Kashgar looks to lift teachers’ skills
Zhong Li, a middle school principal from Shenzhen, was astonished to find that only 15 percent of students she tested in Kashgar could pass the math test for their level.
Zhong arrived at Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region, in February to help improve the region’s educational performance.
Commissioned by the city education department, she led a working team to conduct an investigation of the 83 rural primary schools in Kashgar and two urban primary schools from April 15 through June 20.
The team gave third-grade students a five-minute test to understand their overall math ability. Of 2,842 students who took the test, 2,413 failed, Zhong said.
Even more surprising was that she found some teachers sampled knew less than the students.
“I was curious about what was happening with math teaching, but after I got the results of Chinese-language tests from sixth-grade students, I figured out the problem,” Zhong said.
Nearly 70 percent of the students could not understand the requirements of the questions, nor could they introduce themselves in Chinese.
“Their poor Chinese ability would obviously affect their comprehension of the math questions,” she said.
Two methods are used in the region’s bilingual teaching, using the Chinese and Uyghur languages. Method one requires the teaching of Chinese, mathematics, science and information technology in Chinese, with all other classes in the Uyghur language; while method two requires all courses be taught in Chinese, except for an Uyghur-language class.
About 92.5 percent of schools in the area chose the first method, but the inspectors found that even in Chinese class, the teachers spoke Uyghur for half the class.
“Some of the Uyghur teachers are not qualified to teach Chinese, and need further training, or they can’t satisfy the students’ strong desire to communicate in Chinese,” Zhong said.
Apart from making it difficult to communicate with outsiders, Zhong said that a good grasp of Chinese could help students learn professional skills and find jobs more easily.
Zhong suggested the authority strengthen its centralized training, in-school training and Internet training to improve the quality of bilingual teachers.
She also advised the government set up a special subsidy to train bilingual teachers.
Pupils are taught Mandarin through multimedia software in a primary school in Kashgar, which is looking to raise its teaching level with the support of teachers from Shenzhen.