Rural children are expected to enjoy quality education with the introduction of a rotation system by which teachers from cities will work in rural schools nationwide, the Ministry of Education announced yesterday.
As part of a drive to build a new countryside, college graduates will also be encouraged to teach in rural areas, ministry spokesman Wang Xuming told a press briefing in Beijing.
Graduates who apply for the project could be granted a master's degree in education after working in a rural school for four years.
Wang said the policies are in line with the country's 11th Five-Year Guidelines (2006-10), which emphasizes strengthening the quality of teaching in the countryside.
He said mere access to schools would no longer be the main problem in rural education, as basic school fees for rural children will be abolished in 2007.
"Instead, improving the quality of rural education will become the focus and is a key to building a new socialist countryside," he said.
Ministry officials admitted that the huge gap between urban and rural education has been holding back the development of the countryside, and low pay and poor working conditions have resulted in a serious shortage of qualified teachers in poor areas.
"Qualified teachers in poor rural areas have been scrambling to leave for township or county schools," said Guan Peijun, director of the ministry's teaching staff department. "English, computer science, music, art and physical education curricula are facing very serious teacher shortages."
Currently, a large number of temporary teachers work at rural schools. Ministry figures show that at least 500,000 teachers who do not have certificates taught at primary and middle rural schools in 2004, accounting for 10 percent of the total rural teachers.
To ease the shortage, Education Minister Zhou Ji said last Wednesday rural teachers' pay might be brought into line with that of civil servants, and the Compulsory Education Law, which is being revised, is expected to make it mandatory for urban teachers to teach for some time in rural areas before they are promoted.
The project to encourage college graduates to teach in rural areas, which has been experimented in 19 provinces and autonomous regions since 2004, will be carried out nationwide later this year.
About 1,125 college graduates have applied for the project, in which one year of study in college will follow the four years of teaching.
Ji Baocheng, president of the Renmin University, said that China's current education spending, at about 3 percent of its GDP, is not compatible with its social and economic development.
China has mapped out a Guidelines to gradually increase its education budget to 4 percent of GDP by 2010. But Ji said that the goal was still "much lower" than the world average, which is 4.4 percent.
(China Daily March 8, 2006)