A teacher and his students in Qinghai. (File photo/China News Service)
China's rural education has seen tremendous improvements - including the quality of teachers - but a shortage of teachers remains a big challenge, a group of rural teachers told journalists during a dialogue on Wednesday.
Even though rural schools still don't have the resources and facilities of urban schools, they are moving forward measurably when it comes to facilities, equipment and teacher quality, the teachers said.
Zhi Yueying, who has spent more than 38 years educating children in the remote villages of Jiangxi province, said the facilities in her school have improved greatly and it's the most beautiful building in her village.
Improved living conditions have also attracted more teachers to rural areas, Zhi said during the discussion, which was organized for journalists by the State Council Information Office.
The central government has offered subsidies to rural teachers, while local governments have provided each rural teacher with an electric bike and a rice cooker, along with an apartment with a bathroom.
Xue Fagen, president of Shengze Experimental Primary School in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, said the key to retaining talented teachers in rural areas is to offer them higher salaries and opportunities for promotion.
Chen Liqun, president of Minzu Middle School in Guizhou province's Taijiang county, said the improvements in school conditions have induced many dropouts to return.
The parents of many students at Minzu have left home to work in the cities and have left their children with grandparents who sometimes do not have enough energy to take care of them, Chen said.
To better manage the students and reduce the dropout rate, all students now live in school dormitories, he said.
"The most sustainable way to keep rural students out of poverty is to give them a good education, and I am willing to offer my help," Chen said.
By 2020, the percentage of students who drop out of school during China's nine years compulsory education is expected to fall below 5 percent, according to the State Council.
China plans to lure 45,000 university graduates to teach in rural areas this year in an initiative to boost education standards in poverty-stricken areas, the Ministry of Education said.
Education and finance authorities plan to recruit 10,000 teachers who are past retirement age in the coming three years to teach in primary and junior middle schools in rural areas.
The "silver-age" project by the education and finance ministries will recruit retirees to be headmasters and teachers until 2020.
With a focus on schools in poverty-stricken areas, the project is aimed at improving the quality of education and helping to balance educational opportunities fairly between urban and rural areas.