Deng Xiaoping

Education Should Be Made Universal and Educational Standards Raised


Published: April 7, 1958
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine


At this meeting we should concentrate on discussing the question of primary and secondary schools. On the whole, efforts to make education universal and eliminate illiteracy are proceeding well, the work-study programme is being carried out vigorously and vocational secondary schools are developing rapidly. These are all good things which have only come about in the past few years. We should now review our experience, make appropriate adjustment and solve the problems which have arisen.

Making education universal and raising educational standards are the main issues needing to be addressed in the field of education. Our policy in this regard is that education should be made universal and educational standards raised and that we should not overemphasize one to the neglect of the other. If we only make education universal without raising educational standards, our science and culture cannot progress rapidly. If we only raise the standards of education without making it universal, the needs of the country in various spheres cannot be met. Socialist construction requires well-educated workers and all workers need to be educated. When education has been made universal and when the cultural and scientific level of the masses has been raised, there will be more inventions and innovations. We should adhere to the principle of “walking on two legs” at all times, raising the standards of education on the basis of making education universal, and making education universal under the guidance of the raising of standards.

Making education universal seems easy, but raising educational standards is difficult. Under no circumstances should we neglect the quality of instruction at vocational secondary schools. A few graduates from such schools should be able to go to colleges. It is impossible for vocational secondary schools to raise their standards of education if they still offer such a small range of courses. Schools of all types which have already been built should not lower the quality of their instruction. Improving the quality of instruction is related to the number of students. Schools should make fullest use of instructional facilities to enroll more students, but the quality of instruction should not be lowered as a result. Schools which can both enroll more students and ensure the quality of instruction are the successful ones. In carrying out the work-study programme, we should pay attention to the same things. The wording concerning work-study programme in the Sixty Articles on Working Methods is a careful one. According to the Articles, the work-study programme should not be implemented in all schools and only vocational secondary and technical schools are required to be self-supporting or partly self-supporting with their students participating in the work-study programme. The other schools are not required to do so. Only the students in these schools are required to take part in manual labour. Vocational secondary schools should definitely be carrying out work-study programmes. More vocational secondary schools should be set up in cities and quite a number of such schools can be partly or wholly self-supporting. Other schools should provide students with the opportunity to do manual labour. Manual labour is also a kind of training, a political and ideological course. In considering this question, one must keep the three things in mind. First, it is essential for students to take part in labour. Second, the amount of labor should be appropriate. Third, the students are capable of doing labour. Secondary schools may, according to their current conditions, build small farms or small workshops where students can take turns working or have their students go to the countryside to work as their contribution to society. Taking part in labour should be included in the curriculum, with half a day set aside for labour every week. The main objective is to help students cultivate good work habits and strengthen their collective spirit. In addition, students can earn a little income through labour. With the money they earn, they can also help poor students. But we should not turn such a kind of labour into a profession, nor should we consider earning money as the sole purpose of labour. If we encourage the students to make money, they will be prone to compete in their own interests. It is impossible for secondary school students in the cities to carry out the work-study programme, because they are too young and they don’t have many social connections that can help them find suitable work to do. Schools which are in a position to be partly or wholly self-supporting may undertake this programme provided that it doesn’t interfere with the students’ study. In a word, schools should ensure that the quality of their instruction is improved. Otherwise, they cannot be considered as successful ones.

The Chengdu Meeting decided not to reduce the total amount of educational funds and the portion allocated to each province. All provinces should try to accomplish more with their portion of the funds, but the quality of instruction is guaranteed. Equipment necessary for teaching should not be reduced. We should not exercise too strict control over the use of educational funds. One principle we should adhere to in economizing on educational funds is that the quality of instruction should not be affected as a result. If the quality of instruction is lowered, the consequences will be obvious in a few years when universities and colleges find it difficult to enroll enough students.

Close attention should be paid to the quality of teachers. The quality of teachers in institutions of higher learning and secondary schools should not be lowered. In recent years, a good many schools have been set up, which is a good thing. At the moment, there is no need to worry too much about whether the teachers in these schools are qualified or not. Adjustments and improvements can be made gradually. Of course, the establishment of so many vocational secondary schools raises the question as to how we should run the institutions of higher learning in the future. Some countries have suffered from the poor quality of primary and secondary schools. At any rate, we must ensure that we have quite a number of students who study the basic courses well. Otherwise, we shall suffer a lot in the future.

In publicizing the importance of the need to make education universal and raise educational standards, as Chairman Mao put it, we should be warm-hearted and cool-headed. The main thing we should do now is not to set targets but to take measures. So long as those measures are practicable, we shall not be labeled opportunists. The provincial government of Henan Province has planned to make primary school education universal in the province in one year and I think it is better to say in two years. It doesn’t matter if this plan cannot be fulfilled in two years. It is nothing to be ashamed of and should not be considered as being opportunist. We do not require all provinces to follow the example of Henan Province. So long as we are warm-hearted and take effective measures, it will be all right if we fulfil the plan a couple of years late.

The Ministry of Education should have the local authorities take charge of a fairly large part of primary and secondary schools. Each province is to decide how many schools it can administer in the light of its actual conditions. The Ministry of Education does not need to interfere in the matter. But it is responsible for teaching materials. It is inconceivable that our country has not a set of unified teaching materials for secondary schools. The Ministry of Education itself does not necessarily compile teaching materials for primary and secondary schools; it can pool the efforts of various localities to do so. The Ministry of Education should work out ideas and plans with regard to the teaching materials and educational system. It should also grasp typical examples, review advanced experience and disseminate it. By so doing we can promote the development of education in our country.

(Speech at a meeting on education held by the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the CPC.)