By Amara Graps

With China’s tremendous quantum funding through its departments: MOST (Ministry of Science and Technology) and the NDRC (National Development and Reform Commission), what about the quantum mandates that reach the youth? Does quantum education in the public school system exist? Yes, it does, with new initiatives.

Primary Education Modernization

 From top to bottom, there is a push to include quantum technology in primary grades as part of the country’s education modernization plans. Chen Yunlong, the deputy director of the Basic Education Curriculum and Textbook Development Center of the Ministry of Education writes that “The future has come, and the strides of basic education should also keep up with the wave of technological development,” after mentioning specifically artificial intelligence, big data, quantum information, and biotechnology. For that future, China has issued two documents: “China’s Education Modernization 2035″ and “The Implementation Plan for Accelerating the Promotion of Educational Modernization (2018-2022)” accelerating the modernization of education. The year of 2035 is of special importance in China’s overall development timetable, as the country has pledged to realize socialist modernization by then.

The modernization plan aims to open the curriculum of primary and secondary schools, to encourage children to explore their interests, and to expand curricula with interactive science and technology. The money that China is investing in their educational improvement is considerable.

In the first year, 2019, of China’s Education Modernization 2035 plan, they allocated more than 4 percent of GDP, and more than one trillion yuan ($157 billion). Since I am limited to open sources, we can see that such funding must be widely distributed. For example, in MOST’s 2020 final budget, the education line item is 1,212,100,000 yuan = $191 Million. With such funding, and with this new framework, there is a funding and policy support for quantum education to enter the primary and secondary schools. Some recent examples of quantum education of the youth in practice can be seen by Quantum Origin and CIQTEK, below.

Hefei Quantum Companies Support Quantum Education

In September 2017, Origin Quantum Computing Technology Co., Ltd., (合肥本源量子计算科技有限责任公司 translated as ‘Yuanyuan’ Quantum or ‘Benyuan’ Quantum), China’s first quantum computing startup, was established. Today it is a 300-employee company in Hefei. To promote the development of quantum computing and cultivate domestic quantum computing talents, Origin Quantum opened a quantum education section of the company, while developing its quantum computing software and hardware systems.

In 2021, Origin Quantum visited Hefei Normal Primary School. From the Founders’ educational roots at University of Science and Technology of China, Guo Guoping explained ‘What is quantum, what is quantum computing, and what does a quantum computer look like?’ to students.

Professor Guo Guoping explaining quantum technology to students at Hefei Normal Primary School. Photo Source from Origin Quantum’s website.

School visits are only one part of its education efforts. The company has cloud-based quantum educational hardware: the Yuanyuan Quantum Learning System, as well.

Another Hefei-based quantum technology company: CIQTEK has an intriguing quantum computing educational device based on nitrogen-vacancy (NV) center in diamond, but few details are provided and no price is listed.

University Quantum Education

The “Implementation Plan described above” proposes ten key tasks to promote the modernization of education; the fourth task is what I will address in the context of quantum education and research.

In the implementation plan, higher education reform is spelled out: the development of a new double first-class network of universities, high level post graduate education, training of rare, high-value skills, improvement of scientific research, construction of cutting edge science centers, and participation in national laboratory construction.

University of Science and Technology of China (USTC): Quantum Technology Education Leader

As early as the 1990s,  (USTC) offered quantum-related elective courses such as quantum for graduate students. Later, related elective courses were also offered for undergraduates. However, quantum information science’s interdisciplinary nature, between informatics and quantum physics needs its own undergraduate and graduate category. The senior academicians agree on the need to build a young quantum-educated workforce. Chinese Academy of Sciences quantum Professor Guo Guoping: “to realize the related tasks in the field of quantum information in the 14th FYP, it is necessary to have a sufficient scale of outstanding young talents to support. “ Guoping’s wish was realized in 2021.

The University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei. Photo Credit: South China Morning Post.

Figure 5.  The University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, capital of eastern Anhui province, is part of the country’s elite C9 league, equivalent to the Ivy League in the United States. Photo Credit: South China Morning Post.

2021: New Quantum Information Science Majors

Early in 2021, the Ministry of Education announced the results of the 2020 filing and approval of undergraduate majors in general institutions of higher learning. Thirty-seven new majors were included in the catalogue of undergraduate majors in ordinary colleges and universities of which quantum information science is one.  “The addition of an undergraduate major in quantum information science is timely and necessary, and it also reflects the country’s commitment to the quantum technology industry,” said Guo Guoping.  Several universities started their quantum information undergraduate coursework. The University of Science and Technology of China (hereinafter referred to as USTC) was one. Tsinghua University was another.

Postgraduate quantum information courses are offered too: In addition to USTC, where quantum courses have long been available in masters and doctoral studies, Guo Guoping says that Shanxi University, Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences and other units in China are also offering postgraduate courses in quantum information science, as well as many domestic colleges and universities with similar elective courses.

Quantum Skills Growth and Future Quantum Hotbeds

With China’s enormous education support, the soon-to-be-degreed quantum information students will be making their mark in the world. See the pool of Engineering graduate students in the line item on the next figure from the Ministry of Education 2020 statistics.  These 250282 graduate students of a variety of engineering skillsets are a vector into the future pool of quantum technology in the country.

Engineering line item from the Chinese Ministry of Education website for their 2020 statistics

How far has China come in this education implementation plan for quantum technology? Let’s choose one sector where China’s skills are strong: quantum dots. Of the quantum dot patents granted since 2016, the institutions of those patents comprise 20% of the list of double first-class institutions announced in February 2022 by the Chinese Ministry of Education. This initiative, therefore, is still early and needs more time.  The quantum research progress up to now has still been more dependent on the groups of quantum mentors and quantum leaders. However, I suggest you to keep your eye on the map of country’s double first-class institutions for future quantum research hotbeds.

Quantum Information Science Integration with Industry

In Guoping’s view, training talents majoring in quantum information science should pay more attention to the traction and integration of the industry. “For example, we ask students from the School of Finance to take courses in quantum information, and he will apply quantum computing to the financial field in the future,” he says.

A step in the education-industry integration direction can be seen at the provincial level with the January 2022 news, that the “Industry-Education Integration Promotion Association” of the Guangdong province will assist and guide schools and enterprises to jointly build 50 industry-education integration projects. Such examples highlight the deeply woven character of government policy implementation from top to bottom.

Recruitment

The Chinese government initiated the Thousand Talents Plan (TTP) in 2008, with the goal of making China the world’s leader in science and technology by 2050. As a way to bring leading Chinese scientists, academics and entrepreneurs living abroad back to China with their acquired skills, it served as an effective strategy to build technology teams that could serve as teachers and industry leaders. In 2011, the scheme grew to encompass younger talent and foreign scientists. Until the TTP was rebranded in 2020, due to US intellectual property concerns, to the High-End Foreign Expert Recruitment Plan, it attracted more than 7,000 scientists including the well-known quantum scientist Jian-Wei Pan.  If a Chinese student today is interested to study abroad, they have additional support from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China:  an ‘easy loan’: 2 Million RMB, which is about 300K USD. Kania and Costello, 2018 describe how many leading Chinese quantum physicists become key figures in Chinese quantum science and technology after receiving PhDs from and pursuing research at top U.S. and international institutions.

April 2, 2022