China has released a guideline to improve the number and quality of rural teachers over the next three to five years.
Issued on Sept 4 by the Ministry of Education and five other departments, the guideline asked local authorities to issue more favorable policies to improve the salaries, career prospects and job attractiveness for rural teachers.
The guideline reiterated that the salary for rural teachers should not be less than that of local government officials and asked local authorities to award more senior professional titles to rural teachers.
To attract more teachers to work in rural areas, extra subsidies will be given to them, with those working in more impoverished regions getting more subsidies, the guideline said.
Ren Youqun, director of the ministry's Department of Teacher Education, said more than half of the 2.9 million rural teachers in China have bachelor or higher degrees and 43.4 percent of them are less than 35 years old.
A total of 950,000 college graduates have been hired to work at more than 30,000 rural schools in central and western China since 2006, and different plans have been issued to attract more people to work part-time or full-time at rural schools, Ren said.
The central government has invested 10 billion yuan ($1.46 billion) in training for more than 9.5 million rural teachers from 2015 to last year, and 20.6 billion yuan has been allocated by central authorities to provide subsidies for around 1.3 million rural teachers in the past five years, he said.
More than 4,500 teachers beyond retirement age have been recruited to teach in primary and junior high schools in rural areas from 2018 to 2019, and the ministry plans to hire another 4,800 retired teachers to teach at rural schools this year, he said.
Wang Haibo, deputy director of Shaanxi education department, said the guideline is another policy support for the country's rural teachers, as despite previous efforts, rural education remains one of the weakest links in the country's education system.
Being a rural teacher is not an attractive profession due to its low salary and the difficulty getting a promotion, and many rural teachers have changed to other jobs after working for several years, he said.
Fu Weidong, associate professor at East China Normal University, said improving the number and quality of rural teachers is crucial to making sure more rural students will receive quality education to move up the social ladder and have a better future than their parents.
"The most sustainable way to keep rural students out of poverty is to give them a good education, and authorities should continue to prioritize the development of rural education," he said.
As many parents in rural areas work in cities and have left their children behind with grandparents who sometimes don't have enough energy to take care of them, good teachers are vital for the students' development, so they can contribute to the poverty alleviation efforts of their hometowns, he added.
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