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在线翻译:
szdaily -> Opinion -> 
Actions needed to support rural teachers
    2015-06-15  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    Lei Xiangping

    lagon235@163.com

    ON June 8, the State Council announced the Rural Teachers Supporting Plan (2015-2020) to encourage young college graduates to work in grass-roots rural schools, grant rural teachers preferential policies for career advancement, and raise salaries for 3.3 million rural teachers to the level no less than what local public servants are paid.

    The newly announced plan, having gained unanimous applause from the public, will purportedly offer rural teachers decent salaries and career security. However, as a country with a centuries-long tradition of respecting teachers, China should have been showing such support for rural teachers all along.

    Rural teachers are not paid commensurate with their workload. Not only do they preside over different classes across many different grades, they also undertake many non-teaching responsibilities. Worse still, many cities and counties have simply not paid their teachers when the local governments run out of money.

    For decades, rural teachers’ salaries have been covered by county-level governments, but given that county-level governments in different parts of China have different financial strengths and some don’t take education investment seriously, many rural teachers are forced to accept unbelievably low salaries.

    Needless to say, rural teachers play a fundamental role in shaping the futures of their students, and low salaries affect their ability to do their job. The June plan said that many rural teachers are reluctant to stay in the same teaching position for very long and have little patience for teaching rural kids because of the low salaries. One proposal delivered by a political adviser this year showed that over 80 percent of rural teachers surveyed felt dissatisfied with their salaries.

    This May, I visited my old junior high school in rural Hunan Province, and my experience illustrates how low incomes has bitten into rural teachers’ job enthusiasm and in turn the quality of rural education. I found that school buildings and facilities are much better than before, but most of the teachers were over the age of 40, which means almost no young people are willing to enter the field. What really astonished me was that some teachers were not taking their duties seriously. I saw them playing mahjong during class breaks.

    I was told by one teacher that no matter how well they do their job, they make the same humble salary and see slim chances for promotion. Student enrollment in this school keeps shrinking and there are only about 150 students for six classes. The reason is that many villagers have been sending their children to cities for better education.

    

    My alma mater is just one small tip of a huge iceberg. There are nearly 100 million rural students in public schools, accounting for 70 percent of the national total. Obviously, the quality of rural education represents the general quality of China’s compulsory education. Improving rural education quality will not only narrow the urban-rural gap, but also prevent poverty from being passed down from one generation to the next.

    But what should be done firstly to improve job enthusiasm? Rural teachers need higher salaries and more support. The Central Government has spent tens of billions of yuan supporting rural education by building new buildings and purchasing education facilities, but not enough central fiscal funds have been allocated for increasing rural teachers’ salaries.

    In the June plan, the government has for the first time promised that rural teachers’ salaries will be guaranteed by provincial governments, and the Central Government will step up fiscal support for rural teachers in the central and western provinces. No arrears of wages are allowed. It is a good start, but some down-to-earth implementations should be put in place to make the blueprint a reality.

    In 1993, the Central Government first announced it would make sure that education investments accounted for 4 percent of GDP at the end of the 20th century — it was not until 2012 that China realized that goal. We cannot wait that long for the Rural Teachers’ Supporting Plan to take effect. We need prompt action because rural kids deserve a quality education too.

    (The author is an editor with the News Desk at China Radio International.)

    

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