MOE Shaping the Future of China With Major Adjustments in Undergraduate Programs
COVID-19 and China
A student at her graduation ceremony. PHOTO: Unsplash

A few days ago, the Ministry of Education issued a notice announcing the results of the undergraduate professional filing and examination, also approving 2018 general higher education institutions, and confirmed he list of professional records, state-controlled layout specialty and additional specialties outside the catalogue. 

The "Notice" requires that all local colleges and universities should take the economic and social development needs as the guide, reasonably control the enrollment scale, adjust and optimize the personnel training structure; based on the national standards of undergraduate professional teaching quality, continuously improve the professional connotation, highlight professional characteristics, strengthen professional Certification, to ensure the quality of personnel training, and to improve the economic and social development capabilities of education services.

Let us have a look at; what changes has been made to your major this year, which major is the hot topic and what degrees or professions have been revoked. 

Major additions to big data, artificial intelligence, etc.

With the rapid development of information technology such as big data and artificial intelligence in recent years, major universities have opened related majors, hoping to train more talents in these areas.

According to the statistics of Cingta, the newly added undergraduate majors are data science and big data technology. This time, a total of 196 colleges and universities have been added in the list 101 colleges and universities for robot engineering. In addition, intelligent science and technology, intelligent manufacturing engineering, network and new media, digital media art, preschool education, business English, big data management and applications are also very popular.    

Among the newly approved majors, there are 35 cyberspace professions and 25 cyberspace security professions. Accounting, aviation service art and management, information security and other majors are also famous. 

From the results of the records and examinations of undergraduate majors in ordinary colleges and universities in 2018, a total of 85 universities and colleges have added more than 5 majors with Beijing Sports University topping the list (10 majors added). 

The revoked majors are also related to information technology. 

The majors that have been revoked by major universities are also mainly information technology. Specifically, there are 17 majors in clothing and apparel design, 13 in education technology, 12 in information and computing science, and 11 in product design and information management.

According to the data, the most professional schools cancelled this year are the Communication University of China and the Yangtze River College of Donghua University of Technology, each with 15 majors.

China will open around 400 majors related to big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics in universities in 2019, China's Ministry of Education (MOE) announced.

Another 612 new engineering research projects will also be implemented in universities. "AI and big data are newly established majors and will be taught in some directions like computer application technology, information and communication, control science and engineering," Fan Hailin, a deputy director of MOE's Department of Higher Education, told the Global Times in an interview.

China has set the target becoming a major center for AI innovation and world leader in AI technology and applications by 2030, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Beijing Foreign Studies University and Shanghai International Studies University, China's  two leading language universities, have added 11 less commonly taught language majors including Kurdish, Maori, Tongan, Samoan and Comorian, and Uzbek major respectively to undergraduates in 2018. Most of them were languages of countries participating in the initiative.

The ministry also vowed to continue promoting online courses (MOOC) in 2019. Specifically, MOE said it will help train at least 10,000 science teachers through the platform. Currently, the ministry has announced 1,291 MOOCs. The universities and colleges that opened online courses included top-notch Peking University and vocational schools like the Nanjing Institute of Industry Technology.

China has built the world's largest higher education system. The number of undergraduate colleges has reached 1,245 and the total number of undergraduate students is 28.31 million. The gross enrollment rate of higher education has reached 48 percent, according to this conference held in Feb 2019.

The effect of such policies on the coding education industry

Many parents are already pushing their kids to this tech revolution. CGTN's Zheng Chunying reports. Spinning slowly to capture and create a 3D picture. Learning to build a robot that could complete complex tasks. Tongcheng & Tongmei, a private learning center in Beijing, offers coding classes for children aged 6 to 18.

Education companies completed a total of 629 fundraising rounds last year, 167 fewer than in 2017, according to The Blue Paper of Education 2018. With a total of CNY 782 million (USD 116 million) raised, coding training companies attracted 44.4% of total education investment deals last year, the report found.

The online coding training market will grow much more rapidly than the currently burgeoning online English language tutoring sector in the coming years, predicted Tang Liang, founder and CEO of VIPCODE, an online coding training startup.

Government policies are a major driver of the sector's booming development, said market consultancy iResearch.

Opportunities and challenges for children’s Coding education

In the last decade, 29 countries have adopted mandatory K-12 Computer Science (CS) teaching. The curriculum is designed to make students comfortable with coding at an early age.

Students getting coding lessons at a younger age will help them with learning it at university level.  Millions of children are learning key coding concepts while creating cool software programs they can share with friends and family. But the situation is quite different in China. With less than one percent of K-12 students studying programming currently, China is a laggard in all these areas and now wants to catch up.

As interest shifts toward tech-related skills, private companies are already emerging to fill the demand for coding courses for children. The question is: in China, can the K-12 school system adapt to teach coding skills or will the private sector dominate as has been the case with English?

Since 2014, over 100 companies have been formed to teach computer programming to kids including giants like Shenzhen's Codemao and Hangzhou's Ultrabear.

In 2014, the UK was among the first countries to add coding to the compulsory curriculum for elementary and middle school students in 2014. In 2016, the U.S. government announced USD 4 billion in funding to promote coding education.

As China hurries to formulate a strategy, there is still room for improvement.

In China, coding is becoming the "new English", but unlike English, good coding teachers cost money. Currently, the programming industry suffers from a lack of qualified teachers. Experienced programmers might earn CNY 30,000 per month in first-tier cities, but most elementary school teachers not even make a third of that amount.

Leading player in China’s coding industry 

Recently, as reported by EqualOcean, Codemao was listed in the Industry-University Cooperation project, which is a hint towards the importance of Coding at higher levels by the ministry of education.  

With the help of companies like Codemao, Universities and colleges will be able to better understand the method of teaching Coding and produce teachers who will be able to teach Coding to the younger generation. 

Based in Shenzhen, the startup focuses on teaching coding to school children, and develops its own image-based coding systems to better visualize the process. It also works with Chinese schools and robotic education startups to provide coding lessons, where students are taught to make games or interactive videos using Codemao's coding languages. In 2017, the company raised USD 18 million in its series B round of financing led by Chinese investment firm Hillhouse Capital.

According to a report by Deloitte, the investment in Chinese startups in STEM education has made a 15-fold increase from 2014 to 2017. More and more private-education providers are eyeing the market.

China has been pushing innovation as part of its long-term goal to shift from low-cost manufacturing and become a knowledge-based economy that produces high-value-added goods in recent years.

Aware of the significance of learning to code, in July 2017, China's State Council gave coding education a big boost when it issued a statement endorsing AI curriculum development in primary and secondary schools.

Though for children in low-income households or less developed cities with limited access to computers, any such innovative class is a luxury.

Hetao coding, launched in 2017, the startup provides online computer programming courses for children. This platform has enrolled hundreds of thousands of paid users all across China generating a monthly revenue of over CNY 15 million.

Statistics show that over 80 registered companies currently offer computer programming lessons for children and most of these were founded in or after 2014. The rapid development of the coding education industry means these companies are attracting huge amounts of capital.
Chinese universities and AI inventions.

Chinese universities’ strong showing

A new study by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, Switzerland, has documented “a massive recent surge” in artificial intelligence-based inventions, with China-based universities making a strong showing as top higher education and scientific research institutions in this field, which is generally dominated by United States and Japanese companies.

Chinese organizations make up 17 of the top 20 academic players for AI patents and 10 of the top 20 in AI-related scientific publications. 

Chinese organizations are particularly strong in the emerging technique of deep learning, with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) on top with more than 2,500 patent families and more than 20,000 scientific papers published on AI, the report said. Moreover, CAS has the largest deep learning portfolio, with 235 patent families.

Song Hefa, deputy dean of the Intellectual Property School at CAS, said one of the major reasons for CAS’s success in AI patents has been “vigorously carrying out IP [intellectual property] training and information. Since 2008, 16,000 people have been trained and at the end of 2016, CAS had 1,891 people engaged in IP management, transfer and service.” 

Overall, “Chinese organizations are consolidating their lead, with patent filings having grown on average by more than 20% per year from 2013 to 2016, matching or beating the growth rates of organizations from most other countries,” the WIPO report said. 

Boi Faltings, professor of AI at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, said: “Since AI-related innovations are enabled by data, the organizations that generate the most AI-related patents are often the ones that own the most data.” This explained “in particular the surprisingly strong position of China”, he added.

Faltings noted in the report that there are “far fewer obstacles to collecting vast amounts of data in China than in other countries” and “China has the best training data collections for speech recognition, human behavior modelling and medical data”.

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