In­no­va­tion re­quires bet­ter teacher pay

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By LI YANG in Shang­hai liyang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China will rely more on in­no­va­tion to boost its eco­nomic growth, but the wages of col­lege teach­ers in big ci­ties — who will pre­pare those fu­ture in­no­va­tors — are markedly lower than those of many man­ual la­bor­ers, let alone teach­ers in pri­mary and mid­dle schools in smaller lo­cales.

Thou­sands of teach­ers in Liaon­ing, Hei­longjiang, An­hui, Shan­dong and He­nan went on strike last month, urg­ing the gov­ern­ment to in­crease their wages, which have not changed for years be­cause the cen­tral au­thor­ity is re­form­ing the wage sys­tem of the na­tional pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions, which in­clude pub­lic schools, hos­pi­tals, etc.

Doc­tors and nurses are the other low-in­come pro­fes­sional group in the coun­try, pro­vided they do not take bribes from pa­tients seek­ing fa­vor­able treat­ment.

Teach­ers’ voices have largely been ig­nored by lo­cal gov­ern­ments, who are mainly re­spon­si­ble for pay­ing the teach­ers’ wages.

China should not wait any longer to in­crease teacher pay, es­pe­cially that of teach­ers work­ing in poor in­land ar­eas with weak gov­ern­ment fi­nances.

Ed­u­ca­tion is largely a pub­lic ser­vice in China. Pub­lic schools dom­i­nate the ed­u­ca­tion mar­ket. There is not a free-flow mech­a­nism for teach­ers to work in dif­fer­ent schools, and schools need not pro­vide a com­pet­i­tive salary stan­dard to at­tract teach­ers. Work­ing as a teacher ba­si­cally means bid­ding farewell to high in­come.

It has be­come in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult for job-hunters to get hired as teach­ers in China, be­cause of the sta­bil­ity and the huge amount of free time of this pro­fes­sion.

A 35-year-old as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal sci­ence in Shang­hai-based Fu­dan Univer­sity re­vealed his monthly rev­enue struc­ture in his com­men­tary for a lo­cal news­pa­per call­ing for an in­crease in teacher salaries.

He made about 10,000 yuan ($1,670) each month after tax, which is made up of the wage from gov­ern­ment, job sub­si­dies from school, class fees, a year-end bonus from school and a re­search re­ward from school.

He said the re­search award from school is the largest contributor. The business school is the wealth­i­est, be­cause it can earn money through var­i­ous train­ing pro­grams.

“Teach­ers from the poorer schools mostly rely on their wage and class fee to make a liv­ing, re­ceiv­ing about 5,000 yuan a month,” he said.

The earn­ing struc­ture does not, how­ever, boost real re­search. The num­ber of pub­lished pa­pers or books is one of the most im­por­tant cri­te­ria in judg­ing the re­search abil­ity or per­for­mance of teach­ers in China.

Chi­nese teach­ers write many pa­pers, only a few of which have new find­ings or meet in­ter­na­tional stan­dards.

Help­ing teach­ers write and publish pa­pers has be­come a de­vel­oped un­der­ground mar­ket for ed­i­tors of aca­demic jour­nals listed by the ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties of var­i­ous lev­els.

The gov­ern­ment-funded re­search pro­grams are the other source of in­come for teach­ers, and the num­ber of gov­ern­ment re­search pro­grams they un­der­take is the other key in­di­ca­tor of their re­search abil­i­ties un­der the cur­rent re­search as­sess­ment sys­tem in China.

The prob­lem is there is not a strict su­per­vi­sion mech­a­nism for gov­ern­ment re­search pro­grams, most of which can be fin­ished smoothly in time after the teach­ers’ win­ning out in the ap­pli­ca­tion com­pe­ti­tion.

The re­search fund­ing pro­vided by the gov­ern­ment can be re­im­bursed by in­voices pro­vided by the re­searchers. The gov­ern­ment re­search pro­gram be­comes a cash cow for the of­fi­cials or pan­els with the power to de­cide whose ap­pli­ca­tion is se­lected.

A 42-year-old aca­demi­cian of bi­ol­ogy sci­ence with the Chi­nese Academy of Sciences was found em­bez­zling 25 mil­lion yuan in gov­ern­ment re­search funds last Oc­to­ber, be­com­ing the youngest aca­demi­cian dis­missed from the CAS.

GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY

Doc­tor­ate grad­u­ates

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