Urban teachers will be encouraged to work in rural schools in order to improve the overall quality of rural education and close the urban-rural education gap.
But noble rhetoric alone and the need to uplift rural areas are not enough to persuade urban teachers to abandon better salaries. Local governments are being urged to establish good salaries and benefits for urban teachers, in order to attract them.
This policy decision follows Premier Wen Jiabao's announcement at the National People's Congress that tuition and fees for compulsory education will be scrapped for rural children in two years.
"This means that every child in rural areas will enjoy nine years of compulsory education," said Guan Peijun, a Ministry of Education official in charge of normal schools. To cope with this major change and increase of children in school, teachers from big and medium-sized cities will be encouraged to work in rural areas.
China will also set up special offices to persuade college graduates to work in rural schools.
Many more and much better teachers are urgently required in the countryside, which lags far behind cities inn education, despite increasing government investment.
China has 500,000 "substitute" teachers without formal education, and 75.9 percent of them work in the rural western and central areas where most people still are needy due to backward economic development.
Many primary and middle schools in rural areas are still short of teachers specializing in foreign languages, information technology, music, fine arts and physical education. Academic degrees held by teachers in 310,000 primary and secondary schools have not reached the national standard.
In contrast, Guan acknowledged, urban schools are quite often crowded with excellent teachers, and some excellent rural teachers move to big cities for better treatment.
The government has responded by giving special training to upgrade the quality of rural teachers in the past five years. This has improved their teaching and raised their social status.
Guan said attracting urban teachers depends on grassroots efforts to give incentives to educators.
Guangdong Province farmer Yang Yuemei, a deputy to the NPC, advises on the need to increase financial help to backward areas populated by ethnic people.
(Xinhua News Agency March 8, 2006)