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Interview with Guan Peijun on the Imminent New Round of Personnel System Reform

Author: Tang Jingli Zhao Danling Yin Changchun: China Education News Network - China Education

Grasping the Personnel Reform Tension for Keeping Things in Balance

At present, the thorough national reforms, promoting the national governance system and the modernization of the management, the reform of the personnel system is facing a new great historical opportunity. With the implementation of the government’s decentralization, institutional obstacles are expected to be removed during this period of social transformation, and the old "frozen" rigid system, will gradually "move", "loosen-up" and "collapse". The internal reform of the subjective and objective policy environment will become a positive force. The management system of a modern University is set to further promote the University’s personnel system and to decisively build on an international vision.

Striking a Balance between the Governmental Policies and the Self-determination

A new round of reform aims to strengthen the up and down links, change the dependency path and the formation of mechanisms aimed at sustaining the reform efforts.

The government is an important force in promoting the reform. Before the governmental intervention only a few reform features and signs of academic personnel changes reflected a reformist way of action. From the 80’s three safe places mentality – iron chair, secure job, no salary reform – to the late 90's influenced by the "Yangtze Scholar Program", the "985" plan to post an allowance system of innovation, we head in Twenty First Century’s post-international outlook based on a mechanism of funds allocation and the exploration-oriented classification of management positions. In the university personnel reform, the Government is a visible hand”, playing a necessary and reasonable role for some time now.

However, in recent years, college personalization and diversification development goals become more and more obvious. The reform trend arising from this different stratified interactions between the universities, the government’s unified deployment, are putting pressure on the top-down based path of reform, meaning that in many cases, this model is no longer adapts to the new situation and its requirements. The government aids the further decentralization at the same time, but also boldly, sets standards and tracks in terms of management, by means of legislation, funding, planning, information services and many more, to ensure the pre-policy research and on-the-job regulation. The governmental priority is the creation of a fair environment for colleges and universities to self-reform, according to the location and the objectives of each of these high education institutions. The government and the universities have to overcome inertia and path dependence in order to implement the reform, seeking a balance between the academic self-determination and the government’s policy guidance.

How to Break through the "No" Barrier

Declining is the bottleneck problem of any social interaction.

Implementing the academic autonomy in respect to personnel is not confined to the strictly educational departments, but it also relates to government departments and the local authorities. Especially in some key problematic issues, there is a need for the decentralization of the relevant departments, a change in the ways of the management, in order to speed up the reform and promote innovation. Three aspects come into play here. One is the innovation of the university’s management. The reform drawn up by the government departments’ function, according to a plan that reflects the university’s staff in numbers, the so-called staffing size record system. However, the implementation of the government-set plan confronts with the realities of the labor market. In this respect, when conditions are ripe, educational institutions no longer use the plans and pre-plans, but rather move to a direct implementation of the reforms, according to the market rules, based on the contract system, keeping a close eye on the budget spending, introducing a standardized use of funds and creating the self-constraint mechanisms of external supervision and internal control.

The second is the introduction of work insurance, the two-way flow through the university personnel and the labor market, establishing the staff flow standard, in orderly, secure exit mechanism.

The third is the total wages management reform, strengthening the planning and control of the human cost, reforming and improving the measures for the administration of the individual income and collection tax system, the establishment of a teacher salary survey, comparisons with other schools, release mechanisms.

Promoting Democratic Consultation to Strengthen the Principle of Fairness

The new round of reform promotes the democratic consultation in order to strengthen the principle of fairness.

University personnel system reform promoted by the government together with the universities needs to pay attention to democratic expression, to achieve general acceptance in its implementation. The staff is the main beneficiary and the reforms risk being misunderstood or rising adversities, unless public consultation is achieved. Democracy is the basic level ensuring consensus. Also the democratic consultation mechanism between the governmental departments, the academic departments and the personnel policy departments in charge of the negotiation, allows observing fairness and efficiency, and avoiding strong department "administrative resources separatism" and "interests created barriers" against the reforms. Schools must strengthen fairness, justice, the principle of democracy, scientific approach, fund allocation, evaluation and incentive mechanisms, arouse the staff's enthusiasm and creativity, and maximize the attraction and maintenance of a quality staff, a true human capital. All these give internal human resource force a competitive advantage. At the same time, in the design of the reform measures in operation, the structural adjustments need as much as possible avoiding large scale adjustments of the stock, handling the relationship between reform, stability and development.

It should be noted that, although the university reform promotes academic autonomy, one alone cannot accomplish much. In the wider perspective of the institutions forming the system reform, Zhao Danling, Deputy Inspector, head of the Personnel Division of the Ministry of Education, said, “The reform of personnel system needs to coordinate with the reform of science and technology, health, culture and other institutions.”

Building up Problem-solving Team-working College Teachers

An urgent task at the moment in the further promotion of the comprehensive reform of the higher education sector, is having to be found on how find a way to dismantle the barriers arising in the construction of a quality teaching staff, and continue stimulating the building-up of dynamic cooperation amongst teachers.

Establishing a Long-term Mechanism of Preserving Good Work Ethics among College Teachers

Ethics is an important benchmark of social order. Generally speaking, teachers' ethics is good, but we should also see that in a few cases, serious violation of ethics by the college teachers still occur. Although these issues occurred in a limited number of cases, they created concerning image problems and reflected badly on college teachers in general.

The reform will be in accordance with the general framework of education transformation, notification, assessment, supervision, benefits and sanctions. Safeguarding the mechanism long-term, means ensuring it keeps its characteristics of morality. Among them, the examination is of crucial importance. The construction of a multi-level index system and the establishment of a comprehensive evaluation method, based on school development assessment are means to ensure objectivity. In the aspect of supervision, the focus is on improving the relationship between the school, its teachers, the parents, the students and the entire society. In terms of benefits and sanctions, the qualification as a teacher, regular registration of resumption and appraisal, the right to bear the title needs to be mainly based on the review, post employment assessment, periodic assessment incentives and high-level talent selection. Where the ethical and professional assessments are outstanding, the teacher should receive its title without a doubt; where the ethical assessment and professional evaluation are problematic one of the members of the appointing commission could opt to “veto”.

Accelerating the Reform of the Teacher Evaluation Mechanism

In recent years, some colleges and universities sought actively exploring the reform of teacher evaluation mechanism, especially the improving attempt in the aspect of classification management, the evaluation index system of teachers, the evaluation mechanism innovation and the strengthening of the establishment of the assessment. This aspect is of great significance however the task ahead is very hard indeed.

The reform creates a system of standards of quality, promoting the idea of a developmental evaluation. The teacher’s appraisal should be based on performance criteria. The evaluation itself should have a system of targets positioning each school in a sustainable growth system, promoting personal teaching ability.

Promoting the implementation of the development assessment translates into a clear reward and sanctions evaluation as the evaluation model, together with the opportunity of learning from each other, giving full play to the development evaluation, creating an effective quantitative evaluation of the effects of the implementation of the rewards and sanctions in practice. Appraisal starts with the job title, promotion of teachers, improving the wages of teachers and having a meaningful management process, offering teachers occupational development plans, identifying the development direction of their occupation, promoting occupation ethics, improving personal knowledge, building teaching and scientific research ability.

Optimizing the Development of the Institutional Environment for the Growth of Young Teachers

The young teachers in Colleges and universities are a sign of development for higher education. At present, there are 1.496.900 full-time teachers in colleges throughout China, of which 1.085.000 young teachers under the age of 45, accounting for 72.5% of the total number of full-time teachers hired by colleges and universities.

The next step is to further promote universities into strengthening the ideological and political education of young teachers, nurturing the core values of socialism, the core values becoming part of their daily behavior. The measures mean stimulating the pursuit of professionalism and sense of responsibility among young teachers. Research is getting done on the professional development of young college teachers, in order to amend or develop new policies and promoting the establishment of the professional development of the young teacher training system, as well as improving the young teachers teaching assistant system, occupation tutoring system and perfecting the old teacher mentoring mechanism. The aim is to build a platform for young teachers on attachment training, in-service training, social practice towards improving their level of education and teaching. To further enhance the growth of young teachers in colleges and universities, the policy makers need to optimize the development environment inside the schools, revising the higher education law and ensuring the existence of the right employing mechanism, allowing for the excellent young teacher talent to reveal itself. (Yin Changchun, Vice Director of the Teachers Employment Division of the Ministry of Education)

Updated May 19th, 2014