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Ministry of Culture explains the culture certification system

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If the system is detrimental to talent, or if it shuts out outstanding talent, then there is no need for it - it's a waste of manpower and money, so why do it?

So said Liu Changquan of the Ministry of Culture's Cultural and Artistic Talent Center in an interview with Southern Weekly this week.

Liu was speaking about the newly proposed certification system for entry to cultural sectors. The MoC wants to require a certification before people can be employed in museums, libraries, cultural offices, and the arts (both low and high), but this proposal has been criticized for being exclusionary and inappropriate for many of these professions.

Liu's opinion is that setting up standards is a good thing - the Ministry would not have worked years on this if it was a worthless project. In the following interview, he notes that the media has been hyping the possible effect the system might have on folk performers while ignoring its possible benefits. And he explains that no standards have been solidified for singers, actors, and other hard-to-quantify professions. However, he implies that sometime in the future, all cultural occupations will be brought under the national system.

The logic of certificates

Interview with MoC's Liu Changquan by Zhang Ying / SW

Certificates are beneficial to everyone

Southern Weekly: Why enact a professional certification system for cultural industries?
Liu Changquan: Developing an occupational skill assessment for cultural sectors will help improve the quality of cultural workers and solve currently-existing problems. At the request of the Ministries of Labor and Social Security, Personnel, and Education, college graduates will need a professional certificate in addition to their diploma to find employment. This will give them the necessary qualifications for working in this field.

Professionals working in state-funded cultural work units can choose to be assessed. There are famous performers, library staff, museum workers, and social and cultural staff who do not have occupational certificates at present, but they will be encouraged to attend professional training within three to five years, and to voluntarily take part in examinations so that certification can gradually be implemented for sector entry and hiring.

SW: What are current problems in the cultural sector?
Liu: There are all sorts of problems right now. In state-funded cultural work units, the employment structure is unfair: there is a high degree of randomness in recruitment, skill levels are dropping among some hires, and a few low-quality, poorly-skilled people have joined cultural organizations and arts troupes. Some employees of cultural organizations are not the greatest, programs are of poor quality, and may even involve sex. And in some commercial talent competitions, singers can't even read music, they just get a ragtag group together and go onstage. I think this isn't normal.

As the professional certification system is rolled out, from now on jobs will require certification. There'll be survival of the fittest, which will standardize the disordered marketplace and standardize the abnormalities of selection and hiring.

SW: How do you view the current crop of talent shows like Happy Boys, My Hero, and The Show? The organizers of these shows have expressed their support for the certification policy and stressed the training of their contestants.
Liu: What we are implementing is a national standard. You can enter whatever sector you please, but you must meet the basic standard for talent in that sector. If you do not meet it, then please find work in some other area.

Nothing "across the board"

SW: It's been said that you are using an administrative monopoly to gain economic rewards, and that this is an anti-market action.
Liu: You can't understand it like that. If the motive was profit, then we could have done this in 2002 when the memo came out.

Some sectors go to work immediately after the intructions are released; we prepared for five years. Considerable manpower and finances are involved, and we've asked several hundred experts to make standards, edit textbooks, and create a test question bank.

There's some misunderstanding in society, or perhaps differing views, and these we can understand. Actually, in accordance with the request of the state, nearly all industries have implemented this system. This is indeed a good system, and it will put an end to many problems and abuses.

A random example: to be the manager of a web café you must know about hardware and software, you must have functional skills, and you must understand the cultural rules and regulations, otherwise how can you manage well, right?

In the past, techniques for evaluating talent were rather confusing, and the results weren’t entirely accurate. Why did we need to prepare for several years? First, to set up a perfect appraisal system; second, to accomodate the rules and particularities of the cultural industries; third, to prepare a solid foundation, to aim for a high starting point - that is, to pursue scientific appraisal.

SW: This standard has singers and dancers in clubs and bars running scared - some of them can’t read music. Will they be able to continue that line of work in the future?
Liu: Heh, newspapers always talk about entertainment occupations like singers and actors. These make up a very small proportion of our inspections. They should not worry; to date, we have not made any occupational standards geared toward them, and we have not limited them from pursuing entertainment jobs.

At present, our system is just being implemented on a trial basis, only involving occupational work units that "consume royal grain", such as playhouses, cultural institutes, art institutes, cultural centers, libraries, and museums.

This system will definitely extend to entertainment and other cultural areas; as for when the entertainment sector will put a certificate-to-work system in place, this requires looking at the developmental state of the overall system of the sector. When the time comes we will announce this to the world.

SW: An online survey showed that many people wonder, under the new system, will Zhouzhou be able to conduct an orchestra? Will minority singers who can't read Chinese be able to obtain certification to perform?
Liu: We will definitely not have anything across the board. Establishing a national talent standard and an occupational talent standard should be flexible as well as principled, elasitc as well as quantitative.

Why is our system only going on in trials? Because we still require further study and improvement. We are establishing a system for the goal of spurring the development of this industry. If the system is detrimental to talent, or if it shuts out outstanding talent, then there is no need for it - it's a waste of manpower and money, so why do it?

Designated training sites and fixed fees

SW: Is the the professional certification system compulsory? Will the cultural workers currently on the job be affected?
Liu: This is an "entry permit" - without it, you cannot enter the cultural sector. We are practicing the old system for the old players, and a new system for the new players. At present we do not compel older employees to take the exam.

Just like the qualifying exam for civil servants - I worked in government for more than ten years and then suddenly heard that they wanted to implement a qualifying exam for civil servants. Those of us old civil servants went to a few training programs, went through a few basic assessments, and it was over.

SW: Why have five grades for this professional certification?
Liu: This is just like the bands of the English exam. Each person will be awarded a certification for the level corresponding to their skills and knowledge.

Our qualification exams and training will be a long process. For example, a performing musician who has been idel for a long time finds it hard to return to the stage, so this system will help him to keep up his skills.

SW: The national occupational standards include playwrights and play directors. Currently they are divided into A and B levels nationally; will the five grades of your standard conflict with the current professional designation?
Liu: Ours is an occupational entry standard, that is a professional title. It's a professional service. The two are different things.

To date, we have not proposed a professional standard for playwrights; we are working from simple to hard, starting from what is easy to specify and quantify.

SW: What's the relationship between the exam and the training?
Liu: They supplement each other. If you are knowledgeable and prepared, then you can elect to take the exam directly, and if you do not pass, you can take training.

According to national regulations, to be fair, the exam and the training are completely separate. The Department of Personnel at the Ministry of Culture is responsible for putting the regulations in place and issuing occupational standards. Our occupational skills assessment and guidance center will be responsible for writing textbooks and preparing the question bank and the exam itself. The training we will entrust to some universities and vocational arts institutes that have the necessary facilities.

SW: Will the cost for the exam and training be high? For example, training in broadcasting costs nearly 3000 yuan per person for the class, the exam, and the certificate.
Liu: This is indeed a problem. Our branch organizations in all areas will guarantee the interests of the test takers, taking great efforts to oversee and administer fee limitations at the designated training organizations according to occupational conditions and the different standards of living in different areas. To this end, we will make public the names of the training centers and the assessment organizations so that everyone may check them out to avoid being cheated.

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There are currently 4 Comments for Ministry of Culture explains the culture certification system.

Comments on Ministry of Culture explains the culture certification system

when the official says the certificate sytem will work, it is only his opinion, not a fact. whether it will work or not has nothing to do with his opinion that it will.

the years spent for preparations does not automatically justify the introduction of the system. whether sth is good or otherwise does not depend on the time one spends planning and promoting it. logic simply does not work that way.

the moc may have had a good intention, but i also hear that good intention can pave the way to hell. intention should not be the final test of anything. result is.

i could be wrong, but i wonder whether an administrative idea that originated five years ago can still be good in a country that has been seeing rapid changes since then, let alone in future.

eep.

this seems exactly what the arts in China needs... the government telling people what counts as artistic. (sigh)

anyone know how playhouses eat royal grain? are they funded by the government?

Some of the problem probably comes from the fact that a single administrative unit is responsible for the arts as well as more quantifiable professions: librarians, museum curators, docents, and so forth. There may be value in setting up professional standards for some of those occupations (whether that should be up to the government is another question).

I get the sense that Liu and others in the MoC realize the distinction (they're starting with the ones that are easier to quantify) but are intent on finding a way to standardize the arts anyway, merely because those professions also fall within their purview. Hammers and nails, to some extent.

Have they said what the contents of the exams will be?

Will it be another exam in which English and "Politics" are the main components?

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