BEIJING, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- The fundamental role of education is to cultivate virtues. For Chinese President Xi Jinping, reaching out to young students' hearts and minds is especially important, not only as the country's top leader, but also as a former educator.
For six years in the 1990s, when he was Party chief of Fuzhou in Fujian Province, east China, Xi was also the principal of a local college, Minjiang Polytechnic College. Today it is known by a different name, Minjiang University, but Xi's legacy, the guiding principle of moral education, remains.
Chen Qigan, former deputy Party secretary of the polytechnic, recalled that during his tenure, Xi was dedicated to improving the college's teaching system and infrastructure. He said that Xi prioritized Party building and ideological and political work as one of his four major tasks.
"It is necessary to cultivate talent with correct ideals, healthy personalities and a strong sense of social responsibility. In this way, they can contribute to the society," Chen said Xi had once said.
This cultivation of sound values in the younger generation, was -- according to Xi -- like "the first button" of a coat. "Just like buttoning a coat. If the first button is fastened incorrectly, all the other buttons will be wrong," he once said.
Since his elevation to Chinese president, Xi has personally presided over meetings, visited universities and schools across the country, written letters to students, sat in on lessons, and talked with students. His guiding principle of education in virtue is now taught across the whole country.
Five years ago, at an education conference, Xi underscored the significance of moral education, and said ideological and political work should be the foundation upon which the whole education system is built.
"Teachers are the key to developing these courses," Xi said. "Teachers of political philosophy should help their students sow the seeds of the true, the good and the beautiful, and help them fasten their first buttons right."