DEVOTE SPECIAL EFFORT TO EDUCATION
May 19, 1985
My purpose in attending this conference today is primarily to show my support for education and to salute you and the other workers in education throughout the country.
I think the draft decision on reforming the educational structure is a good document. Now that we have the guiding principle and a plan, the main thing is to recognize their importance, take practical steps to implement them and to organize the work well.
We have stated on many occasions that China’s economy may approach the level of the developed countries by the centenary of the founding of the People’s Republic. One of the reasons we can say so is that in the meantime, we shall be able to develop education, raise the scientific and technological level of the country and train hundreds of millions of people in all disciplines and at all levels. Our national strength and sustained economic development depend more and more on the educational qualifications of the working people and on the quantity and quality of intellectuals. When China, a vast country with a billion people, has developed its education, it will enjoy an enormous superiority in intellectual resources that no other country can match. There is no doubt that when we have that superiority, together with an advanced socialist system, we shall be able to attain our goals. If the children now in the first grade of elementary school receive ten or more years of schooling, they will become a vital force for ushering in the 21st century. The Central Committee has called upon us to do our utmost to develop education, beginning with elementary and secondary education. This is a strategic move. If the Central Committee did not set this task for the Party now, major undertakings would be delayed and history would hold it responsible.
During recent years more and more comrades, from the central authorities down to local authorities and rural Party branches, have come to realize the importance of knowledge, trained people and education. This shows that our Party has made great progress in this respect. However, there are still a good many comrades, including some senior cadres, who do not fully understand the need to develop and reform education. They have no sense of urgency about it; they agree in words that education is important, but when it comes to solving practical problems, they don’t act as if it were important. Haven’t we shifted the focus of the work of the Party and the country to economic development? It goes without saying that the focus should also be on education. If a locality or a department pays attention only to the economy and not to education, it has failed to shift the focus of its work completely. Leaders who neglect education are neither far-sighted nor mature, and they are therefore unable to lead the drive for modernization. Leaders at all levels should try to make educational work a success just as they do economic work.
Party committees and governments at all levels should take educational work seriously and do it well. You should be strict with yourselves and spend less time on idle talk and more on real work. For example, how are you going to implement the decision on reform in your area or department? If there are not enough school buildings and teaching facilities, how are you going to solve the problem? If the schools are short of funds, how are you going to raise them? How are you going to improve the meals for teachers and students? How are you going to organize the training of teachers? How can you improve the ideological and political work in schools? And so on and so forth. Leading comrades of Party committees and governments at all levels should often visit schools, listen to what all the teachers and students have to say and help them overcome their difficulties. What is leadership? Leadership means service. I said a few years ago that I would like to be director of support services for the comrades working in the departments of education and science and technology. I still feel that way. Leaders must do more real work. The bad habit of doing nothing but issuing instructions and indulging in empty talk must be broken. People in all departments and localities, especially the chief leading comrades, should pay attention to this problem.
I am optimistic about the development of education in our country. We do face difficulties, but we should recognize that we have favourable conditions. In any event, the economy has developed rapidly in the last few years. The economy is the foundation. Economic development will inevitably promote educational development. In both urban and rural areas and in all sectors of society people are enthusiastic about running schools. Quite a number of patriotic overseas Chinese are eager to donate money for the purpose. Now we also have a correct guiding principle. Under these circumstances, I think that as long as the leaders at all levels work conscientiously, it will be easy to develop education. There is no reason for us to be pessimistic. If we do solid work for a few years, we shall surely create a new situation in which education flourishes as never before.
I am very pleased that since last October the Central Committee has made three decisions on reform. The general objectives of these measures are the same — they are all designed to enable our country to eliminate poverty, become strong and prosperous, overcome backwardness, modernize and build a socialism suited to Chinese conditions. In the past seven months, we have done some things that we had wanted to do for many years. This shows that our Party now has a better understanding of what needs to be done and that it can creatively use the basic tenets of Marxism to solve many new problems that arise in the course of building socialism in present-day China. The whole world is watching the reforms in our country. I hope that all Party comrades and the people of all our nationalities will march towards the goals set by the Central Committee and try to make a success of every reform!
(Speech at a National Conference on Education.)