Posted by Joel Martinsen on Friday, April 27, 2007 at 6:10 PM
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 certificatesInterview 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?
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?
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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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The Eurasian Face : Blacksmith Books, a publishing house in Hong Kong, is behind The Eurasian Face, a collection of photographs by Kirsteen Zimmern. Below is an excerpt from the series:
Big in China: An adapted excerpt from Big In China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising A Family, Playing The Blues and Becoming A Star in China, just published this month. Author Alan Paul tells the story of arriving in Beijing as a trailing spouse, starting a blues band, raising kids and trying to make sense of China.
Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
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