China is to install independent inspectors in all its 300,000 primary and middle schools by the end of this year to improve educational quality and fairness.
"These inspectors will be the internal police of the education system, discovering and reporting problems and helping find sound solutions," He Xiuchao, director of the Ministry of Education's education supervision department, told a press conference on Monday.
The inspectors will be directly managed by education supervision departments under local governments and are independent from local educational authorities, according to a circular issued by the State Council, or China's cabinet, to announce the decision.
The move is designed to establish a long-term supervision mechanism based on the current reality of an "unhealthy" Chinese basic education, He said.
A remarkable imbalance of education has come to exist among schools and between urban and rural areas, he said. Many schools have paid attention only to pupils' test marks, assigning too much homework for them but ignoring their physical and mental health.
Some schools have illegally charged extra tuition fees, and even reportedly manipulated the enrollment process for benefits.
Inspectors will deal with complaints from parents and students in addition to supervising schools' enrollment, management, educational methods, curriculum, and food safety and sanitation, He told reporters.
They are required to submit monthly reports to local governments and put forward their suggestions regarding schools' overall operation, according to the official.
Inspectors' reports and suggestions will be regarded an important criterion for assessing the performance of a school and its heads.
China has about 50,000 full-time or part-time education inspectors across the country, but most of them work for internal agencies of local educational bureaus.
The independent inspectors mechanism was introduced in August, 2012 by the State Council.
Under the Regulation on Educational Inspections, inspectors are authorized to review and copy the financial records of schools within their jurisdiction, as well as call for additional access to other related documents.
Any failure to assist inspectors may result in disciplinary punishment for heads of schools, says the regulation, adding that inspection reports should be made public.
Pilots of the mechanism were conducted even earlier in Chongqing, Hunan and Shandong, and they have proven to be effective, according to He.
The building of the inspection mechanism has led to a sharp decrease in the number of complaints, said Zhang Guohua, director of the educational bureau of Weifang City in east China's Shandong Province.
Inspectors in schools in Weifang have the right to veto school decisions, according to Zhang. They have helped report 2,200 cases of school safety hazards since 2009 and promoted smoother, faster implementation of educational policies from central government.
He Xiuchao said the inspectors, with a three-year tenure, will be mainly selected from incumbent or retired principals and teachers as well as education researchers and administrative staff.
They must have a bachelor degree and a 10-years' experience of working in educational fields.
According He, each inspector will be responsible for supervising around five schools.