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【Beijing Forum 2010】Educational Challenges and Changes in the Era of Transition

Peking University, Nov. 7, 2010: In the ever-changing and globalizing 21st century, higher education in the world is facing new challenges. How to maintain universities' commitment to the public good in the market-driven society, how to promote employment for college graduates, and how to strike a balance between specialized education and general education are issues of concern in today's educational circles. On the afternoon of Nov. 5, the panel session on education of Beijing Forum 2010 was held at Diaoyutai State Guest House. Scholars around the world gathered together to discuss some urgent problems for today's higher education and suggest educational changes.


Prof. Biddy Martin from University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, talked about the increasing dependence of public universities in the United States on private money due to shortfalls in state support. Accompanying the changing financial model was the challenge to maintain public universities' service to the broader public. She proposed that public universities have more autonomy from the state, like greater administrative flexibility, some degree of tuition-authority, in order to balance the commitment and dependence.


Prof. Xie Weihe from Tsinghua University introduced his statistical model for predicting trends of Chinese college graduates employment based on his recent research. He used the ratio between employment growth rate and economic growth rate to analyze the impacts of GDP, market supply and demand, changes in salaries and governmental policies on college graduates employment.


"While study and knowledge are still important, character is under the spotlight again as the key to nurturing of global talent," said Prof. Ki-Su Lee from Korea University. He pointed out the importance of general education reform, which aimed at raising future leaders with vision, creativity and global communicative awareness.


Prof. Ulrich Teichler from University of Kassel, Germany, spoke about graduates' professional competence. He opposed the idea that equaled competence to earning high income. In his eyes, higher education should make necessary changes in the era of transition; professors should know what was happening outside and universities should encourage students to be critical and challenge the conventional ideas.


After discussion and tea break, Prof. Mark Bray from University of Hong Kong presented the current situation and potential implications of private supplementary tutoring, which he referred to as "Shadow Education". He said that shadow education would worsen social inequalities as high-income families could afford greater quantities and better qualities of private tutoring than families with low or middle income. Besides, shadow education posed great pressures on parents as well as pupils. As for how to deal with shadow education, Prof. Bray suggested monitoring the spread and nature of tutoring.


Prof. Gert Biesta from University of Stirling, UK, touched upon lifelong learning. He believed that education nowadays had become increasingly individualized, and lifelong education was changing into lifelong learning. Prof. Chen Hongjie from Peking University talked about the new trend of higher education from "specialized" to "general", analyzing the underlying causes and existing problems in China's general education at present. Prof. Wing On Lee from National Institute of Education, Singapore, focused on comparative education in his presentation. According to Prof. Lee, comparative education had great potential in future research and would play a more important role in educational research and reform.


At the end of the meeting, scholars had animated discussions among themselves as well as with the audience. The education panel session will continue on Nov. 6 and Nov. 7 around the following four themes, "Higher Education", "Globalization and Education", "Technology of Education and Continuing Education", and "Education Reform".


Reported by: Chen Miaojuan
Edited by: Chen Miaojuan