'Glocalizing' top civil servants

Updated: 2012-11-13 07:34

By Wei Wei (China Daily)

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Questions have been raised as to why officials spent time traveling around the US, rather than staying in the classroom throughout the program, but that indicates a misconception about the training, according to Jeannette Dai-Wang, executive director of the Maryland China Initiative at the University of Maryland.

'Glocalizing' top civil servants

Government officials from Qingdao, Shandong province, studying at the University of Maryland on a visit to Capitol Hill. Photos Provided to China Daily

"In fact, the State Department requires that cultural trips should account for one-fourth to one-third of long-term training programs. Otherwise, people may not understand the context of American policies," she said.

When reviewing the students' resumes, Wang was struck by the fact that most local officials in China were educated and work in their home provinces. "It is necessary to broaden their horizons by studying abroad."

Shi Yonghao, an official from Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia Hui autonomous region, was among 27 officials that studied for the MPA program at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

Shi took more than 4,000 photos of "American public management 'cases'," including those relating to provisions for people with physical disabilities and also traffic-control measures. "People in interior areas like Ningxia seldom have the chance to gain this sort of experience overseas," said Shi.

Decline in numbers

Wu Wei, director of the Nanyang Center for Public Administration at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said misconduct by a few institutions should not result in a blanket ban on overseas training programs. The center has trained 13,000 civil servants during the past two decades and the faculty is composed of Singaporean officials, past and present.

"Systematic and professional overseas training is a strategic investment for the country's human capital, one that fosters mutual understanding of different countries," said Wu.

Wu also suggested the decline in the number of officials traveling abroad for training may be the result of a more prudent attitude by the supervising authorities, governments, and the universities.

The State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs has also strengthened the selection and supervision procedures. According to the regulations, students should not travel to more than three cities in their country of study or to another country during short-term overseas training. The institutes that provide the training must be licensed by the administration and are not allowed to alter the curriculum once it's been agreed.

Local governments have been ordered to impose budgetary prudence. For instance, the Sichuan provincial government put its overseas training program out to open tender in 2011 and finally chose Nanyang Technology University from a range of bids from 52 universities, including Oxford, Peking and Tsinghua.

Wu said the universities are also responsible for providing quality training. In his school, every course has a final exam and students are required to retake if they fail first time around. Those with an absentee rate of more than 20 percent must retake the entire course.

Laura Ma, director of Harvard's China Public Program was impressed by the students' work rate. She noted that some students, all senior officials, have to walk for 15 minutes to attend breakfast in the school canteen at 7:15 am. After breakfast, they have an hour-long group discussion before sitting through three 90-minute classes. "Many don't get a chance to sleep before 10:30 pm, because they have to review piles of reading material for the next day's discussions," said Ma.

Train locally, think globally

China's Civil Service Law has made on-the-job training compulsory, mostly at Party schools and administration schools at various levels. And as the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the schools are emphasizing their global outlook.

A growing number of foreign leaders and heads of international organizations - including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Donald Rumsfeld, former United States secretary of defense - have visited the Central Party School, the most significant training institute for China's future leaders, and addressed the students.

Meanwhile, the National School of Administration, where middle-ranked and senior civil servants are trained, has been forging links and partnerships with counterparts overseas. The faculty includes 27 honorary professors from a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, the US, Canada, Germany and Japan.

"As globalization proceeds rapidly, China's leaders need to make sure they have professional-development roadmaps for officials to increase their global awareness and strengthen the range of choices and options available to them as they address policy issues and challenges in their daily work," said Simon.

Jiang Xueqing contributed to this story.


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