Project to Aid Basic Education

School headmasters from relatively underdeveloped western regions are expected to benefit from a project launched by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Chinese Ministry of Education.

Known as SLD & SDP (School Leader Development and School Development Planning), the five-year project on China's basic education aims to train headmasters at both primary and secondary schools in 12 provinces in the country's western regions.

According to Song Yonggang, an official from the department of personnel under the ministry, among the first group to attend the project are headmasters from Yunnan, Guizhou and Qinghai provinces, Chongqing Municipality, the Guangxi Zhuang and the Inner Mongolia autonomous regions.

A survey on the status of basic education in the provinces and regions has been completed, and officials are working on an implementation plan for the next four years, according to officials who attended a workshop in Beijing that ends today.

The project is crucial for the nation's Westward Development drive.

"A headmaster plays a vital role in quality-oriented education and educational reforms and should not be ignored," said Guo Xiaoping, a UNICEF program officer.

To understand the challenges facing headmasters, officials conducted research in 50 project counties chosen in western China.

Experts designed four questionnaires and two case-study research programs.

The final report sampled 10,045 headmasters in the project counties, 10,328 teachers in the respective regions, 218 officials directly in charge of education and 55 leaders of local training agencies.

According to the survey, women headmasters in the project regions account for only 5.9 percent of the total.

The report said most of the headmasters surveyed used to teach science and lack knowledge of arts and humanities. They've assumed relatively short terms in office.

The report also addressed such subjects as administrative quality, training outcome and needs, and headmasters' success stories.

"The findings will be helpful for the next step of the project," Song said. "And they will be used to improve the quality of school planning in the project regions and ensure that headmasters are trained properly."

At the Beijing workshop, experts, local educational administrators and officers from UNICEF and the ministry outlined a plan to implement the project.

A more detailed plan is expected to come out soon, workshop organizers said.

(China Daily April 10, 2002)

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