China’s Teacher Education System After the Reform and Opening-Up
After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the cultivation of teachers was based on an independent system of normal institution. Therefore, the cultivation of teachers is called normal education. In the 1990s, as comprehensive universities joined the ranks of teachers training, “normal education” was gradually replaced by “teacher education.”
Normal education refers to the teacher training activities carried out by normal colleges and universities, generally referring to pre-service teacher training. Teacher education is different from normal education. It includes both pre-service teacher education and in-service teacher training. It includes teacher education in normal colleges and universities, as well as teacher education in non-normal institutions and comprehensive universities. Teacher education system also refers to teacher education at all levels, including specialized secondary school, junior college, undergraduate and postgraduate, as well as teacher education in kindergartens, primary schools, junior high schools, high schools, and vocational education. The operation of teacher education system includes both the teacher education institutions and corresponding systems of teacher education.
The Development of China’s Teacher Education Since the Reform and Opening-Up
Since China’s implementation of the reform and opening-up policy in 1978, the changes in the teacher education system can be divided into three stages (Xudong 2014, pp. 62–86).
The First Stage: A Closed Normal Education System (from the Late 1970s to the Late 1980s)
After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Soviet Union’s independent normal education system was adopted. After the reform and opening-up, this system was still in use. In 1980, the fourth national conference on normal education was held, and it was proposed to “establish a sound normal education system and make it a base for cultivating qualified teachers for secondary schools, primary schools and kindergartens” (Dongchang 1998, p. 185). This three-level normal education system includes that the secondary normal schools and preschool education colleges train primary and kindergarten teachers, the junior normal colleges train junior high school teachers, and normal universities train high school teachers. The Ministry of Education reaffirmed that the basic task of normal colleges and universities at all levels is to train qualified teachers. Without approval, the nature of a normal university should not be changed. Among the three-level normal colleges, the secondary normal schools (preschool education colleges) that train primary school (kindergarten) teachers account for the largest proportion.
In the normal education system, there are also teacher training institutions for in-service teachers. Teacher training institutions at all levels are the bases for training in-service teachers and school administrators in primary and secondary schools. Corresponding to the three-level normal education in pre-service training, the teacher training institutions are also divided into three levels: county-level education institutions for primary school teachers, prefecture-level education institutions for junior high school teachers, and the provincial education colleges for high school teachers.
The Second Stage: The Opening of the Normal Education System (from the 1990s to the End of the Twentieth Century)
In 1986, the National Education Commission promulgated the “Opinions on Strengthening and Developing Normal Education” and put that forward to diversify the sources of secondary school teachers, and stipulated that comprehensive universities and other qualified higher education institutions should take the training of secondary school teachers as one of the important tasks. Teachers Law of the People’s Republic of China promulgated in 1993 clearly states that “non-normal universities should undertake the task of cultivating and training primary and secondary school teachers.” With the opening of teacher education system, on the one hand, comprehensive universities or local comprehensive colleges participate in teacher training; on the other hand, there is also a situation of non-normalizing in normal colleges, which have weakened normal education by renaming themselves or merging into comprehensive universities. To this end, the National Conference on Teacher Education held in September 1996 required that the name and nature of normal colleges and universities be strictly controlled in the future and the adjustment of normal colleges and universities should help to strengthen the training of teachers and prevent the loss of normal education resources (Commentator 1996).
In terms of teacher training, the simplification of teacher training institutions has also been broken, and the normal colleges and universities are fully involved in teacher training, including academic training and short-term training. Due to the entering of normal colleges and universities into teacher training, teacher training institutions are in trouble. Some of them have begun to seek merger or transformation.
In the process from closed normal education to open teacher education, on the one hand, some normal colleges are eager to “uncap” and reduce the enrollment number of normal students. On the other hand, though comprehensive universities or local colleges have entered the teacher training system, it still faced a situation that is short of high-level comprehensive universities that can undertake teacher education, and most of them are comprehensive colleges merged by junior normal colleges. During this period, teacher education was open, but the guarantee system of the open teacher education system was not established, which led to the disorder of teacher education and the decline of quality.
The Third Stage: Constructing an Open and Flexible Teacher Education System with Normal Colleges and Universities as the Main Body and Comprehensive Universities Participation (Since the Twenty-First Century)
In the twenty-first century, the open teacher education system has gradually become clear, and the teacher education guarantee system has begun to be established. In 2004, the Ministry of Education promulgated the “2003–2007 Education Revitalization Action Plan,” proposing to “gradually integrate teacher education into the higher education system, and build a modern teacher education system with normal universities and other high-level universities that offer teacher education as the leader, with the coordinated development of junior colleges, undergraduate and postgraduate, connection between pre-service and in-service education, and simultaneous development of academic and non-academic education, to promote teacher professional development and lifelong learning.” “To integrate teacher education into the higher education system” means that secondary normal schools will withdraw from teacher education system, and the original three-level teacher education system of secondary normal school, junior college, and undergraduate was replaced by the new three-level teacher education system of junior college, undergraduate, and postgraduate (Ministry of Education 2004). In 2010, the “Outline of the National Medium- and Long-Term Education Reform and Development Plan (2010–2020)” proposed to “build an open and flexible teacher education system with normal colleges and universities as the main body and comprehensive universities participation.” At the same time, it is proposed to improve and strictly implement teacher admission system, formulate teacher qualification standards, and establish a regular registration system for teacher qualification certificates (Ministry of Education 2010). In January 2018, the Central Committee of CPC and the State Council issued the “Opinions on Comprehensively Deepening the Reform of Teachers Construction in the New Era,” proposing to “establish a teacher education system with Chinese characteristics, with normal colleges and universities as the main body and high-level non-normal colleges and universities participating in, to promote the trinity of local governments, higher education institutions and primary and secondary schools to collaboratively train teachers” (Central Committee of CPC, State Council 2018). The dominant role of normal colleges and universities in teacher education system is clarified, and teacher education in high-level comprehensive universities is supported. In order to implement the Opinions, in February 2018, the Ministry of Education and other five departments issued the “Teacher Education Revitalization Action Plan (2018–2022).”
Changes in China’s Teacher Education Since the Reform and Opening-Up
During the 40 years of reform and opening-up, the Chinese teacher education system has changed dynamically. In the past 40 years, China’s teacher education has trained a large number of qualified teachers, and the degree of professionalism has been continuously improved. The teacher education system has changed from single and closed to pluralistic and open, and the pre-service and in-service system has changed from separation to integration. The management system of teacher education has transformed from plan-oriented to standards-oriented. Therefore, a comprehensive collaborative training mechanism has been established.
The Focus of Teacher Education System Has Shifted Upward and the Degree of Teacher Professionalism Has Been Continuously Improved
At the beginning of reform and opening-up, China faced with a situation that the number of teachers was insufficient and the quality was not high. In 1977, 28% of primary school teachers graduated from secondary normal school or above, 28% of junior high school teachers graduated from junior college or above, and 33.2% of senior high school teachers graduated from undergraduate. In the 40 years of reform and opening-up, the quality of teachers in China has been greatly improved, and the proportion of highly educated teachers has increased. In 2016, the educational qualification rate of primary school, junior high school, and general senior high school reached 99.94%, 99.76%, and 97.91%, respectively. Among them, 93.65% of primary school teachers obtained junior college degree or above, and 82.48% of junior high school teachers obtained bachelor’s degree or above (Ministry of Education 2017).
The improvement of teacher education is related to the adjustment of teacher education structure. In 1982, there were 908 secondary normal schools, 133 junior normal colleges, and 61 undergraduate normal universities. In 2015, there were 125 secondary normal schools, 65 junior normal colleges, and 116 undergraduate normal universities. It can be seen from the changing trend that the number of secondary normal schools has decreased significantly and basically disappeared in developed regions. Junior normal colleges have also shrunk considerably, and undergraduate normal universities have increased. In addition to cultivating teachers with bachelor’s degree, undergraduate colleges and universities have gradually increased the number of cultivating Master of Education. The number of institutions for cultivating Master of Education has increased from 16 in the year of enrollment in 1997 to 160 in 2018. From 1978 to 2018, in the 40 years of teacher education development, the level of teacher education institutions has been continuously improved, and the transformation from the three-level (secondary normal school-junior college-undergraduate) normal system to a new three-level normal education system (junior college-undergraduate-postgraduate) has been basically completed.
Teacher Education Has Gone from Closed to Open and from Single to Plural
At the beginning of reform and opening-up, China’s normal education was an independent and closed three-level system. These three kinds of institutions have different systems in terms of target orientation, curriculum and educational internships, etc., with a clear division of labor, targeted training, and allocation (Tiehua and Ping 2018). In the mid-1990s, with the popularization of compulsory education and the development of senior high school education, the demand for quality education in the society was getting higher and higher. It was necessary to adjust and reform the single teacher training system to break the closed normal education system. On the one hand, normal colleges and universities began to be integrated, and a large number of students in non-normal majors were enrolled. Some normal colleges and universities transformed into comprehensive colleges or universities through various forms to downplay the status of normal education. On the other hand, non-normal colleges and universities began to join the teacher training team by setting up an education college or setting up teacher education majors. Some specialized vocational colleges, sports, and art colleges also participate in teacher training. Therefore, a diversification of teacher education channels has appeared.
The Separation of Pre-service and In-Service Teacher Education Have Moved Toward Integration
In the 1990s, with the formation of a pluralistic and open teacher education system, the training system for primary and secondary school teachers also changed. On the one hand, provincial colleges of education were merged into undergraduate normal universities or converted into general undergraduate colleges or universities. The merger of prefecture-level education colleges into local comprehensive colleges or universities and county-level teacher training schools into teacher development centers has led to the weakening of the original three-level training system and its basic disintegration. On the other hand, normal colleges and universities began to undertake various types of teacher training tasks at all levels in the country, and non-normal colleges and universities also began to participate in teacher training. Experienced the demise of the primary and secondary school teacher training system, general institutions of higher learning undertake the training tasks, breaking the separation state of the former pre-service and in-service teacher training. The general normal universities and comprehensive universities undertake tasks of pre-service training and in-service training, forming a new system with the integration of pre-service and in-service teacher education (Buhe and Xuemin 2018).
Teacher Education Has Changed from Plan-Oriented to Standard-Oriented
At the beginning of reform and opening-up, the independent normal education system is plan-oriented, and the enrolled students will naturally become teachers after graduation. With the improvement of professional understanding of teacher education and in the face of a new situation of open teacher education that non-normal colleges and universities participate in teacher training, it is necessary to standardize and manage the teacher education system. The first is to implement a teacher qualification certificate system. In 1995, the “Education Law of the People’s Republic of China” clearly defined the implementation of the teacher qualification certificate system in China in the form of law. In 2000, the teacher qualification certificate system was fully implemented. In 2011, the national unified examination system for teacher qualifications was implemented. In 2013, the Interim Measures for the Periodic Registration of Primary and Secondary School Teachers’ Qualifications was promulgated, which stipulated that the qualifications of primary and secondary school teachers should be registered on a 5-year cycle, breaking the system of “permanent and effective” teacher qualification certificates. Along with the implementation of teacher qualification certificate system, the professional standards of teachers in primary and secondary schools and kindergartens have been promulgated, and the “Teaching Education Curriculum Standards (Trial)” has been promulgated. We have established a certification system for teacher education majors and carried out certification for majors of teacher education, normalized the running of teachers’ majors, and established a system for evaluating the quality of teachers’ training.
To Comprehensively Establish a New “Trinity” Education Mechanism of Universities, Local Governments, and Primary and Secondary Schools that Collaboratively Work
In 2014, the “Opinions of the Ministry of Education on Implementing the Excellent Teacher Training Program” proposed to “establish a new ‘trinity’ mechanism of universities, local governments and primary and secondary schools collaboratively work to cultivate teachers.” In 2018, the “Opinions on Comprehensively Deepening the Reform of Teachers Construction in the New Era” clearly stated that “to promote the ‘trinity’ of local governments, colleges and universities, primary and secondary schools to cultivate teachers in a coordinated way.” Local governments should vigorously support the development of normal universities, make overall plans for the cultivation of primary and secondary school teachers in the region, scientifically predict the number and structure of teachers needed, and effectively bridge the relationship between enrollment and needs. Colleges and universities timely feedback information of social needs to the teacher training process and optimize and integrate internal resources of teacher education to promote the integration of teacher cultivation, training, research, and service. Primary and secondary schools should provide practical bases for the training of teachers and participate in teacher training. The 2018 “Opinions of the Ministry of Education on Implementing the Excellent Teacher Training Program 2.0” proposed to support the construction of a number of experimental areas for teacher education reform, which are coordinated by provincial governments, institutions of higher education, and primary and secondary schools that jointly carry out training and connect pre-service and in-service education. Efforts will be made to promote the whole process of collaborative education, including training scale structure, training objectives, curriculum, resource construction, teaching team, practice base, in-service training, quality evaluation, management mechanism, and other processes.
Characteristics of the Development of China’s Teacher Education in the New Era
In the 40 years of reform and opening-up, China’s teacher education has made great progress and achievements. However, it still faces some problems: the status of teachers is not high which directly affects the enrollment quality of teacher education, the overall level of teacher education institutions is not high, and teacher education is not enough for basic education. Faced with these problems, the Central Committee of CPC and the State Council promulgated the “Opinions on Comprehensively Deepening the Reform of the Teachers Construction in the New Era,” proposing to continuously improve the status and treatment, vigorously revitalize the teacher education, and build a teaching team with high-quality, professionalism, and innovation (Dinghua 2018). In February 2019, the Central Committee of CPC and the State Council issued the “China Education Modernization 2035,” proposing to “improve the open, coordinated and interconnected teacher education system with Chinese characteristics, with normal colleges and universities as the main body, high-level non-normal colleges and universities participating in, and high quality primary and secondary schools (kindergartens) as the practice bases, and to strengthen the organic connection between pre-service teacher training and in-service teacher development.” All these documents clarify the characteristics of teacher education system in the new era.
High quality. Firstly, the enrollment quality of teacher education should be high. To this end, we must reform the admission system and improve the quality of students. Secondly, high-level education institutions are needed. High-level comprehensive universities should participate in teacher education, and national teacher education bases should be established. Thirdly, teachers are required to obtain high academic qualifications. Teacher education system has changed from the old three-level system (secondary normal school-junior college-undergraduate) to the new three-level system (junior college-undergraduate-postgraduate). Among the teachers of primary and secondary schools in developed areas, the master’s degree has reached a considerable proportion, and the doctor’s degree has begun to join the middle school teacher team.
Professionalism. In the open teacher education system, it is necessary to standardize the training of teachers to ensure their high quality and professionalism. These systems include teacher qualification system, professional standards for teachers, professional certification of teacher education institutions, and quality assurance system for teacher education (Xudong 2014, pp. 42–61).
Openness. Teacher education is no longer a patent of normal colleges and universities. It encourages and supports comprehensive universities and colleges to participate in teacher training. We can explore to construct multiple modes of teacher education, such as “2 + 2” mode and “3 + 1” mode, that is, subdivision of discipline education and teacher professional education within 4 years of undergraduate course: the “4 + X” mode, that is, students accept 2–3-year teacher education after 4 years of undergraduate education to obtain master’s degree: and the “3 + 3” mode, that is, after the first 3 years of undergraduate education, students are selected in advance to enter the primary school for master’s degree in teacher education, and they will obtain degree of Master of Education after graduation (Tiehua and Ping 2018).
Integration. Teacher education breaks the separation between pre-service and in-service and presents a trend of integration. Firstly, the integration of cultivation, admission, training, assessment, and all the steps of teacher education is achieved. Secondly, the integration of teacher education institutions is realized by constructing a “trinity” (G-U-S or U-G-S) mechanism of local governments, universities, primary and secondary schools that work together to cultivate teachers.
- Buhe, Z., & Xuemin, Y. (2018). The achievements and experience of 40 years’ teacher training of primary and secondary schools, China teacher paper, 26 Dec 2018.Google Scholar
- Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, State Council. China education modernization 2035. http://www.moe.gov.cn/jyb_xwfb/s6052/moe_838/201902/t20190223_370857.html
- Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, State Council, Opinions on Comprehensively Deepening the Reform of Teachers Construction in the New Era. (2018). http://www.xinhuanet.com/2018-01/31/c_1122349513.htm
- Commentator. (1996). To give priority to the development of normal education and build a team of highly qualified teachers. People’s Education, (10):3–4.Google Scholar
- Dinghua, W. (2018). The situation and tasks of the construction of teachers in China in the new era. Educational Research, 39(3):4–11.Google Scholar
- Dongchang, H. (1998). Important educational documents of the People’s Republic of China (1976–1990). Haikou: Hainan Press.Google Scholar
- Ministry of Education. (2004). 2003–2007 Education revitalization action plan. http://www.moe.gov.cn/jyb_sjzl/moe_177/201003/t20100304_2488.html.
- Ministry of Education. (2017). The structure of teachers has been optimized and young and middle-aged teachers have become the main body.http://www.moe.edu.cn/jyb_xwfb/xw_fbh/moe_2069/xwfbh_2017n/xwfb_20170901/mtbd_20170901/201709/t20170906_313686.html.
- Ministry of Education. (2010). Outline of the National Medium- and Long-Term Education Reform and Development Plan (2010–2020). http://www.moe.gov.cn/jyb_xwfb/s6052/moe_838/201008/t20100802_93704.html.
- Tiehua, Q., & Ping, Y. (2018). Reform and future prospects of teacher education in the 40 years of reform and opening-up. Educational Research, 39(9):36–44.Google Scholar
- Xudong, Z. (2014). Research on the construction of modern teacher education system in China. Beijing: Beijing Normal University Press.Google Scholar