China: University Designed for Elderly Education Addresses Aging Society

China Daily
Students study flower arranging techniques during a class.

The nation plans to invest in the talents of older people and also help them remain mentally active.

After the Seniors University of China was formally established in Beijing last month, Li Jing was among the first students to take a course at the national-level facility.

On March 21, the 64-year-old enrolled to study recitation techniques, and said she is very satisfied with the course.

“I hope to learn some techniques to make my voice more rhythmical and pleasing to the ear,” she said.

“More importantly, I was inspired when the teachers taught us that the key to recitation is to understand the meaning of the essay and convey the emotions with the voice.”

She also wants to take courses on dance and tai chi. “Older people must continue learning and exercising regularly to ensure that they remain active, both mentally and physically,” she said.

The Seniors University of China, which was officially inaugurated on March 3, is under the management of the Open University of China.

Huai Jinpeng, minister of education, said the school’s establishment is a concrete measure to address China’s aging population and also an important milestone in the reform and development of education for older people.

The inauguration of the new university is part of China’s efforts to promote lifelong education, advance the building of a learning society, provide seniors with opportunities to further their own pursuits and studies, and enjoy themselves, Huai said.

Li retired nine years ago, and since then she has taken courses on editing short videos at the Open University of China.

She also took part in a modeling course with a private company, which she said was much more expensive than the new school’s classes.

“All the courses have enriched my life, and I have also made friends with people who have the same interests,” she said.

Liu Caimei, deputy director of the office of the development and management at the seniors university, said the Open University of China established a branch for elderly education in January 2015, and it has continuously expanded the related resources by leveraging the strengths and immediacy of online education.

By the end of last year, 30 branches of the Open University of China had set up provincial-level senior universities or specialist institutions for older people, and more than 55,000 education and learning centers had been established at the grassroots level for those in the age group, she said.

The Seniors University of China provides students with skills training, cultural inheritance education, social services, scientific research and international exchanges. It also offers both online and offline teaching activities for older people nationwide.

To expand its reach among people in the older age group, it has opened accounts on social media platforms such as WeChat, Weibo and TikTok, Liu said.

The Open University of China also set up a special team for the formation of the seniors university, developed a national public service education platform for older people — consisting of a website, an app and a WeChat mini program that offers 407,000 online courses totaling almost 4 million minutes — and provides high-quality resources to senior educational institutions nationwide, Liu said.

To raise the number of tutors, the seniors university plans to encourage retired teachers, officials and science and technology workers to teach classes, she added.