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Navigating our changing world: China

In this new series, colleagues from across OUP worldwide will be sharing their views and insights into how their markets are navigating the changes facing our industry, and what the future has in store.

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China was one of the first markets to be affected by the pandemic, so one of the first to experience school closures. OUP Mainland China was, like many organizations in our sector, tested by the challenges Covid-19 presented to us. How could we continue to support education in the most uncertain of circumstances? What could we do differently? How could we adapt?

I shared many of my thoughts with employees about the changing scenario we found ourselves in.
 
It was a daunting path that lay ahead of us, but I kept coming back to a favourite proverb of mine, which I shared with OUP MLC team too: A lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinion of sheep. I have always seen OUP MLC as a strong lion, and I knew we could face the challenges of Covid-19 head on, and continue to lead and support the education industry with strength.

As education professionals, we have the important task of inspiring learners to develop the knowledge and skills they need to think and reflect; to guide them to lead more fulfilling lives. While the core purpose of education hasn’t changed, I believe its focus and its method of delivery have transformed for the better.

The most obvious shift has been the drive to embrace online learning. Throughout the pandemic, we saw teaching and learning methods evolving to make the most out of digital learning opportunities. Alongside this we saw an increasing desire for learning content to be more tailored and personalized. As children return to classrooms, the potential of technology will not be forgotten, but embraced. Already, we are seeing new learning models emerging which are different from traditional classroom education, and which strive to deliver natural and immersive learning experiences.

The pandemic has also started to change widely-held views on the purpose of education. Historically, education and assessment systems across the world—including in China—have focused on helping people to acquire knowledge, rather than applying knowledge. In a world that craves innovation, effectively utilizing knowledge and critical thinking is essential to allowing young people to thrive and break new ground. This is particularly so, at a time where the future jobs market is still so unpredictable. I very much hope that we will start to see a shift in focus from achieving high scores and grades, towards a focus on developing learners’ broader competencies, so that they can truly add to wider society. 

Finally, I believe that the past few months have further highlighted the importance of quality. In many markets, we have seen more organizations entering the education market to support learning in the face of uncertainty. The value placed on education is both admirable and much needed, and I welcome the focus on innovating to improve our sector. However, quality content, rooted in pedagogy, must continue to be prioritized throughout education. Content should inspire, entertain, and encourage; it should direct them to apply knowledge practically; ultimately, it should guide people towards the right learning outcomes.

We have learned a lot this year—both within OUP MLC, and in the wider education industry—and these learnings will continue to support us as we look to the future, whatever it may hold. We have learned to be resilient. We have learned to adapt. We have learned to question widely held assumptions about our education system, and explore opportunities for improvements. We have also built closer relationships with our customers, and the wider education community, which has pushed us all to be better. If I go back to my earlier analogy, our lion strength has driven us to reconsider how we work, and the products and solutions we deliver, so we can effectively navigate the world we find ourselves in. That strength will continue to see us through, far into the future.

Rui Ding, Managing Director, OUP China