2022-02-24 09:12:56

Chinese primary and secondary schools will have at least one law enforcement official — including police officers or judges — to serve as vice principals to assist in tackling school bullying and preventing juvenile delinquency, according to the country’s top education authority.

The part-time vice principals will be recommended and appointed by the country’s public security organs, procuratorates, and courts, and hired by schools, the Ministry of Education said in a guideline published last Thursday. The new rule will go into effect May 1.

“The vice principals should assist in protecting students’ rights, preventing juvenile delinquency, providing safety management, disciplining students (for misconduct), and guiding law-based governance for schools,” the guideline said.

School bullying has been a persistent issue in Chinese schools, resulting in injuries among students and even death, despite authorities emphasizing a zero-tolerance approach toward such behaviors. A 2016 survey found that 26% of children in urban schools had experienced bullying, with even more reporting abuse in rural areas.

The education ministry, along with other government and judiciary bodies, jointly announced plans to recruit law enforcement officials as vice principals in 2003, but experts said the policy had been loosely implemented. The new guideline is in step with the country’s updated law on the prevention of juvenile delinquency, requiring schools to hire vice principals from judicial and law enforcement agencies and legal education and service institutions.

“Previously, some schools didn’t hire for such positions in time, and some vice principals failed to actively and adequately perform their duties,” Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the education think tank 21st Century Education Research Institute, told Sixth Tone. “The guideline aims to further strengthen the appointment and management of vice principals.”

According to the guideline, officials will prioritize hiring new vice principals for schools in remote and rural areas, as well as “weaker” academic institutions in cities. China had more than 210,000 primary and secondary schools as of 2020, government data showed.

There were 13,801 judges and nearly 40,000 prosecutors serving as vice principals nationwide in 2021, officials said last week. The Ministry of Public Security had assigned over 300,000 police officers to the roles, though it’s unclear if that figure also includes those assigned this year.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: A vice principle from local police department gives a lesson on national security at a primary school in Hefei, Anhui province, April 14, 2021. VCG)