(Jin Ding/China Daily)
An official in charge of higher education at the Ministry of Education has said the ministry will issue a new regulation, according to which professors and associate professors will be expelled from the teaching profession if they do not teach undergraduates for three successive years. China Daily writer Zhang Zhouxiang comments:
Teaching students is the main responsibility of professors. Yet in reality, it seems that many professors have forgotten that this is their role. Instead, they are busy doing research, attending seminars, writing academic papers, and traveling from one city to another to appear on TV shows.
That's why the new regulation has been so warmly welcomed. By stressing the job responsibility of professors is to teach students, the new regulation is expected to ensure that professors focus first and foremost on teaching students.
However, to get professors back into classrooms, the regulation alone is far from enough. More measures are needed to get to the root of the problem. A main reason why some professors do not or rarely teach students is that teaching seldom does them any good. A good teaching record is of little benefit when an associate professor applies for a professorship, or when a professor hopes to get a higher title. There is only one main barometer for evaluating the performance of professers, and that is published papers.
By writing papers, a professor can boast of "research breakthroughs". With papers, an associate professor can easily apply for a professorship. When two professors compete, the one with the most influential papers in hand will be the winner, even though the latter might be a much better teacher. Without a paper, a professor might suffer. Under such a performance evaluation system, how can professors concentrate on teaching? The most rational choice is not to teach students and concentrate on writing papers.
Using the number of papers that professors have written as the means to evaluate their performance might seem reasonable. However, since it has already caused absurdities such as professors giving up their fundamental role, the system must be reformed.
The new regulation should be backed up with a new performance evaluation method to truly get professors back into classrooms.