Aimed to carry forward the Chinese culture, develop cultural undertakings and improve the cultural quality of the entire nation, the Department of Social Art Education is an important division of the theater that offers art cultural education for the society. It works to promote and popularize art education through social art level tests, non-diploma education, short-term trainings and exchanges among cultural groups. It mainly includes the Grade Examination Committee and the Art Training Center.
I. Grade Examination Committee: The Grade Examination Committee of China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater is a cross-provincial art level test organization officially approved by the Ministry of Culture on April 21, 2003. Over the past decade since it launched art level tests in 1997, all the staff have made concerted efforts under the leadership of the Ministry of Culture, the theater and the department, regulating art level tests step by step according to work plans, expanding the art level test market, increasing items and connotation of art level tests and carrying out various types of trainings.
(I) Highlighting distinctive art level tests and establishing the brand image. Since the launch of art level tests, the Grade Examination Committee has seen improved test quality and a growing number of candidates, which reached more than 70,000 at present. We owe the success to three factors, i.e. the efforts of the staff in all the art level test organizations, the work strategies we develop and the examiners that boast great art attainments and are responsible, earnest, hardworking, selfless and easy to approach.
1. Highlighting the characteristics of China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater as a comprehensive performance theater. Approved by the Ministry of Culture, the Grade Examination Committee of the theater is the only art level test organization set up by a theater directly under the Ministry of Culture, as well as the only comprehensive cross-provincial art level test organization. We publicize the art level tests using every advantage of the theater. As a State-level performance theater, China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater has four performance entities, including the Opera Troupe, the Dance Drama Troupe, the Symphony Orchestra and the Chinese Music Orchestra, and boasts complete art categories and a galaxy of talents. Therefore, the art level tests reflect our uniqueness in either test contents or standards. Besides, as China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater is a comprehensive performance theater, we require candidates in the art level tests of all the disciplines to focus on both skills and performing abilities and offer teachers enough room to demonstrate their abilities, so as to make the tests more popularized, pragmatic, regulated and interesting and make candidates more interested in learning.
2. Establishing our own brand and developing service consciousness. In the face of intense market competition, we require workers of the Grade Examination Committee to establish service consciousness, offer thoughtful services at the grassroots level and be patient and sincere with undertaking organizations and candidates. It’s also expected to answer questions in a timely manner and solve the problems even mentioned over telephones without delay. Forging the brand is also related to the hard work of our judges. To help candidates eliminate the fear of testing, the judges have tried to be human-oriented during the testing process, offering candidates face-to-face guidance and correcting improper skills and performances. After the end of tests, they also comment on tutoring teachers based on test results and summarize problems arising from the testing process. By carefully observing the candidates, they can know the teachers’ abilities, and thus find their weaknesses in teaching and offer guidance. Meanwhile, the judges always serve the candidates with smiles, respect teachers, pay attention to how they speak and behave and never put on airs. Furthermore, we require judges to have relevant certificates, adhere to principles and strictly implement the Measures for Administration of Social Art Level Tests (Decree No.31 of the Ministry of Culture) and art level test standards. In recent years, the Grade Examination Committee has annually held national work conferences on art level tests. It summarizes art level tests in the pervious year, deploys work for the next year and repeatedly studies and analyzes the Measures for Administration of Social Art Level Tests (Decree No.31 of the Ministry of Culture). The conference also specifies requirements for work in the next year and sets work objectives. After launching the work conferences for years, we have achieved effective exchanges and coordination with undertaking organizations, promoted the sound and orderly development of art level tests, improved the quality of judging and services related to art level tests, and made undertaking organizations more confident about their cooperation with us. The art level test conferences serve as a bridge connecting the theater’s Grade Examination Committee and our undertaking organizations, all of which have affirmed the necessity and timeliness of the work conferences.
3. We have a team consisting of examiners who boast great art attainments and are responsible, earnest, hardworking, selfless and easy to approach. As the theater boasts complete categories of music and dance and a galaxy of talents, the Grade Examination Committee has had nearly 150 experts and judges who were qualified as examiners since it applied to the Ministry of Culture for examiner review in 2003. As experts dedicated to both art performance and teaching, the examiners have rich experience in stage performance and teaching, and often work as judges of various types of art events. Some examiners are also members of the expert guiding committee for the national social art level tests, and are engaged by schools of higher learning like Tsinghua University and China Conservatory as part-time professors or department deans. Meanwhile, they have been constantly taking part in quality education in primary and middle schools and colleges as well as art popularization among the masses, with a large number of trained or tutored students winning excellent awards or gold awards in national competitions. Many examiners also participate in preparation of our art level test courses, including Fang Bonian, Jiang Zuhui, Hu Zhi, Luo Diqiang, Hui Yanhong, Hou Meijun, Ji Jinwu, Guan Tianqin, Hong Wenli, Cai Fang, Liu Fang, Zhao Huimei and Wang Chaohui in the dancing discipline, Li Jikui, Zhang Zhongyao, Wang Hua, Xie Qing, Chen Rong, Niu Changhong, Wang Chuandong and Wang Shuren in the Chinese music discipline, Li Lu, Liu Chunhua, Liu Hui, Song Qiang, Ji Wei, Wang Jishu, Li Zhigong, Yang Yidan, Wang Xin, Yao Zhiming, Cao Jinqi, Qing Liejun, Wang Xiaogong, Liu Changhe and Xu Guorui in the western music discipline, Zhu Yali, Xiao Guolong, Wang Nan, Li Xiaqing and Wang Jing in the vocal music discipline, and Cao Can, Zhang Song, Qu Xianhe, Zhang Yunying, Hao Aimin, You Benchang, Yuan Zhongrui, Tao Hao, Lian Dezhi, Xiao Jun, Tao Lanqin, Du Min, Zhan Ze and Jin Xin in the recitation discipline. They are not only national class A or B performers, but also experts dedicated to art level tests for years. They’ve taken part in compilation of teaching materials in various disciplines, development of art level test standards and policies as well as teachers’ trainings.
(II) Increasing disciplines of art level tests and advancing art level tests in an all-round way. To meet the fast-growing art level test market, we have increased disciplines of art level tests and organized experts to compile teaching materials of the disciplines. When compiling teaching materials, we not only draw on others’ experience, but also focus on our own characteristics and develop the teaching materials from the perspective of art troupes. To boost candidates’ interest in learning, we clearly specify requirements on both skills and performing abilities in teaching materials. To stand out among numerous art level test organizations and show our vitality, we’ve kept making innovation, broadening horizons and expanding the market. Given the absence of recitation in the art level test market, we conducted in-depth surveys about art level tests at home and studied the emerging discipline. As a result, we found many people, ranging from kids aged at 3-4 to elders aged above 80, are enthusiastic about the recitation art. That shows the flourishing development of language art education and reveals problems that need to be solved in recitation teaching as well. To fill in the gap in the art level test market, we’ve organized expert discussions and market surveys in recent years, and engaged authoritative recitation experts and first-line teachers to compile the Performance Courses for Recitation Art Level Tests, Manual for Training and Assessing Recitation Art Level Test Teachers and Manual for Recitation Art Level Tests, which are the first systematic and standard materials of its kind at home, and to develop standards and methods for recitation art level tests. To support market surveys and make teachers better understand and master test contents and standards, we successively held three sessions of recitation training classes nationwide, engaged many domestically influential recitation experts, education theorist, after-school education experts and first-line senior teachers to give lectures, such as Cao Can, Qu Xianhe, Zhang Song, Xiao Jun, Tao Lanqin, Lian Dezhi, Zhang Yunying, Hao Aimin, You Benchang, Yuan Zhongrui, Tao Hao, Du Min, Zhan Ze and Jin Xin, who are the backbone of every training. The theater submitted the teaching materials to the Ministry of Culture in November 2006. In early September 2007, the Ministry of Culture held a meeting with attendants consisting of relevant experts and leaders from the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Education. The Grade Examination Committee of the theater made the Presentation about the Feasibility of Including Recitation into the Catalogue of Social Art Level Test Disciplines at the meeting, which was affirmed by all the experts and leaders, who considered the smooth launch of recitation tests will create new opportunities for the art level test market and advance development of the entire art level test market. The leaders from the Ministry of Education who attended the meeting also spoke highly of the contribution of China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater to recitation art level tests. They granted big support to our work, believing “the set of teaching materials published by China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater make recitation teaching based on systematic teaching materials and help develop a standard teaching system, which is of great significance.” On October 11, 2007, the Ministry of Culture officially listed recitation art level tests on the drama catalogue. In April 2008, the Ministry of Culture officially approved the theater’s application for organizing recitation art level tests.
(III) Regulating management and expanding the market.
1. To meet the fast-growing art level test market, we must focus on quality more than quantity. A good organization must have complete management systems and standard management modes, or it can’t be recognized by others. Since the implementation of Decree No.31, the Ministry of Culture has imposed tough requirements on the organization of art level tests every year, and released documents several times about uniformity and filing. That is, the standards, teaching materials and procedures for art level tests as well as judge arrangement, registration form use and certificate making shall be uniformed; The art level test information, charging standards and test arrangements shall be filed at competent departments of culture before tests and the candidate lists shall be filed after tests. Then, unreasonable contents can be found and adjusted in a timely manner and arbitrary charges can be stopped. As for undertaking organizations, we require our workers to provide standard services, combine supervision and effective guidance and eliminate troubles for them. As for the problems hard to solve, we first discuss them with the leaders of local departments of culture responsible for art level tests, then submit them to the Department of Education and Science under the Ministry of Culture for instructions and finally present them to the workers in charge in the national art level test center for coordination and solutions.
2. To advance art level tests in a more regulated and orderly manner, we hold work conferences for judges annually before the peak and after the end of the tests. We prevent, correct and provide remedy to some problems arising from previous tests. We uniform standards for discipline judging based on local reality, making judging more based on facts.
3. While improving management, we impose new requirements on workers and introduce the accountability system. We require every worker to be active and responsible, establish service consciousness and stick to his/her post rather than shirk his/her responsibilities or detain problems. Every worker is expected to report the problems he/she can’t handle in a timely manner for solutions. Before every test, we make uniform arrangement, develop work plans and schedule time and judges according to local schedules. We require workers to keep their mobile phones online 24 hours a day to solve problems facing undertaking organizations in art level tests at any time and handle emergencies in a timely manner.
4. Regarding the problems mentioned by undertaking organizations, such as delay in certificate release and high error rates, we’ve had repeated discussions and summarized experience in recent years, developing plans that are more detailed, easy-to-implement and pragmatic. To reduce errors in certificate typing, we changed the previous practice in which the undertaking organizations input candidate information. Since 2007, we’ve required undertaking organizations to provide us with all the registration forms right after the end of tests. Then, we arrange workers to input all the information. That shortens the waiting time for certificate release and reduces error rates as well. To make the certificates, we’ve hired several full-time workers to input information and paste photos, which improves efficiency, makes certificates delivered to candidates in the shortest time possible, ensures the interests of candidates and thus wins public recognition.
(IV) Improving supporting work and highlighting teachers’ trainings. To support art level tests, we provide the teachers participating in art level tests with relevant trainings every year. We’ve organized trainings for dancing and recitation teachers respectively in Beijing, Guangdong, Guangxi, Shandong, Gansu, Changchun, Hebei and Anhui in recent years. The trainings not only improve teachers’ abilities and widen candidate sources of undertaking organizations, but also expand the reputation and influence of the Grade Examination Committee of the theater and make it more recognized across the country. That makes teachers better understand test contents and ways of teaching, and helps popularize our art level test courses. In general, with the vigorous support from the leaders of the Ministry of Culture, the theater and provincial departments of culture as well as nationwide undertaking organizations, under the leadership of the departmental heads and with the concerted efforts of all the staff of the department, we’ve steadily advanced the work related to art level tests and achieved better performances year by year. All the jobs have been accomplished according to the schedule. In the future, we’ll further expand businesses, regulate the market, improve systems and work for better achievements.
II. Art Training Center: To better publicize and carry out cultural education among the public, Art Training Center, approved by China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater, was registered at Xuanwu District Commission of Education, Beijing for running a school with social resources. Affiliated to China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater, the Art Training Center is a major division of the theater to carry forward Chinese culture, develop cultural undertakings and improve the cultural quality of the people, as well as a platform for the theater to launch art cultural education among the social public.
The Art Training Center boasts a strong teaching staff, engaging the teachers and experts with rich performing and teaching experience to offer professional trainings for amateurs. Upholding the guidelines of running the school honestly, managing the school scientifically, teaching students according to their natural abilities and educating students elaborately, the Art Training Center carries out teaching in diverse forms and at multiple layers, and regularly launches long and short-term trainings related to music, dance and other disciplines under non-diploma programs as well as cultural exchanges.
The Art Training Center has trained thousands of students over the past two decades since its launch in the 1980s. Thanks to its focus on teaching quality and comprehensive quality of students, many of the trainees have won awards in national competitions and grown into top-notch professionals in respective schools. In particular, a large number of trainees have been active on the professional stages in respective provinces or municipalities and become the backbone of art performances. To further popularize the diverse Chinese culture, raise its profile and make it more market-oriented and internationalized, the Art Training Center annually sends trainees with excellent performances to foreign countries or regions, including France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, in winter and summer vacations for visits and exchanges. The trainees have cultural exchanges with local youngsters or join parties organized by local children’s palaces or art schools. The activities not only broaden trainees’ horizons and improve their living abilities, but also enhance their performing and communicating abilities and increase their knowledge, thus winning praise from both foreigners and trainees and their parents.
To meet social needs, the Art Training Center has offered dance trainings since 2004, which mainly include ballet trainings and Chinese folk dance trainings. All the trainees have praised the trainings as rich in contents and pragmatic and functional to amateur dancers. The trainees can take part in the art level tests organized by the Grade Examination Committee of the theater to have what they learn judged by professionals. Through art teaching and performances, the Art Training Center aims to enrich the culture and art life of social groups at all levels, convey brand-new art information and educational philosophy, provide the public with the most direct and broadest platform for education services and nurture more versatile art talents.
Director: Sun Weiliang
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Contact person: Wang Yu