Cao Yin Luo Wang­shu

China Daily (Canada) - - FOCUS -

Cai Xiaodong is con­sid­er­ing a rad­i­cal mea­sure. The prin­ci­pal of the Ex­per­i­men­tal High School at­tached to Bei­jing Nor­mal Univer­sity, a key in­sti­tu­tion in the Chi­nese cap­i­tal, is plan­ning a merger with the nearby, but less-renowned, Bei­jing Er­longlu Mid­dle School.

“The schools will be­come an ‘ed­u­ca­tion league’, shar­ing teach­ing re­sources and man­age­ment phi­los­o­phy,” Cai said, adding that the move would al­low teach­ers to ro­tate be­tween the schools and pro­mote ed­u­ca­tional equal­ity.

Bei­jing Mayor Wang An­shun ex­pressed in­ter­est in the pro­posal in Jan­uary, say­ing the project would al­low prin­ci­pals to have a greater in­flu­ence on the fu­tures of a larger num­ber of stu­dents. But he also urged cau­tion when putting the idea into prac­tice.

Cai’s move came in re­sponse to a di­rec­tive by the Com­mu­nist Party of China Cen­tral Com­mit­tee in Novem­ber urg­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ments to ro­tate lead­ers and teach­ers from top-ranked schools to lesspriv­i­leged in­sti­tu­tions and bal­ance teach­ing re­sources.

Three other prin­ci­pals in the Xicheng district of Bei­jing are also con­sid­er­ing in­volve­ment with the ed­u­ca­tion league. Tan Chuan­bao, a pro­fes­sor of ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy at Bei­jing Nor­mal Univer­sity, be­lieves that ro­tat­ing teach­ers through dif­fer­ent schools would be an ef­fec­tive way of bal­anc­ing teach­ing re­sources and en­sur­ing the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion over the long term.

In some other coun­tries, most no­tably Ja­pan, teacher ro­ta­tion is stan­dard prac­tice, ac­cord­ing to Tan. “No teacher stays at just one school dur­ing his or her teach­ing ca­reer,” he said.

While the idea has won praise from some quar­ters, some ed­u­ca­tion pro­fes­sion­als have ex­pressed con­cerns, ar­gu­ing that “blind” ro­ta­tion may lower the qual­ity of teach­ing and ad­versely af­fect teach­ers’ lives.

Gao Xia, a cur­ricu­lum and ped­a­gogy re­searcher at the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Ed­u­ca­tion Sci­ences, urged in­depth prepa­ra­tion be­fore the pol­icy is put into oper­a­tion.

“The im­ple­men­ta­tion of the ro­ta­tion mech­a­nism re­quires greater le­gal sup­port. The lack of an over­ar­ch­ing plan in our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem means it’s cru­cial that we re­main cau­tious and avoid stop­gap mea­sures when car­ry­ing out the pol­icy,” she said. Bal­anc­ing re­sources

Tan said he was pleased to see some schools tak­ing the first steps to dis­cover in­no­va­tive ways of pro­mot­ing staff ro­ta­tion. “For many years, there was just empty talk in­stead of ac­tion,” he said.

It’s the first time that such a pol­icy has been writ­ten into a ma­jor doc­u­ment dur­ing a ple­nary ses­sion, leading ex­perts to re­gard it as proof that the lead­er­ship plans to bal­ance re­sources in com­pul­sory ed­u­ca­tion be­tween ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas.

In ad­di­tion to stan­dard­iz­ing teach­ing qual­ity and re­source al­lo­ca­tion in pub­lic schools, the plan also sig­nals a de­sire to abol­ish “key” schools — those with the best teach­ers and the most-tal­ented stu­dents — and tackle the prob­lems that par­ents face when at­tempt­ing to get their chil­dren ad­mit­ted to high-ranked schools.

In Novem­ber, Xu Tao, di­rec­tor of the min­istry’s Depart­ment of Teacher Ed­u­ca­tion, told a news con­fer­ence that the min­istry and other govern­ment de­part­ments will re­lease guide­lines soon. They will be aimed at im­ple­ment­ing ro­ta­tion and im­prov­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween teach­ers and prin­ci­pals of schools at dif­fer­ent lev­els.

Xu said a sys­tem­atic and last­ing ro­ta­tion mech­a­nism would be es­tab­lished within three to five years, be­fore ex­pand­ing the trial over a larger area.

If the plan is im­ple­mented, teach­ers in the com­pul­sory ed­u­ca­tion

Teacher ro­ta­tion should be based on a good un­der­stand­ing be­tween schools, other­wise it will just scratch the sur­face and lead to a dead end.” TIAN SHULIN HEAD OF BEI­JING NO 80 HIGH SCHOOL

sec­tor will be man­aged by county-level ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties in­stead of spe­cific schools. Qual­ity of teach­ing

Cai’s pro­posal has been hailed as a good ex­am­ple of how to es­tab­lish a ro­ta­tion mech­a­nism. How­ever, he ad­mit­ted that when he first stud­ied the sys­tem, he was con­cerned that the qual­ity of teach­ing in the two schools could be af­fected if the mech­a­nism was not well thought through.

“If I just trans­ferred two or three teach­ers from my school to an­other one, I don’t think the mea­ger re­sources would con­trib­ute a great deal to the part­ner school,” he said. “Con­versely, if most of my teach­ers moved, I would be con­cerned about the qual­ity of teach­ing at my own school.”

Those con­cerns led Cai to for­mu­late his pro­posal, and he’s now look­ing into ways of putting his plan into ef­fect.

Tian Shulin, head of Bei­jing No 80 High School, a key es­tab­lish­ment in the city’s Chaoyang district, is ex­plor­ing other means of push­ing the ro­ta­tion plan for­ward.

In 2013, Tian agreed to co­op­er­ate with a school in Wenyuhe, a ru­ral area of Chaoyang where most of the stu­dents are the chil­dren of mi­grant work­ers. She dis­patched three teach­ers, in­clud­ing a school vice-pres­i­dent, to Wenyuhe in a bid to share teach­ing re­sources and con­duct re­search.

“The vice-pres­i­dent has be­come the head­mas­ter at the ru­ral school, man­ag­ing the stu­dents and de­vel­op­ing study meth­ods based on his ed­u­ca­tion phi­los­o­phy,” she said. “He not only shares his teach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, but is also learn­ing what our part­ner school needs for its daily work.”

When new teach­ers joined the two schools, Tian ar­ranged for them to be trained to­gether so they could dis­cuss the­o­ries and ideas.

“Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is re­ally im­por­tant. The qual­ity of teach­ing will only im­prove, and the stu­dents will only en­joy good re­sources, if the teach­ers in the schools are fa­mil­iar with one an­other and in­ter­act well,” she said.

Tian also pro­vided over­seas study op­por­tu­ni­ties for teach­ers from the part­ner school, treat­ing them equally with the teach­ers at her own school. “Teacher ro­ta­tion should be based on a good un­der­stand­ing be­tween schools, other­wise it will just scratch the sur­face and lead to a dead end,” she added. Out­side Bei­jing

Far from the cap­i­tal, town­ship gov­ern­ments in Hu­nan prov­ince are re­spon­si­ble for hir­ing art, mu­sic and phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teach­ers in ru­ral ar­eas, mean­ing that they are em­ployed by the town­ship rather than a spe­cific school.

In other re­gions, such as the cen­tral me­trop­o­lis of Chongqing, the idea is also un­der con­sid­er­a­tion.

Dur­ing the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s People’s Po­lit­i­cal Con­sul­ta­tive Con­fer­ence in Jan­uary, Mu Yanlin, deputy di­rec­tor of Chongqing’s ed­u­ca­tion com­mis­sion, con­firmed that work was be­ing un­der­taken to for­mu­late the de­tails of the mech­a­nism.

In ad­di­tion, an ed­u­ca­tion al­liance has been es­tab­lished among nine schools in Chongqing, in­clud­ing one in a ru­ral area, and at Chongqing Shuren Pri­mary School, a key pri­mary in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

Liu Hong­bin, deputy prin­ci­pal at Chongqing Shuren, said her teach­ers will ro­tate to ru­ral schools within the mu­nic­i­pal­ity for one or two years, dur­ing which time they will re­ceive a higher wage from the district ed­u­ca­tion author­ity. They will be ex­pected to hold oc­ca­sional sem­i­nars to ex­change ideas about ed­u­ca­tional phi­los­o­phy and tips on work plans and teach­ing meth­ods. In one district, Chongqing Shuren also co­op­er­ates with other schools, whose teach­ers visit ev­ery week to see how classes are con­ducted and to dis­cuss

teach­ing meth­ods. Teach­ers’ wel­fare

Al­though some prin­ci­pals agreed that the ro­ta­tion mech­a­nism would be an ef­fec­tive way of boost­ing ed­u­ca­tional equal­ity, many still have con­cerns.

In ad­di­tion to the ef­fect on qual­ity, Liu was con­cerned about the teach­ers’ wel­fare.

“At our school, a teacher is re­spon­si­ble for a class for the en­tire six years, which means a solid re­la­tion­ship is es­tab­lished be­tween teach­ers and stu­dents,” she said. “The ro­ta­tion mech­a­nism may ad­versely af­fect that con­sis­tency and re­sult in a neg­a­tive ef­fect on the stu­dents’ stud­ies.”

Zhang Ting, a high school teacher from a key high school in Bei­jing, echoed Liu’s views, say­ing that if she were ro­tated, she would need time to adapt to a new en­vi­ron­ment.

“I have to take time to un­der­stand my new stu­dents. It wouldn’t help if I knew lit­tle about them, and it could even be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive,” she said. “Be­ing ro­tated around schools would make it dif­fi­cult for me to work out where I be­long and which school I’m serv­ing. In ad­di­tion, teach­ers in dif­fer­ent schools will re­ceive dif­fer­ent sub­si­dies and ben­e­fits.”

Huang Shaob­ing, vice-pres­i­dent of Wushan High School in Chongqing, said that few of his teach­ers are will­ing to work in the ru­ral ar­eas.

“It’s hard to push the ro­ta­tion idea, partly be­cause the fa­cil­i­ties at ru­ral schools are not com­pa­ra­ble with those in ur­ban ar­eas,” he said.

Tian also ex­pressed some reser­va­tions. “We should de­velop an over­rid­ing plan for ed­u­ca­tion, not just a sim­ple teacher ex­change. If the teach­ers are un­able to agree on an ed­u­ca­tion phi­los­o­phy, blind ro­ta­tion won’t bear fruit. The sys­tem over­seas

Gao also fore­saw dif­fi­cul­ties and pro­posed that the ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties should learn from other coun­tries. “In Ja­pan, pub­lic schools are the re­spon­si­bil­ity of lo­cal gov­ern­ments, mean­ing there is no dif­fer­ence in qual­ity be­tween ur­ban and ru­ral schools,” she said.

The reg­u­la­tions gov­ern­ing schools in Ja­pan pro­vide strict stan­dards for the use of fa­cil­i­ties, “which leaves no gaps among schools”, she said.

To re­in­force the sys­tem, Ja­pan’s Ed­u­ca­tion Civil Ser­vant Law states that teach­ers in pub­lic schools are re­gional civil ser­vants and de­tails the ro­ta­tion mech­a­nism.

In Ja­pan, teach­ers care more about their ca­reers in­stead of wor­ry­ing about which school they serve, and they are fully con­ver­sant with the coun­try’s ro­ta­tion mech­a­nism, ac­cord­ing to Gao.

The lo­cal govern­ment pays teach­ers ac­cord­ing to their ex­pe­ri­ence and is re­spon­si­ble for their as­sign­ment to dif­fer­ent schools. The sys­tem re­lieves teach­ers’ nat­u­ral con­cerns about in­come dif­fer­en­tials, she added.

In Gao’s view, the pro­vi­sion of le­gal sup­port and well-pre­pared fa­cil­i­ties are of para­mount im­por­tance and must be en­sured be­fore any ro­ta­tion mech­a­nism is im­ple­mented.

In terms of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion, the govern­ment should treat all schools as equals. How­ever, over the years the ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties have in­jected a greater amount of fund­ing into key schools, thus jeop­ar­diz­ing the chances of equal de­vel­op­ment and pos­si­bly even leading to dis­crim­i­na­tion in fa­vor of more-pres­ti­gious es­tab­lish­ments.

Gao said it would be dif­fi­cult to im­ple­ment the ro­ta­tion sys­tem if the ma­jor­ity of teach­ers refuse to take part, but stressed that they should not be blamed or ac­cused of be­ing self­ish, “be­cause so­ci­ety has not pro­vided the soil for them to think in that way for long time”.

Tan praised the ro­ta­tion method used in Ja­pan and sug­gested that lo­cal gov­ern­ments should play an im­por­tant role in nar­row­ing the di­vides be­tween schools in China.

They can pro­vide fi­nan­cial sup­port to bal­ance fa­cil­i­ties in ev­ery school, and pro­vide a trans­port sub­sidy for ro­tated teach­ers, many of whom will have to travel long dis­tances to work, he said.

“In ev­ery change or im­prove­ment, some people will end up pay­ing a price,” he said. “If our ed­u­ca­tional staff ob­ject and don’t want to give up their own in­ter­ests, it will be dif­fi­cult to make the dream of bal­anced ed­u­ca­tion and eq­ui­table re­source al­lo­ca­tion be­come a re­al­ity.”

Gao was still cau­tious, though. “To avoid the risk of the ro­ta­tion mech­a­nism de­volv­ing into empty talk or sim­ply fail­ing mid­way, we’d bet­ter think twice and take things slowly to en­sure we get it right,” she said. Con­tact the au­thors at caoyin@chi­ and lu­owang­shu@chi­

Ji Jin con­trib­uted to this story.


Ma Chang­gui teaches the eight stu­dents in the pri­mary class in a vil­lage in Xiji county in the Ningxia Hui au­ton­o­mous re­gion. He was among the first group of teach­ers to join the staff when the school was es­tab­lished in 1988. Stu­dent num­bers have dwin­dled in re­cent years.

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