West China schools get 'special' treatment

Updated: 2013-10-07 07:25

By Hu Yongqi (China Daily)

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Known as "special-post teachers", four of the eight instructors at Longjiacun Primary School are now or were previously part of a government program to spread compulsory education in central and western China.

The program is aimed at improving the quality of rural education in 21 provinces and autonomous regions, including Yunnan province, by 2020, according to the Outline for Development-Oriented Poverty Reduction for China's Rural Areas (2011-20), which was released two years ago.

In Yunnan, 79 counties recruited more than 6,800 special-post teachers last year from college graduates or other candidates who have a teacher's certificate. Each teacher is paid 27,000 yuan ($4,360) per year, an increase of more than 30 percent from the previous year.

The central and provincial governments pay the salaries, and the participants in the program are eligible to become regular teachers after three years of service in rural primary or middle schools.

Those who have taken part also get preferential treatment when applying for acceptance into master's degree programs.

Located in the northeastern part of Yunnan, Huize county has more than 850,000 people living in its high mountains and deep valleys.

Many villages are cut off from the outside world by natural barriers. Education provides children with one of the few opportunities they will have to escape a life of poverty and isolation.

With this perspective in mind, the special-post teacher program has been created to encourage young professionals to return to their hometowns to assume teaching positions.

The success of the program is demonstrated in Huize county. Last year, 13 of its high school graduates entered Peking University and Tsinghua University, the nation's two most elite schools, said Yang Xiao-xiang, director of the general office of Huize Education Bureau.

More than 2,100 special-post teachers are working in the county, accounting for about 25 percent of the total faculty in Huize, Yang said.

All the villagers and education authorities should be grateful to the seven young teachers in Longjiacun Primary School for their persistence and devotion to educating the children, Yang said.

Chen Shihua, who will end his service next year, said he plans to stay on in the village as a regular teacher.

(China Daily USA 10/04/2013 page11)