China Releases Thirteenth Five Year Plan for Education

On 10 January 2017, China’s State Council issued the official Thirteen Five Year Plan on Education [In Chinese] (the Plan), outlining major objectives and targets for the education sector over the period 2016-2020, including enhancing international cooperation.
The Plan sits under China’s national Thirteenth Five Year Plan, which was released in March 2016, and reflects a number of recent major policy changes, such as encouraging the steady rollout of “Gaokao” reforms across the country, standardizing the development of non-public schools, allowing private capital into certain parts of the education market, and a focus on education development associated with the Belt and Road Initiative.
By the end of 2020, China aims to have strengthened and modernised its education system, and to be in a position to play a more influential role internationally in education. The Plan focusses on a number of key priority areas including innovation, moral education, education equality and poverty relief, structural reform and teacher development. Improving education quality lies at the heart of the Plan, and this theme is integrated into all of the development strategies. 
One of the important factors driving the development of the Plan is China’s aging population, which is raising concerns about a shrinking workforce and the need for an upgraded economic structure. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security recently confirmed the release of an extended retirement plan this year, pushing back the age at which workers can retire. Given these labour force concerns, the concept of “life-long learning for all” is also emphasized throughout the document.
As well as new mandatory and aspirational targets for education participation from pre-school through to higher education, life-long learning will also be supported by the development of  individual student learning accounts, a new points accumulation system taking into account previous working experience and recognition of prior learning, and the development of a National Qualifications framework. The Plan also calls for faster development of online and distance education, and vocational and continuing education, offered to all including farmers, workers and retired veterans to help meet the growing demand for a more educated and skilled workforce. Analysis of the Sixth National Census shows that in 2010 there were nearly half a billion Chinese between the age of 25 and 49 without post-secondary education, providing a potential opportunity for Australian education providers to help meet the skills needs of this cohort.
China’s eastern regions will continue to take the lead in the modernization and development of a world class level education system, while the mid-western and north-eastern regions will benefit from more favourable policies designed to help them further expand the opening up and development of education.
The Plan also has a focus on improving the quality of Sino-Foreign education joint ventures. Priority will be given to approving new joint venture programs in natural science and engineering. Universities, colleges and schools are encouraged to collaborate with world class foreign counterparts, and China will look to streamline processes for foreign teachers, academics and researchers coming to China and for Chinese teachers and academics to go abroad.
The Plan includes more detail around the development of China’s universities under what is now called the “Double First Class” system (an update on what was previously unofficially referred to as World Class 2.0).  A separate policy update on the “Double First Class” system is forthcoming.
For further enquiries, please contact the Education and Research Section of the Australian Embassy in Beijing.