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Program gets teachers' school graduates to the countryside

By Zou Shuo | China Daily | Updated: 2023-09-01 09:46

Teachers encourage students to jump over "hurdles" to welcome the new semester at an elementary school in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, on Thursday. DONG XUMING/FOR CHINA DAILY

A total of 53.3 billion yuan ($7.3 billion) has been spent over the past five years on a special program aimed at hiring college graduates to teach at rural schools, said Ma Hongbing, deputy director of the Ministry of Finance's department of science, education and culture.

Meanwhile, over the same period, the central government has invested 2.1 billion yuan in encouraging outstanding primary and middle school teachers and retired teachers to teach in impoverished areas, ethnic regions and border areas, he said at a news conference on Thursday.

A living allowance program has been implemented so that teachers working in harsher environments can get paid more. A total of 30 billion yuan has been invested in the allowance program in the past five years, benefiting 1.3 million rural teachers every year, he said.

Ren Youqun, director of the Ministry of Education's department of teacher education, said the central authorities attach great importance to raising the salary of rural teachers and various policies have been issued toward this.

Since 2020, the average salary of primary and middle school teachers has been no lower than the equivalent of local government officials, and an adjustment mechanism has been established to increase their pay, he said.

Meanwhile, teachers who teach at rural schools for a long period are given preferential treatment in getting higher professional titles, Ren said.

Zhao Junqiang, a senior official at the National Development and Reform Commission, said rural areas in central and western regions of the country still have difficulty hiring and retaining teachers from other places.

The commission has invested 10.9 billion yuan since 2016 to build dormitories for rural teachers, he said.

More than 280,000 dormitories have been built and more than 327,000 rural teachers have lived in the dormitories, greatly improving their living conditions, he said.

Ren said a total of 52,300 new university graduates are expected to be hired to teach at rural schools this year, while 17,410 teachers in more developed areas will be selected to teach in remote, ethnic and less-developed areas.

As a result of the efforts, 76 percent of rural primary and middle school teachers have bachelor's degrees or higher this year, up by 3.8 percentage points from a year earlier.

Wang Ming, who graduated from Beijing Normal University in 2011, has since taught Chinese language at a boarding middle school in his hometown of Gangca county, Qinghai province. He is now a vice-principal of the school.

When he first arrived, he was entrusted to become head teacher of a class, and encountered all kinds of difficulties due to inexperience.

"The parents thought I was just a substitute teacher and often asked me when the 'real teacher' would return. The thing that kept me going is my love for teaching and my students," he said.

No matter how late it is, Wang would always send his students to hospital if they are ill. He visits the homes of all his students during summer and winter breaks, celebrates holidays and festivals with the students, and prepares medicine for them.

His class has ranked at the top of the county several times due to his dedication.

"I was born and raised in Gangca and I am obligated to make a difference in my job and help more students realize their potential," he said.

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