It is good news for teachers and a ray of hope for rural education as a whole. Pay for rural teachers may be listed in the budget of the Ministry of Education, a high-ranking official from the ministry was quoted as saying by China Business News.
The lack of qualified teachers has been holding back the development of education in the country's vast rural areas.
Low pay and poor working conditions have resulted in a serious shortage of talented teachers in primary and middle schools in poverty-stricken areas.
The distribution of teachers is not balanced between urban and rural areas, nor between better-off and poor regions.
The decrease in the number of schoolchildren in cities has resulted in redundancy, while qualified teachers in poor rural areas have been scrambling to leave for township or county schools.
The result is clear. The poorer a place is, the fewer qualified teachers it has. Statistics indicate that 500,000 teachers who do not have qualification certificates are teaching at primary and middle schools in 12 provinces and autonomous regions in the west of the country.
Unqualified teachers are underpaid, with some receiving as little as five or six US dollars a month. Many have their pay in arrears.
But it is not just teachers without certificates that suffer qualified teachers in some rural areas are often owed money as well. Their wages come from local governments' budgets. In some cases, the special fund for their wages is misappropriated.
Statistics indicate wages owed to rural teachers amount to more than 10 billion yuan (US$1.23 billion) nationwide.
If the wages of the more than 6 million rural teachers was allocated from the budget of the central government, their income would be stable and their worries about basic living conditions dispelled. Then more qualified teachers would be retained by rural schools.
If each of the 3.8 million rural primary school teachers were paid 500 yuan (US$62) a month, 23.2 billion yuan (US$2.9 billion) would be needed annually. If 800 yuan (US$100) was set aside for each of the 2.34 million rural middle school teachers every month, the annual budget would be 21.4 billion yuan (US$2.6 billion), according to Lu Yugang, deputy director of the personnel department under the Ministry of Education.
The total of 44.6 billion yuan makes up 3.2 percent of the national financial revenue for 2002.
Although the expenditure from central government revenue could guarantee the income of rural teachers, 500 yuan or 800 yuan a month is not enough to attract more qualified teachers in poverty-stricken areas.
Some suggest a rotating system should be established for high quality teachers from urban schools or schools in rural areas with better conditions.
It would benefit pupils immensely if better teachers spent at least some time in schools in poverty-stricken areas.
(China Daily December 20, 2005)