China's radio and television universities: policies, problems and prospects

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The Radio and Television University (RTVU) System of the People's Republic of China is the largest distance education system, and one of the earliest television university systems, in the world. This thesis is an area study of some of the policies, problems and prospects of the RTVU System. Data was collected from 57 interviews with government officials, RTVU administrators, faculty, students, staff, and employers of RTVU graduates, 226 student questionnaires and documents obtained during a recent six-month field study in China and Hong Kong. The RTVU System had an accumulated total of 1.296 million graduates from 1979 - 1991. In 1991, it offered 294 specialities in ten fields and had an enrollment of over 400,000 full- and part-time students. In addition, it had over 460,000 non-credit students. With such an immense system, the R TVU s have adopted centralized planning and a decentralized five-tiered administrative structure. The RTVUs have successfully fulfilled the social function of national development in providing College Speciality vocational education to mostly working adults. However, due to a desire to maintain the quality of the R TVU education, to have parity of esteem with the conventional universities and to control the number of College Speciality level graduates, the RTVUs have adopted some standardization policies, such as the implementation of the Adult Higher Education Entrance Examination, which restricts the openness of the System. Also in response to the declining support from the danweis (work units) which are significant partners in the System, the RTVUs began to change their curricular emphasis from credit College Speciality level education to non-credit job training and continuing education. As a result, the R TVU s are becoming more and more like job training institutes for the danweis. Furthermore, although the policy of employing well-known conventional university professors almost exclusively for course development has the advantage of giving an impression that the RTVUs are comparable to the conventional universities, it also has the disadvantage of employing teachers with little or no knowledge of distance education and educational technology to produce print and non-print course materials that are not appropriate for distance education and not conducive to independent study. Poor quality of course materials is one of the reasons for some RTVUs to stop using the televised programs. Instead, the tutorial teachers, some of whom are of poor academic quality, teach in a face-to-face classroom setting. This raises the question of whether the RTVU s are in fact distance education institutes and casts doubt on the quality of the R TVU education. This study concludes that in order for the RTVUs to maximize their potential as open distance education institutes, the Chinese educational policy-makers must reaffirm their commitment to the open learning philosophy and to the use of the distance education mode of instruction. This can be achieved by reviewing the appropriateness of the standardization and unification measures currently adopted by the RTVUs and by considering commissioning their own full-time teachers to produce quality print and nonprint materials. Moreover, in order for the RTVUs to be fully open to the masses, China has to undertake some educational and social reforms. Finally, more funding is needed to improve the System so that it can continue to benefit the 1.13 billion Chinese in the provision of adult higher education and lifelong learning.
Bibliography: p. 304-319.
Fu, Y. C. (1992). China's radio and television universities: policies, problems and prospects (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from doi:10.11575/PRISM/17543