Providing Better Compulsory Education for Rural Children

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2013-11-07 15:12
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The report to the Eighteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) set forth the goals that we must work towards in the years ahead. These goals include completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects by the time the Communist Party of China celebrates its centenary (2021); and turning China into a modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, and harmonious by the time the People’s Republic of China marks its centennial (2049). In addition to completing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects, the report also proposed the goal of deepening China’s reform and opening up in an all-round way. These targets have provided us with a clear direction for the reform and development of education. In the first meeting of the newly elected Party leadership with the Chinese and foreign press, General Secretary Xi Jinping listed better education as the first of seven major public expectations. Moreover, Premier Li Keqiang also highlighted the establishment of a safety net that covers all the people and ensures their basic wellbeing, including education, during the first full session of the State Council. Therefore, in order to meet these new expectations, more will be required of our initiatives in education.

Education and rural areas hold the key to achieving the goals established by the report to the Eighteenth National Congress of the CPC, which include accomplishing the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects and realizing the modernization of the country. In a certain sense, rural education can be viewed as the foundation for the rejuvenation of the nation, and the key to ensuring the wellbeing of the people. As such, rural education has an important bearing on China’s overall social and economic development, and also on social fairness and justice. As the longest continuous stage of education that we attend, nine-year compulsory education lays down key foundations in our lives, having a decisive influence on our future and happiness. In China, rural schools account for over 85% of all schools providing compulsory education, while rural students account for more than 70% of students in compulsory education. Therefore, the provision of sound education in rural areas will ensure our success in the modernization of education by the year 2020. Rural compulsory education also represents a key link in the coordination of rural and urban development. Only by providing fair and quality education for China’s hundreds of millions of rural children will we be able to narrow the development gap between urban and rural areas and safeguard social fairness. And only by doing that will we be able to train the talent we need to achieve the simultaneous progression of industrialization, IT application, urbanization, and agricultural modernization, and thereby complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects. During a visit to Fuping County, Hebei Province, following the Eighteenth National Congress of the Party, General Secretary Xi Jinping said, “If we want the next generation to live a better life, we must educate them well. We need to deliver a good performance in compulsory education, so that our children can receive a quality education.” Therefore, the importance of compulsory education in rural areas is something that cannot be overemphasized.

Children at the Changhu Town Central Primary School, which is located in a mountainous area of the Shilin Yi Autonomous County in Yunnan Province, eat their lunch together on May 29, 2013. At present, more than 21,000 school students in Shilin Yi Autonomous County are entitled to receive free nutritional meals every day. / Photo by Xinhua reporter Lin Yiguang

In recent years, the Chinese government has carried out a series of large-scale, practical, and beneficial programs to promote the development of compulsory education in rural areas. By increasing expenditure, enhancing development, deepening reform, and improving mechanisms, we have been able to make significant advances with regard to the fairness and quality of rural compulsory education. For example, free compulsory education has been achieved in all urban and rural areas; public expenditure per student in rural primary and middle schools has been increased by a significant margin; the central government and local governments have allocated more than 300 billion yuan in funding to improve the safety of school buildings, making school the safest place for children and setting parents’ minds at ease; since being launched in China’s most impoverished areas, schemes to provide better nutrition for rural students have already benefited more than 30 million students; the overall quality of the rural teaching workforce has been improved through several initiatives, namely, a plan to place university graduates in special teaching positions in rural schools in western regions, a national plan to train primary and middle school teachers, and a policy of free tuition for teacher-training students; and benefits for rural teachers have been improved through measures such as introducing performance-based pay, providing temporary housing at subsidized rates or for free, and reforming the accreditation system for teaching professionals. Owing to these efforts, we have managed to change the face of compulsory education in rural areas. Now, compulsory education in rural areas is showing new signs of sound development.

The universal coverage of nine-year compulsory education, which was achieved in 2011, has ensured that all children are able to attend school. But now that universal coverage has been achieved, what will our next goal be in the development of compulsory education? In fact, clear requirements for the development of compulsory education have already been set out in the report to the Eighteenth National Congress of the CPC, the report on the work of the government, and at the first full session of the State Council. In other words, our next requirement is to promote the balanced development of compulsory education. By balancing the development of compulsory education, not only will we guarantee that all children are able to attend school, we will also ensure that they are able to receive a quality education. Therefore, in accordance with the requirements of the CPC Central Committee, Party committees, governments, and related departments at all levels are required to view the balanced development of compulsory education as a strategic task, formulate clear roadmaps and timeframes for these initiatives, and ensure that the balanced development of compulsory education on a regional basis can be attained by the year 2020.

The balanced development of compulsory education embodies the expectations of the public for fair and quality education. For this reason, balancing the development of education is a more arduous and complex task than attaining the universal coverage of nine-year compulsory education. Efforts to promote the balanced development of compulsory education must begin in our vast rural areas. This is because China’s urban-rural gap, a result of the dualistic urban-rural structure that has emerged in China over the long term, has caused the development of education and other social programs to be the weakest in rural areas. In ascertaining how well education has been implemented in any given local area, what we need to look at first is how well compulsory education has been handled. And in ascertaining how well compulsory education has been implemented, what we need to look at first is how well rural compulsory education has been handled. With the close attention and care of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, government expenditure on education was able to reach 4% of the GDP in 2012, standing in excess of 2 trillion yuan in total, or 20% of overall government expenditure for that year. This hard-earned result can be attributed to the efforts of Party committees, government authorities, and financial departments at all levels. At present, the central government still views spending on education as fixed expenditure, even though our economic growth is coming under increasing downward pressure and the growth of fiscal revenue has declined significantly. Moreover, the government will continue to increase government expenditure on education, although it has also required that education funding must be used more effectively. These commitments bear testament to the special importance that the central government attaches to education. This has also been the subject of significant public attention. Guided by a strong sense of responsibility and mission, Party committees and local governments at all levels must devote more energy to compulsory education in rural areas, increase the level of spending that goes to rural compulsory education, and ensure that this money is used where it is needed. By tilting government expenditure towards outlying poverty-stricken areas and ethnic minority areas, they must come to the aid of those in need, weave a solid safety net, address weak areas, provide basic guarantees, and promote fairness. During the current term of government, we must step up our efforts to improve conditions in schools offering compulsory education, raise the quality of education, and narrow the gap between urban and rural areas. Through these efforts, we must seek to achieve tangible change that can be felt by the public, and lay down solid foundations for the healthy development of hundreds of millions of rural children.

I. We will make continued efforts to improve nine-year compulsory education

The universalization of nine-year compulsory education was a major undertaking that began with the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The results that we have gained in this regard have captivated the world. At present, the net enrollment ratio for primary school is 99.58%, the gross enrollment ratio for junior middle school is 102.1%, and the retention rate of nine-year compulsory education is 92%. In addition, the proportion of children dropping out of primary and junior middle school has dropped below 1% and 3% respectively, the red line set by the government. However, the development gap between urban and rural areas in compulsory education is still considerable, with impoverished regions, outlying regions, and ethnic minority regions lagging even further behind. Some areas are only just managing to provide and maintain the provision of compulsory education for all children, and still have a great deal to do in order to bolster and build on what has already been achieved. Therefore, we cannot let up in our efforts just because we have achieved universal access to compulsory education.

In accordance with the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Law on Compulsory Education, all children of the prescribed age must attend compulsory education, which should be obligatory, free of charge, and universal. The government is legally obliged to provide compulsory education, while parents are legally obliged to ensure that their children attend compulsory education. Despite these provisions, however, the problem of children dropping out of school is still present in certain regions. In the past, most school dropouts were the result of families experiencing financial difficulties. However, the situation now is more complicated. A small number of parents, believing that school is pointless, force their children to leave school and find a job. In certain areas, some children drop out of school because the distance between school and home is too great. Some children drop out due to a lack of interest, while in some families, a lack of adequate supervision results in unattended children playing truant. These problems demand a high level of concern. China’s outline for the reform and development of education states that the retention rate of nine-year compulsory education should reach 93% by 2015 and 95% by 2020. This is a binding and non-negotiable target that must be met. First, the responsibility of the government should not be reduced. The responsibly for controlling the drop-out rate should be assumed by the government in the place of schooling, and ensuring attendance in school should be integrated into the performance appraisals of local governments and education authorities. Where a child drops out of school, the local government and related departments are obliged to arrange for that child’s return to school in the same area. Second, schools must be run practically and meticulously. Management in schools needs to be strengthened, teaching standards need to be improved, and schools should nurture students’ talents with a strong sense of responsibility. With regard to students who experience learning difficulties, or who play truant due to a lack of interest, schools should place an emphasis on stimulating their interest and building up their confidence in learning. Third, concerted efforts need to be made throughout society. Negligent parents should be urged to fulfill their responsibilities. Any and all cases involving the illegal employment of minors will be investigated and followed up resolutely. In addition, all sectors of society should be called upon to take various measures to reduce the number of vagrant children living on the streets, with a view to eradicating this phenomenon entirely.

In our efforts to bolster and improve the coverage of compulsory education in China, there are two groups that deserve special attention: children who move around with their parents, and children who stay behind in the countryside while their parents leave in search of work. Owing to their long-term separation from their parents, children whose parents leave the countryside in search of work often lack the care and affection that they need. In some cases, this may cause them to experience psychological, emotional, behavioral, and learning problems. Children who move around with their parents encounter difficulties getting into school and integrating into cities. Therefore, we need to show greater care for these children by engaging in a major effort to provide better access to education. Boarding schools should give priority to children whose parents do not live at home. Government-run schools in cities should offer more places to children that have moved into the city along with their parents. At the same time, we should put a social care and services mechanism in place to provide stronger mental and health guidance for these children. Through these efforts, we need to make our schools warm homes for children whose parents have left in search of work; we need to make our cities happy places to grow up for children who migrate with their parents; and we need to make our teachers the closest people that these children have, thereby ensuring that they are able to find interest in learning and live happily.

In line with the eight requirements of the CPC Central Committee with regard to improving styles of work and maintaining close ties with the people, the Ministry of Education should make plans to look back on the achievements that have been made in our effort to provide nine-year compulsory education for all. These activities should be carried out alongside efforts to promote the balanced development of compulsory education, alongside efforts to inspect and oversee education, and alongside efforts to encourage the involvement of various social sectors in the supervision of education. By looking back on what we have achieved, we will be in a better position to ascertain the current situation, identify problems, and take effective measures to solve those problems. In turn, this will allow us to effectively consolidate our achievements in the universalization of nine-year compulsory education and bring about new rises in the standard of compulsory education.

II. We need to plan the distribution of rural schools in a scientific way

Over the past decade, local governments have made adjustments to the layout of schools in rural areas in accordance to changes that have occurred in the distribution of China’s rural population and rural students. These initiatives have helped to improve conditions in schools, and have raised efficiency and standards of quality in the running of schools. However, some local governments have gone too far too soon, acting blindly in the shutting down and merging of rural schools. As a result, some students must now travel further in order to get to school. In addition to increasing potential safety risks, this has also placed families under a heavier financial burden. In response to these issues, the General Office of the State Council issued a set of specific guidelines on adjusting the layout of rural schools in 2012. As a result, the blind merging and shutting down of schools in rural areas has been effectively curbed. Local governments are required to continue implementing these guidelines, thereby creating favorable conditions for rural children to get to school safely and conveniently.

First, we must strictly standardize administrative procedures for adjusting the layout of rural schools. Local governments should promptly formulate dedicated plans on the distribution of rural schools offering compulsory education. At the same time, the Ministry of Education should step up its oversight over governments in this regard and ensure that local plans are registered as soon as possible. Prior to the registration of these plans, no more primary and junior middle schools in rural areas are permitted to be merged or shut down. Where schools do in fact need to be merged or closed, the relevant procedures must be strictly observed. In these cases, authorities must hear the opinions of all relevant parties, carry out thorough deliberations, report to higher bodies, and seek the approval of the provincial government. The forced merging or shutting down of schools must be stopped.

Second, we need to step up our efforts to promote boarding schools. Working in collaboration with the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Education should formulate a set of standards and measures concerning the development of boarding schools in rural areas as soon as possible. These boarding schools should be equipped with the necessary facilities, such as dormitories, canteens, toilets, and bathrooms, and staffed with a full contingent of administrative and service personnel. Working on this basis, the Ministry of Education must strive to address the shortage of boarding schools in rural areas as well as the inadequate facilities in these schools during the current term of government.

Third, we should ensure the sound running of the necessary village primary schools and rural learning centers. In line with the principle of ensuring schools have whatever they need, we must work to improve conditions in village primary schools and learning centers, implement the project to equip all learning centers with digital facilities, and give priority to village primary schools and learning centers in the provision of top resources. At the same time, we should train more teachers who are able to teach multiple subjects in addition to their own subject of focus, so as to address the problem of village primary schools and learning centers not being able to provide the full range of subjects. Performance pay schemes should be tilted towards teachers that teach several subjects. Village schools and rural learning centers may also adopt other measures to improve their teaching contingents, such as sharing teachers with other schools and the recruiting of volunteers.

Fourth, we cannot allow for any letup in our efforts to promote safety and disaster prevention education in schools. Emergency drills and exercises should be carried out as a part of routine management in schools, with a view to enhancing the ability of students to avoid personal injury. For many students in rural areas, the road between school and home is a long one. For this reason, local governments are required to take comprehensive measures to develop public transportation in rural areas, and should adopt various approaches to the provision of school buses and services in accordance with local conditions. Education, public security, and transportation departments should collaborate in order to ensure safe passage for students traveling to and from school.

III. We should promote the standardization of schools in accordance with local conditions

Promoting the standardization of schools represents an important aspect of our efforts to balance the development of compulsory education. Placing our focus on the renovation of weak schools, we must devote major efforts to promoting standardization in schools, and set ourselves the target of essentially turning all weak schools in rural areas around over the next five years or so. Through these efforts, we will gradually ensure that rural children are able to enjoy the same basic schooling environment and living conditions as urban children.

Standardization in schools involves three aspects. The first is the standardization of school facilities. School buildings, teachers, experimental facilities, teaching tools, books, and equipment for PE, music and art classes should all be provided in line with basic government standards. Standardization is about ensuring minimum requirements; it is not about competing with the best equipped schools in cities, or pursuing luxuries. The second aspect of standardization relates to the health and safety of students in school. We must ensure that dormitories, canteens, bathrooms, and toilets are able to meet the basic demands of students, with a view to creating harmonious and safe school environments that are ideal for the healthy and safe growth of students. The third aspect of standardization in schools pertains to sound management. We need to establish a modern managerial approach that puts people first, develop sound measures for the management of students, teachers, and property, and work constantly to make management in schools more advanced. The Ministry of Education will be required to collaborate with other departments in forming guidelines on the standardization of schools. However, what needs to be emphasized is that conditions vary widely in different parts of the country, with different areas boasting different natural resources and levels of economic and social development. Therefore, we must approach standardization on the basis of actual local conditions, and take care to avoid making straight comparisons.

IV. We should continue to improve the quality of rural compulsory education

The key to improving the quality of compulsory education in rural areas lies in showing respect for the essence of education and taking comprehensive steps to promote the development of all-round education. This comes down to three aspects: First, we must ensure that the cultivation of people and the cultivation of moral integrity come first, so as to establish a strong sense of social responsibility in our students; second, we should encourage participation in practical activities and stimulate creativity among students, so as to address a situation in which too much emphasis is placed on the imparting of knowledge, and too little is placed on the cultivation of ability; and third, we should respect the unique personalities of each individual student, apply different techniques for different students, and ensure that students are able to grow in a healthy and well-rounded manner, being sure never to give up on a single child. In setting out to promote all-round education in rural areas, we need to take local realities into consideration, play to local strengths, and experiment with a diverse range of implementation models. By doing so, we will strive to develop a new approach to raising the quality and expanding the depth of rural education, one that is tailored specifically to the traits of children in rural areas. 

First, we should launch activities themed around the “Chinese Dream.” Education has been the first field to see the launch of activities themed around the “Chinese Dream.” Taking into consideration the traits of children at different ages, we need to deepen education related to the “Chinese Dream,” guide children in incorporating their own dreams into the dreams of the country and people, and help them to establish the notion that only when the country and nation are well off can everybody be well off. Rural schools should take advantage of their own conditions, helping children to foster love for their hometown and their motherland, as well as a deep understanding of the “Chinese Road,” by showing them the changes that have taken place in their hometown, and making them aware that the Party and government care for them. In addition, we should make China’s fine traditional culture known to all students in an active and vivid fashion, explain the contemporary spirit of reform and opening up, and step up our efforts to teach core socialist values, thereby allowing school children to consciously embrace and carry forward the “Chinese spirit.” We should encourage children to fulfill their ideals through their own actions, and inspire them to work hard and repay the country with their talents, so that they may come together to form “China strength.” We should ensure that every child has the opportunity to lead a fantastic life, to fulfill their dreams, and to grow and progress along with their motherland and the times.

Second, we need to continue with curriculum and teaching reforms, placing the focus on cultivating the abilities of students. Compulsory education is a vital stage in the formation of one’s character, personality, and creativity. Therefore, we must ensure that all subjects stipulated by the government are taught in full with no compromise in quality. On this basis, we should place an emphasis on the exploration of new teaching methods which are able to make teaching more targeted, more effective, and more appealing, which give full play to the role of classroom teaching, and which not only cultivate but also protect the curiosity, desire for knowledge, and imagination of students. Local governments should make full use of the natural and cultural resources in their localities to develop social activity centers for students and introduce courses that boast rural features, thereby taking learning beyond the classroom. In addition, we should provide rural students with more opportunities to visit museums, art galleries, and science and technology museums, and allow them to mix with students from urban areas. This will not only broaden their horizons, but will also allow them to develop their social skills and become more adept at adapting to unfamiliar surroundings.

Third, we need to enhance physical education and art teaching in rural schools. Efforts must be made to enhance physical education, science, and art teaching in rural schools, with a view to raising the scientific knowledge, aesthetic taste, and artistic attainment of rural students. Physical education is still insufficient in schools, with declining physical fitness among students still being a serious problem. Therefore, if we are to realize our goal of a “healthy China,” we must start by improving the physical fitness of children. By organizing sporting activities that match rural conditions, we need to give PE classes back to students, and encourage participation in physical activities. Education and health departments should step up their collaboration by arranging routine physical examinations in rural primary and junior middle schools and keeping records to monitor the health and fitness of rural students. Art education is still generally lacking in rural schools. Therefore, by making full use of local culture, folk arts, and national cultural heritage, we should encourage teachers to teach at multiple schools and take on extra classes in their free time, and develop simple but effective teaching models that are able to foster students’ interest and attainment in art. At the same time, we should train more art and PE teachers, mobilize people from various social sectors to engage in teaching, encourage retired teachers, student volunteers, and folk artists to teach in rural schools, and adopt various means of increasing PE and art resources in rural schools.

V. We need to properly implement the plan to improve the nutrition of rural students

The plan to improve the nutrition of rural students is a major public welfare policy that the central government has introduced in education. Since being launched more than a year ago, the plan has brought about notable results. So far, the central government has devoted 55 billion yuan to trial schemes covering almost 100,000 schools in 699 poverty-stricken counties (including 19 county-level regiment-farms administered by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps). The number of students that have benefited from the scheme stands at 23 million. In addition, 15 provincial governments have launched their own trial nutritional schemes in over 30,000 schools covering 481 counties, coming to the benefit of more than 8 million students. This means that nutritional schemes for rural students are now being implemented in over one third of China’s counties, with over one quarter of the country’s rural students enjoying subsidies for better nourishment. At no time in Chinese history has planned intervention to improve student nutrition been carried out on such a scale. The World Bank, the World Food Program, and Partnership for Child Development rated the plan highly after conducting a joint survey, agreeing unanimously that other countries can learn from China’s experiences.

It is a good thing that our plan to improve student nutrition has been launched in the country’s most poverty-stricken areas first. This is because the plan has been formulated well, setting a good standard, addressing the crux of the problem, and taking target at the weakest areas. However, there are also difficulties involved in introducing this plan in the country’s most poverty-stricken areas. This is because all 699 of the counties involved in the trials are located in central and western China, with 368 being ethnic minority counties, 431 being national-level poverty-stricken counties, and 54 being border counties. These are all counties that feature high levels of poverty over an extended area. Moreover, these areas have weak infrastructure, with many schools being located in areas that are difficult to access. This makes it difficult for schools to purchase food. In addition, many schools are poorly equipped to provide meals for students. Another difficulty is the issue of how we can keep this scheme going. This is not a one-off; it is a scheme that must be expanded in the future, committed to on a long-term basis, and improved constantly.

Children are vital to the future of the country and the nation. Only when our children are able to eat well will the minds of the government and society be at ease. The central government is committed to improving the nutrition of rural students. In doing so, it will begin by helping those most in need, and by addressing the most pressing matters, no matter how difficult this may be. However, there have been some problems in the implementation of the plan in a small number of areas. These problems include perfunctory operation, a lack of modes for meal provision, insufficient supporting funds from local governments, backward management, and food safety incidents. Though these are only isolated cases, they cannot be neglected. Therefore, local governments and the relevant departments must refine their management in order to ensure that the scheme is a success. First, we must ensure that student nutrition is improved. We should adopt new ways of thinking, make use of local ingredients, and choose meal provision modes in line with local conditions. At the same time, where conditions permit, and where there is an actual need to do so, school canteens may be built as an alternative to sourcing meals externally. The building of canteens should be tied into the standardization of schools, and canteens should be built according to practical standards. Second, we must ensure food safety. The plan to improve the nutrition of rural students is a long chain consisting of many links spanning from the farm to the dinner table. As such, monitoring this process can be very difficult. Therefore, all participants must be both prudent and strict in their implementation of the scheme, and take resolute action to prevent major cases of food poisoning. In cases where a problem does occur in a certain link in the chain, those responsible will be held accountable. Third, we must guarantee the security of funds. We must strictly prohibit the appropriation of funds, so as to ensure that funds earmarked for the nutrition of rural students are used for that purpose alone. Moreover, we should ensure that funding is only allowed to increase, not decrease. Local governments should tie their existing subsidization policies in with the plan, and parents should still be required to cover a reasonable proportion of the cost, so as to prevent the crowding out effect. Fourth, we must remain committed to transparency. Transparency and openness are compulsory requirements for the implementation of the plan. Local governments are required to include the plan in the range of government affairs that they make public. This will aid the public in staying informed about and supervising the plan as it is implemented, which in turn will help to prevent the occurrence of corruption. In addition, we should work faster to establish a nationwide student information management system, so as to ensure that no students are left out by the plan, and that no subsidies are claimed fraudulently.

The decision by the central government to launch this plan in regions where poverty exists over extended areas represents only an initial step. We hope that local governments proceed with and gradually expand the scope of trial schemes to improve the nutrition of students attending compulsory education in their localities. In such cases, the central government will provide incentives in the form of reward funds for rural areas and poverty-stricken areas. In consideration of local conditions, local governments should formulate schemes for the sharing of costs between the government, households, and other sectors of society. The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance should collaborate with the relevant provincial and municipal governments to draw up specific schemes for efforts to improve the nutrition of rural students in compulsory education during the term of the current government. Nutrition improvement schemes should gradually be expanded to cover all students in compulsory education. Moreover, these schemes should be tailored to students in different areas. For instance, in cities, rational nutrition schemes should be designed to address the problem of overnutrition and obesity, thereby ensuring that students receive the nutrition they need while they are growing.

VI. We need to attract outstanding teachers to rural areas, keep them content in their jobs, and allow them to demonstrate their teaching skills

Teachers are the key to narrowing the urban-rural gap in education and improving the standard of education in rural areas. In recent years, the government has stepped up its efforts to encourage excellent teachers to take up long-term teaching positions in rural areas. However, there is still a considerable gap in the overall standard of teachers in urban and rural areas. Many rural schools still face the problem of keeping hold of excellent teachers. In response to these problems, the State Council issued the Guidelines on the Strengthening of the Teaching Workforce in the year 2012. At the same time, the Ministry of Education and four other departments have also promulgated documents pertaining to teachers in rural compulsory education. The key now is to ensure that these documents are properly implemented.

First, we should make teaching in rural schools more appealing. In working to keep teachers in their jobs, we should continue to emphasize teachers’ career devotion and their sense of belonging in addition to ensuring that they receive adequate benefits. On this basis, we should encourage more outstanding teachers to base themselves in rural areas. In terms of pay, we should tilt policy in favor of rural teachers, ensure that teacher salaries are no lower than the average salary of local public servants in the area in question, and continue to raise teacher salaries on a progressive basis. With regard to professional accreditation, we should develop special provisions for teachers who teach in rural primary schools and learning centers on a long terms basis, so as to give them a better chance of being awarded senior professional titles. In addition, we should adopt more solid measures with regard to housing funds, social insurance, and temporary housing in order to address the worries of rural teachers. The No.1 Decree issued by the CPC Central Committee in 2013 clearly demanded that special funds should be allocated to subsidize teachers in rural primary schools and learning centers located in regions where poverty exists over extended areas. Therefore, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance are required to formulate an implementation plan as soon as possible in order to ensure that this scheme is launched by the autumn term of 2013.

Second, we need to develop a multiple-channel mechanism for the supplementation of rural teachers. We should continue to expand the scope of our schemes to bolster the rural teaching workforce, such as the free tuition scheme for teacher-training students who assume rural teaching positions, the national plan to train primary and middle school teachers, and the scheme to place university graduates in special teaching positions in rural schools in western regions. In addition, we should also encourage local governments to launch corresponding schemes, with awards and subsidies from the central government budget. College students wishing to stay on as teachers in rural schools in western regions should be guaranteed an official teaching position. At the same time, we should also develop provisions for teacher and headmaster exchanges between urban and rural schools, and progressively expand the scale of these exchange activities. Renowned schools in urban areas should pair with weak schools. We should encourage the establishment of school alliances, explore the possibilities of running schools using a group model, and call for the provision of dedicated support. In addition, we should take measures to administer education resources on the basis of school districts.

Third, we should step up our efforts to train teachers. Bottlenecks hindering us in our attempts to raise the quality of rural education include the insufficient knowledge structures and teaching skills of rural teachers, backward teaching methods, as well as a lack of teachers in science, integrated activities, IT, music, PE, and art. Therefore, our initiatives in the training of teachers should be geared more towards responding to this situation and producing practical results. Specifically, we need to step up the training of teachers that are in short supply as well as bilingual teachers in ethnic minority areas, and enhance the ability of our teachers to implement the new curriculum. Moreover, we must ensure that all rural teachers undergo a round of teacher training by the year 2015, which will give them the opportunity to widen their vision and learn about new concepts in education.

In setting out to make rural compulsory education a success, we must strengthen the leadership of the Party in our education initiatives, and ensure that education is genuinely treated as a developmental priority of strategic significance. We need to establish the notion that no matter how poor we are, we can never neglect education; and that no matter how tough things are, we can never allow children to suffer. At the same time, we need to realize that addressing education is the same as addressing development, and that spending in education is the same as investing in the future. Delivering a sound performance in the provision of compulsory education in rural areas is an extremely important duty of governments at all levels. This is also an area that needs to be strengthened in our efforts to make the government more service-oriented. In line with the requirements set forth by the central government on the transformation of government functions and work styles, we need to improve a mechanism whereby the government plays an overall coordinating role while the various departments engage in joint administration. Departments in charge of education, finance, development and reform, staffing, and human resources and social security should fulfill their respective duties, cooperate with each other, and promptly solve major issues and major concerns of the public pertaining to the reform and development of rural compulsory education. The application of IT and the carrying out of inspections and oversight represent two major supporting foundations for the development of compulsory education in rural areas. The application of IT has an important role to play in promoting fairness and raising the quality of education. Therefore, the Ministry of Education should strengthen its cooperation with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology as well as telecommunications enterprises. Taking advantage of the integration of telecommunication networks, cable television networks, and the Internet, it should accelerate the application of IT in rural schools, and establish a basic, Internet-enabled teaching environment and a platform for education management. In this way, schools and classes will be able to communicate with one another over the Internet. Moreover, teachers and students in remote border areas will be able to access quality education resources, and teachers in these areas will also be able to hone their teaching skills by observing excellent teaching materials online. In 2012, the State Council issued the Regulations on Inspections and Oversight in Education, and set up a commission on education inspection and oversight. Local governments are required to fully implement the Regulations on Inspections and Oversight in Education, bolster inspection organizations, and assemble strong teams of inspectors. They should identify compulsory education in rural areas as the priority area for inspection, promptly oversee the handling of major issues, strengthen dynamic monitoring, establish accountability systems, and incorporate the inspection and oversight of education into government performance appraisals. By taking these initiatives, we will be able to promote new advances in the development of rural compulsory education.

The sound provision of compulsory education in rural areas is an endeavor of great significance and a task of huge responsibility. Under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee, with Xi Jinping as the General Secretary, we must forge ahead proactively, work in a pragmatic fashion, and continue to make new contributions so that the dreams of hundreds of millions of rural children may be fulfilled, and the “Chinese dream” of national rejuvenation may be realized.


(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No.12, 2013)

Author: Vice-Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China

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