Miss­ing role mod­els

Public schools face short­age of male teach­ers due to chron­i­cally low pay

Global Times - - Front Page - By Liu Xuanzun

As the new school se­mes­ter be­gins in Septem­ber, more and more Chi­nese pri­mary and mid­dle schools, as well as par­ents of stu­dents, are re­al­iz­ing that ur­ban schools are in­creas­ingly fac­ing a short­age of male teach­ers, and ru­ral schools are fac­ing an over­all teacher short­age.

“My child is now in the sixth grade in pri­mary school… From the first grade, he has never had a sin­gle male teacher ex­cept in phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion classes,” peo­ple.cn, the news web­site of the Peo­ple’s Daily, quoted an un­named stu­dent par­ent from Taiyuan, North China’s Shanxi Province as say­ing.

Qiao Hui­jun, the prin­ci­pal of Wei­hua Pri­mary School in Taiyuan, said that “the ra­tio for male and fe­male teach­ers in the school is about 1:8. As the coun­try is im­ple­ment­ing the sec­ond-child pol­icy, more fe­male teach­ers are be­com­ing preg­nant and giv­ing birth.

The dis­pro­por­tion prob­lem is not ex­clu­sive to Taiyuan, but a widely ex­ist­ing phe­nom­e­non around the coun­try, peo­ple.cn re­ported on Sun­day.

The prob­lem is more sig­nif­i­cant when peo­ple take cour­ses into ac­count, as even fewer male teach­ers teach arts-re­lated cour­ses than science-re­lated cour­ses, Zhang Lin, a teacher at Bei­jing No.18 Mid­dle School, told the Global Times on Wed­nes­day.

Low pay­ment

“I earn 2,600 yuan ($378) a month, and I need to pay 2,200 yuan each month for my mort­gage… As the back­bone in my fam­ily, this in­come is too low for me to main­tain a rea­son­able qual­ity of life of my fam­ily,” said Du Tong­shi, a male teacher at Zhushi Pri­mary School in Nan­chang, East China’s Jiangxi Province.

“Many male teach­ers have no choice but to leave for other oc­cu­pa­tions,” Du said.

Male teach­ers do not en­joy much space for pro­mo­tion, nor do they gain much sense of achieve­ment, said Shu Yaoyun, a teacher at Shang­sha No. 21 Mid­dle School in Cen­tral China’s Hu­nan Province.

There is a stereo­type in Chi­nese so­ci­ety that be­ing a male teacher is a dead-end job, to an ex­tent that male stu­dents do not choose to study ed­u­ca­tion at uni­ver­si­ties any­more, ac­cord­ing to Zhang Guofeng, a physics teacher at Pingyao No. 3 Mid­dle School in Shanxi.

Xiong Bingqi, deputy di­rec­tor of the 21st Cen­tury Ed­u­ca­tion Re­search In­sti­tute, told the Global Times on Wed­nes­day that the over­all in­come level of kinder­garten, pri­mary and mid­dle school teach­ers in China is low, not only for male teach­ers, but also for fe­male teach­ers.

Fe­males tend to ac­cept a low salary as long as the po­si­tion is sta­ble, while males tend to shoul­der more re­spon­si­bil­ity in their fam­i­lies, and there­fore can­not ac­cept the low salary, Xiong noted.

Male teach­ers play unique roles in ed­u­cat­ing stu­dents.

They set ex­am­ples to stu­dents for their daily lives and help shape chil­dren’s char­ac­ters in terms of brav­ery and en­ter­prise, Zhang said.

Xiong said that the in­come of pri­mary and mid­dle school teach­ers must be in­creased in or­der to solve the prob­lem.

De­spite ef­forts by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment, many lo­cal author­i­ties only pay at­ten­tion to high school ed­u­ca­tion and ig­nore pri­mary schools and ju­nior highs be­cause they see the en­trance rate to col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties as the mea­sure of their achieve­ment, Xiong said.

Worse in ru­ral ar­eas

In many ru­ral ar­eas in China, hav­ing enough qual­i­fied teach­ers at all is a wild wish.

Ac­cord­ing to a Mon­day ar­ti­cle by Buyi­dao, a Wechat me­dia ac­count af­fil­i­ated with the Global Times, pri­mary and mid­dle schools in less-de­vel­oped ar­eas have to em­ploy those who had be­low-av­er­age aca­demic scores as teach­ers.

These schools are fac­ing chal­lenges in hir­ing good teach­ers and keep­ing them, as there is a dif­fer­ence in the ed­u­ca­tion en­vi­ron­ment be­tween cities and ru­ral ar­eas by na­ture. Schools have to lower their stan­dards to get enough teach­ers, the ar­ti­cle said.

Stu­dents also tend to leave ru­ral ar­eas to get ed­u­ca­tion in cities. With fewer and fewer stu­dents in class, the at­mos­phere of com­pe­ti­tion for both stu­dents and teach­ers is gone and teach­ers also gain less sense of achieve­ment, the ar­ti­cle said.

“Teach­ers are not will­ing to work in ru­ral ar­eas be­cause of dif­fi­cult con­di­tions and even lower pay­ment [than in cities],” Xiong said.

China’s ed­u­ca­tion model fo­cuses on the rate of en­ter­ing higher schools. Ed­u­ca­tion re­sources in ru­ral ar­eas are limited and can­not con­trib­ute to “achieve­ments” of lo­cal author­i­ties, so they are fur­ther ig­nored, Xiong noted.

In ad­di­tion to in­creas­ing pay­ments for teach­ers, the Buyi­dao ar­ti­cle urges the con­struc­tion of larger schools in ru­ral ar­eas in­stead of scat­tered smaller ones, so ed­u­ca­tion re­sources can be­come more con­cen­trated.

The ar­ti­cle also said that schools should build an in­cen­tive sys­tem to en­cour­age teach­ers to com­pete with each other and boost ef­forts to cul­ti­vate more qual­i­fied teach­ers.

Stu­dents at­tend class at a pri­mary school in Lang­fang, He­bei Province in April 2018.

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