China has pledged to keep up heavy spending on education reform in
order to close its urban-rural education gap.
Among the priorities are hiring and retaining teachers in the
nation's poorer parts, and improving the quality of instruction,
said Education Minister Chen Baosheng.
Student achievement in China's rural areas has traditionally lagged
behind that of their urban counterparts, in part because low
salaries and barebones schools have made it difficult to attract
Over half of rural students drop out of school after they finish
nine years of compulsory education, either because they fail the
test to enter senior middle school or to get a job to support their
To solve the teacher supply problem, China will expand a village
teacher support programme, Mr Chen told reporters on the sidelines
of China's annual legislative session yesterday.
Under the programme launched in 2015, provincial governments
provide additional funding to boost rural teachers' wages by
between 300 yuan (S$61.53) and 1,500 yuan per month. It has also
been used to build some 400,000 dorms to give rural teachers better
living conditions and to fund workplace training, Mr Chen added,
noting that the government has spent 5.3 billion yuan to date.
"Today we have three million rural teachers, and they are the
backbone of our basic education, especially for our rural
children," he said. "This plan to support them means that rural
education has risen to become a national priority."
Improving access to and attainment in education is a key step to
realising China's goal of becoming a xiao kang or moderately
prosperous society free of extreme poverty by 2020.
More will also be done to address the high dropout rate in rural
areas, said Mr Chen.
Under its current Five-Year Plan for education, China wants to
ensure that all junior secondary school graduates in poor regions
who do not enter senior secondary education are funnelled into
Beijing has boosted government funding of senior secondary schools
in poor areas to raise the number of students who go on to college.
Currently, less than one in five studying at China's top
universities is from rural areas.
The "Made in China 2025" initiative announced in 2015, that will
see China speedily ramp up domestic manufacturing capabilities,
means there is a need for more tradesmen and artisans, said Mr
To this end, the government has started a programme to help at
least one person in each poor family to master a skill, and will
promote closer cooperation between vocational schools and
"In sum, we need to develop a good education system, and a
vocational education is one important part.
"We need to cultivate Einsteins, but we also need to cultivate
Edisons and Lu Bans," he said. Lu Ban was an ancient Chinese
carpenter who was also an engineer and inventor.