The central government has mapped out a national development blueprint for rural compulsory education to provide better conditions for teachers and to tackle staff shortages.
At present, a large number of rural teachers are working in vast rural areas in non-State official establishments.
The teachers, called daike or temporary teachers, could be employed in more official capacities in the years to come under the blueprint.
The national educational blueprint issued recently paints a brighter future for rural education.
"The wages for rural teachers may be included in the budget of the Ministry of Education in the future," Lu Yugang, deputy director of the personnel department of the ministry, was quoted as saying by China Business Times.
"We propose that a mechanism to guarantee the wage of all teachers be further consummated, and included in the budget. At the same time, we will also send more qualified teachers to work in primary and middle schools in remote and poverty-stricken areas," Lu said.
Among the areas that will benefit from the new proposals is Shaanxi Province.
Teachers there have been playing an important role in rural education, especially in the remote and poverty-stricken rural areas, in past decades.
"Their future, to a great degree, relate directly to the rural children's destiny and future, and also relates to the compulsory education sector in the backward western China," said Zhang Yinwei, an official with Shaanxi Provincial Education Bureau.
In Shaanxi, an economically underdeveloped inland province in northwest China, there are about 25,000 such teachers who teach more than 500,000 pupils in the province's remote poor rural areas, according to local education authority.
The provincial education authority's investigation shows that these teachers only receive 100 yuan (US$12) on average per month, causing them difficulties.
"However, they are still persevering with their posts," the official said.
One of the teachers who will be welcoming the proposed changes is Yang Shuangcheng.
The 40-year-old is the only teacher at Fanjiatai Primary School, which is located in the remote mountainous Fanjiatai Village in Longxian County, a State-level poverty-stricken county in western Shaanxi.
Receiving 130 yuan (US$16) per month, Yang teaches 10 pupils aged from nine to 13, who are living in four villages around the school.
Like other people in the villages, Yang lives without power supply and prepares his lessons under a kerosene lamp in the evening.
"The 10 pupils are in two grades and I teach them language and mathematics. When it snows or rains, the kids suffer because the road is too difficult for them to walk to school. One of my pupils lives some 10 kilometres away from the school and cannot come to school if the weather is bad," Yang said.
Corn flour and pickled cabbage are the main food for Yang and his family, and they have to walk more than 30 kilometres to buy articles of daily use, such as salt and oil, in Dianziping Township, the nearest township from the villages.
There are about 260 temporary teachers like Yang, one-tenth of the overall number of teachers in Longxian County, who are working in remote rural villages, according to Wang Cangyu, chief of the Personnel Section of Longxian County Education Bureau.
Wang said that there are 207 primary and middle schools in the county, with 46,134 students and 2,374 professional teachers altogether.
"The ratio of teachers and students in our county is 1:20, which basically conforms to the stipulations issued by the Ministry of Education," the official said.
However, most of the teachers are working in the county seat or township areas, and almost no one wants to stay in remote rural schools for long.
"To solve the shortage of professional teachers, the local government has to employ 260 temporary teachers for 44 rural schools in remote rural villages. Like Yang, many of them live in poor conditions," Wang said.
According to the official, the county wanted to pay these teachers more, but could not afford to. "If we pay 100 yuan (US$12.3) more for each teacher per month, the county will pay more than 300,000 yuan(US$37,000) annually for the 260 teachers. It is too difficult."
Luo Yangmin, an education expert and professor in Shaanxi Normal University, said that the introduction of an employment system to the rural education sector will help provide more teachers for rural areas, and financial support from central government will encourage more teachers to work in rural areas.
(China Daily February 16, 2006)