degree is the highest in the five districts. The enrollment rate of junior high school students is 100%, the enrollment rate of elementary school students is also 100% and the nine-year compulsory education coverage rate is 100%.
Economic development has continuously enhanced the attractiveness of Shunde to migrant workers. The rapidly increasing population has generated huge demand for social services, which have brought great challenges to the local government. To this end, the Shunde District Education Department has on the one hand increased investment in education, such as increasing the supply of basic education resources. On the other hand, according to the principles of ‘school classification’ and ‘student stratification’, Shunde’s local schools are divided into ‘public’ and ‘private’ schools to coordinate and integrate educational resources. Public schools are mainly for students with household registration in Shunde. Private schools have no such restrictions and are open to the whole society. ‘Stratification’ refers to the division of students in Shunde into local and migrants students. Migrant students further are divided into advantaged students and ordinary students according to local policy preferences. Students with household registrations are enrolled in the nearest school, while the rest of the vacancies are then allocated accordingly to advantaged students and ordinary students . In addition, the Shunde District Education Department strictly controls the age of enrollment for elementary and middle school students and implements an enrollment policy of batch and point system. In this way, the basic education needs of all social groups are realized and there is fair and equitable distribution of educational resources. This will in turn solve the worries of high-level talents and help to retain talents in Shunde.
In September 2018, with a total investment of 782 million yuan and a campus area of 79,738.43 square meters, the Beijing Normal University Liyun Experimental School was officially completed and started operations. As the first ‘School-District Cooperation’ in Shunde, it is a private school with an innovative nine-year system. It is not only a pioneer in the cooperation between Shunde District Government and Beijing Normal University, it is also a non-profit institution. The classes (the highest number in Shunde) include 48 junior high classes and 36 elementary classes and have 4020 vacancies, which greatly ease the difficulty of local students entering the school. In addition, a convenient location, advanced teaching equipment and a beautiful natural environment, as well as a quality faculty team (more than 88% of their teachers graduated from ‘double-first class’ universities and more than half of have postgraduate qualifications), are pioneering an advanced level in basic education in Shunde.
Beijing Normal University Liyun Experimental School
The New Fengsha Elementary School, located in the new city east of Shunde, will begin operations in September 2019. The campus covers an area of 32,000 square meters and can accommodate 2,700 students in 60 classes. As a complete elementary school, the school building, canteen, gymnasium (indoor basketball court), 300-meter circular runway, football field, badminton court, volleyball court and other living and learning facilities will provide students with a convenient living and learning environment.
The continuous expansion of the basic education resources in Shunde District not only meets the growing educational needs, but also gradually improves the quality and level of education. The future looks rosy indeed!
Vocational education: providing technical talents for Shunde’s industries
Shunde’s vocational education has an early start and the system has been perfected to send a large number of workforce to the local industries every year. Among the 14 vocational and technical schools in the district, Shunde Polytechnic is the national benchmark higher vocational college. There are also 13 middle vocational schools, including 3 national model middle vocational schools, 6 national key vocational schools and 4 provincial key vocational schools.
With the continuous improvement of the level of economic development, the Shunde District Government is re-examining the functional and developmental directions of Shunde’s vocational education in combination with urban district planning, industrial layout characteristics and social development needs. It has implemented the reform of vocational education with group-based schools with Shunde characteristics. The ‘One School in One Town’ policy is reconstructed, and four major vocational education groups with clear positioning and varied development are established. Under this group-based management, the district has a total of 37 majors, such as the application and maintenance of robots, jewelry and jade processing and marketing, furniture design and production, and others, which are highly integrated with the local industries. Of these, students in 26 majors including jewelry, furniture, hotel management, e-commerce, auto repair and others, are seamlessly trained from middle to higher vocational schools. There are 11 colleges and universities in the province that offer higher-level vocational training. Students can also apply for the three-year school-enterprise integration programme, etc. The Shunde vocational education system has been well established with structural optimization, distinctive features, outstanding brand and social appreciation.
In 2018, the four major vocational education groups in Shunde actively cooperated with local industries according to their own development advantages, and established the Shunde Home Design Industry College, Lecong Furniture College, Shunde Smart Appliance Industry College, Shunde Chef College, Urban Rail Transit Industry College, Shunqi Catering Training Industry College, Zhongkai Automobile Industry College and Guangdong Light Industry Shunde Jewelry Industry College. This platform, combining industry and education, will train high-quality talents that meet the needs of modern industry.
In 2018, there were 8,136 middle-school vocational graduates in Shunde, of which 4,097 were enrolled into higher institutions and 4,039 were employed. The employment rate was 100% and the counterpart rate was 87.72%. Taking vocational education group management as the starting point, Shunde has deepened the integration of industry and education, strengthened the connection between middle and high vocational schools, expanded international exchanges and cooperation, improved third-party evaluation and the evaluation mechanism, realized ‘precise education, precise allotment’ between vocational schools and enterprises, comprehensively improved economic and social development capabilities in the service economy, and improved the quality of personnel training.
The Shunde Chef College at Shunde Polytechnic
Students from Chencun Vocational and Technical College undergoing training in Guangdong Keda Clean Energy Co., Ltd.
Private education: diversified and globalized
As public education resources are relatively limited, the Shunde Government encourages the private sector to run educational institutions. The majority of the 23 private elementary and middle schools in Shunde are first-class schools in Guangdong Province, providing about 49,000 vacancies for the whole district, helping to alleviate the shortage of public education resources. Private schools such as Country Garden School and Desheng School have first-class teaching facilities and school buildings and other hardware, as well as excellent faculty teams, and advanced teaching concepts. They are also active in multi-disciplinary exploration such as in international exchanges and curriculum reforms. In addition, the Shunde Private Education Association, established in 2004, has fully exerted the power of civil supervision and played an active role in promoting and coordinating private education standards and norms, sustaining development, and building a communication platform for private education.
Specifically, private education groups such as Country Garden School in Shunde District have set up international classes for Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan students, benchmarked themselves against international teaching modes and examination mechanisms, and trained international talents. Their excellent university enrollment rates have attracted children of high-level talents to enroll. Shunde Desheng School (International) has an international faculty, and has two pathways (international and domestic) for students to choose from. Besides having an exam-oriented education, students’ holistic development and extra-curricular talents are also honed to cultivate a new generation of international talents.
Desheng School’s leadership training camp
Special education: Inclusive education for all
The balance and inclusiveness of education is not only reflected in the number of people it accommodates, but also in the diversity of social groups. The children with disabilities group has long been in a weak position in society, especially in economically underdeveloped areas, and its basic right to education is often overlooked. The Shunde government has always attached great importance to the survival and development of this group, and the developed economy has given the district government sufficient financial power to promote the development of the special education project. Since the special education project started in the 1990s, Shunde has expanded and developed a comprehensive special education system from its many years of study, exploration and innovation.
On the one hand, the Shunde Education Department encourages children with disabilities to study in public schools and provides rehabilitation training and psychological counseling for disabled students through ‘resource classrooms’. On the other hand, the special education schools utilise ‘cloud platforms’ such that it is convenient for students with limited mobility to receive rehabilitation training and education at home. At present, there are 342 students with disabilities in the compulsory education stage in Shunde, with 199 students attending classes and 155 students home-schooled.
It is worth mentioning that the Shunde government has invested a total of 56 million yuan since 1999 in the construction of Qizhi School. It is a comprehensive boarding school for special education students with nine years of compulsory education. The students there are mostly moderately retarded, and some are hearing impaired. With the goal of ‘cultivating students to lead dignified lives in society’, the school carries out rehabilitation training for students, cultivates students’ independence and hone their survival skills with its varied and rich curriculum activities. The school ultimately wants its students to be self-sufficient and integrate into the society. Qizhi School has a total of 434 vacancies annually for the whole district. However, due to its humanized education, professional faculty and good environment, it attracts a large number of students from outside Shunde to apply for admission every year.
Qizhi School at a football tournament in Guangzhou
Higher education: Develop talents for high-end industries
After meeting the needs of basic education, developing a diversified private education, promoting a market-oriented vocational education, and focusing on special education, the Shunde District Government has also begun to develop higher education by adhering to the principle of meeting industrial needs, with a high starting point and high standards. It has successively built the Shunde Campus of Southern Medical University and Sun Yat-Sen University and the Shunde Graduate School of Beijing University of Science and Technology, as well as various postgraduate education platforms, including the Guangdong Xi-an Jiaotong University Academy and the Guangdong Shunde Innovative Design Institute and so on.
At the institutional level, Shunde has set up a district graduate education development center to coordinate the recruitment and training of graduate students in Shunde, promote graduate education policy research, support and plan major events, manage the funding of postgraduate education, synergise different innovation platforms, manage the social practice activities of Tsinghua University postgraduates, jointly train postgraduate students and administer postgraduate education and high-end enterprise training. During the period of 2012-2018, more than 3,700 graduate students were recruited and trained through full-time cooperative education, joint postgraduate training, doctoral students’ social practice, and on-the-job postgraduate education. Among them, a total of 259 students from Tsinghua University and Zhejiang University were recruited through the doctoral students’ social practice project to carry out scientific research in Shunde’s enterprises and institutions to help them solve scientific and technological problems. Through cooperation with famous universities at home and abroad in programmes such as joint training, platform incubation and professional training, Shunde is paving the road for its people to fulfil their dreams of attending university.
Shunde Graduate School of Beijing University of Science and Technology
Reform direction: Integrating resources
As a prestigious school with a 100-year history, Shunde No. 1 High School is the benchmark for the local education sector. With the integration of resources and the cultivation of the concept of group-run education, Shunde No. 1 High School Education Group, comprising of the main school, Shunde No. 1 High School Foreign Language School, Ronggui Experimental School, and Shunde No. 1 High School affiliated elementary school – New Deye School, was officially established in in December 2018. It is an educational alliance that integrates quality education in elementary school, middle school and high school. Its goals are personnel training, curriculum construction, teacher training, middle school-high school through train, resource sharing, and quality improvement to create a first-class basic education platform. In addition, Shunde No. 1 High School is cooperating with Beijing Normal University Liyun Experimental School to jointly set up an experimental class for a through train programme for middle and high school students, so as to explore a new mechanism for cultivating top-end talents. Furthermore, Shunde No. 1 High School and 16 junior high schools in Shunde set up an education alliance after more than a year of development. The goal is to develop and train high-quality students for Shunde’s local high schools. Currently, Shunde has established nearly 30 education groups after overcoming regional restrictions and they cover various sections such as vocational education, compulsory education, and early childhood education.
Shunde No. 1 High School
While creating their own characteristics, high schools are also actively collaborating with colleges and universities to make their school features align with the college entrance examination. Offerings such as ‘gifted class’, ‘foreign language class’, ‘media class’, ‘information technology class’ and ‘scientific and technological innovation class’ are aimed at cultivating students’ talents and are personalized for students. In the 2018 college entrance examination, 1 student from Shunde was ranked top 20 in the province, and 3 students were ranked top 40 in the province. Seven students from the Shunde Experimental High School arts programme were ranked top 100 in the province. The fruits of Shunde’s educational reforms are beginning to emerge.
Developing quality education is an inherent requirement for Shunde’s economic development and a core element and important support for Shunde’s regional competitiveness. Shunde rises to the different challenges such as society’s needs, people’s livelihoods and the market economy, fosters strengths and circumvents weaknesses, and makes full use of its resources to create an education system that meets the needs of the local community and conforms to local economic development. Shunde’s education system not only benefits people’s livelihoods, enhances the quality of its citizens, promotes the construction of a harmonious society, accumulates talents and sustains the developmental momentum for economic development, but also injects a new impetus into Shunde’s integration into the Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau Greater Bay Area.