Range of programs aim to bolster one of weakest links in education system
Lu Jiahong teaches a class to the only two students attending Kumatian Teaching Point in Quanzhou county, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, on September 4, 2014. After finishing high school, Lu served as a rural teacher at Dayuan Central Primary School in 1976. Six years later, he learned of Kumatian's lack of teachers and offered to work there. He has been teaching there ever since. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
Teacher enrollment and training programs will continue to increase the number and quality of rural teachers because rural education remains one of the weakest links in the country's education system, the Ministry of Education said on Wednesday.
Ren Youqun, head of the ministry's department of teacher education, said a program launched in 2006 has led to the hiring of 1.03 million university graduates to teach at rural schools in central and western provincial-level regions and the program is expected to hire another 84,300 rural teachers this year.
A new program launched in July has enrolled 9,530 students at the country's top teacher training universities who are expected to teach at rural kindergartens, primary and middle schools in formerly impoverished counties after graduation, he said, adding that the students do not have to pay tuition or accommodation fees and will receive subsidies for living expenses.
Since 2018, a special program has hired around 10,000 retired principals and teachers to teach at rural primary and middle schools and the program will hire 4,500 new retired principals and teachers this year, Ren said.
He said 146 retired professors and associate professors from the country's top universities were hired to teach at four universities in western regions last year. The program has been expanded this year, hiring 300 retired teachers to teach at 10 western universities.
The retired teachers and professors can receive 20,000 yuan (US$3,100) in additional subsidies a year from the government, Ren added.
Hu Chengyu, an official with the Ministry of Finance, said teachers' salaries and bonuses accounted for 61 percent of government education expenditure during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20) period.
Local governments have made great efforts in recent years to ensure the salaries of public primary and middle school teachers are not lower than those of local government officials in the same region, she said.
Since 2006, the central government has allocated more than 130 billion yuan to support the development of rural teachers and it has spent 30.3 billion yuan on direct subsidies for rural teachers since 2013, Hu said.
A national training program for rural teachers has been taken 17 million times, with central government spending on the program totaling 20.3 billion yuan, she added.
The number of teachers in China surpassed 17.9 million this year, an increase of 3.52 percent from last year, statistics from the Ministry of Education showed.
The number of special education teachers saw the biggest year-on-year growth with an increase of 6.11 percent, the ministry said.
The number of kindergarten teachers rose by 5.44 percent and the number of teachers at higher education institutions grew by 5.34 percent.