In the 35 years since China's National Teacher's Day was established in 1985, the country's teaching workforce has experienced radical change. This has been especially true in the years following the 18th CPC National Congress, during which the MOE introduced game-changing measures that have generated a historical remolding of the teaching profession.
(1) A more comprehensive and all-encompassing system of underlying policies. A battery of laws, regulations and policies have been brought into force to create the legal and regulatory framework that will steer the future development of teachers. This legislation includes the Teachers Law of China, the Opinions on Strengthening the Improvement of Teachers the Opinions on Deepening the Development and Reform of the Teaching Workforce. Meanwhile, special plans and programs have been developed to further guarantee the ability of educational institutions to meet new demands, such as the Special Teaching Post Project, the tuition-fee free educational program for students attending teacher-training universities, and a support plan for rural teachers.
(2) Scale-up in the number and quality of qualified teachers. The number of full-time teachers at all educational stages currently stands at 16.7383 million, up 79% from 9.319 million in 1985. It is this huge teaching workforce of China that has bolstered the largest educational system in the world. Compared to 1985, the number of teaching staff who have the bachelor’s degree or above in primary schools and junior high schools rose by 61.59% and 80.59%, respectively, indicating a significant improvement in teacher quality. At the same time, teachers have undergone more robust moral education structured around a more institutionalized and legalized framework, with the adoption of a series of rules and regulations, such as the Codes of Conduct for Higher Education Faculties;and the Ten Guidelines on Professional Behavior and Conduct for Teachers in Preschool, Primary, Secondary and Higher education.
(3) A stronger, more diverse teaching workforce in rural areas. Through the special post project, 0.51 million teachers have been recruited for rural schools in western and central provinces since 2012. While nearly 0.25 million teachers have been sent to impoverished areas, over 10 000 key teachers in these areas have received targeted training every year, thanks to the 10 000 Volunteer Teachers Program, the Supporting Scheme for Teachers in the “Three Regions and Three Prefectures”, the Special Plan for Teachers, etc.
(4) Greater respect and boosted status for teachers. Through the establishment of the salary assurance system, the national average teacher salary has grown from the bottom of the wage rankings for all sectors in the 1980s to the 7th among the 19 best paid industries today. Improvements in teacher professional recognition, and employment conditions, adjustment of relevant policies, and optimization of faculty management have instilled heightened enthusiasm in primary and middle school teachers for their work. A national reward and recognition system for teachers has also been improved. For example, starting from 2010, 10 China Exemplary Educators are selected and rewarded annually, and the awards and honorary titles including National Outstanding Teachers, National Outstanding Educators, National Model Teachers, and Excellent Workers in the National Educational System are granted nationwide every five years.
Opinions on the Comprehensive Deepening of Reforms and Building the Teacher Workforce for a New Era, hereinafter referred to as Central Government Document No.4, issued in early 2018, is China’s first major policy on the development of the teaching profession. Full implementation of Document No.4, has required the MOE to step up its work in the following areas:
(1) Prioritizing reinforcement of Party leadership. The central leadership role of China’s CCP has been increased in all initiatives relating to teacher development, with a view to setting the political direction of the teacher workforce.
(2) Creating synergies through cooperation. Enhanced communication and coordination with the State Commission Office for Public Sector Reform, the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, has supported the MOE in prioritizing and developing plans, ensuring inputs and fulfilling requirements for teacher development. Additionally, the MOE has sought to establish more preferential policies and measures via local governments and CPC committees, such as the adjustments of basic salary standards in favor of teachers in compulsory education, the increase in per-student funding for teacher training university students, and a system of temporary state-supported teaching positions in public institutions piloted in Anhui, Jiangxi, Shanxi, Shandong, Fujian and Inner Mongolia.
(3) Victory on three fronts: revitalization of teacher education, poverty alleviation through education, and management of the teaching workforce. In terms of teacher education, the institutional transformation in teacher training colleges has been strictly monitored, while free education for normal college students has been further extended. Aiming to improve the quality of the teacher workforce, the MOE has promoted the certification of teaching degrees, enhanced teacher capacity building in information technology, increased efforts in the development of teachers in vocational education, and implemented the National Teacher Training Program. In terms of poverty alleviation through education, the MOE has focused on training local teachers in poverty stricken areas. For instance, over 30 000 teachers with quality training have been posted to Xinjiang so far in 2019 through the Special Teaching Post Project and the 10 000 Volunteer Teachers Program, and groups of teachers from top educational institutions have been organized to support schools in areas as part of the targeted poverty alleviation campaign. In terms of teacher workforce management, the MOE has tried to raise the prestige and social status of teachers by acknowledging and rewarding outstanding teachers and setting guidelines for the teacher professional behavior and conduct. It also contributed to improvements in the financial conditions and career progression prospects available to teachers. For example, Henan province has offered three types of teacher subsidies, while several provinces have introduced innovative measures to increase the number of teachers in primary schools and high schools holding an intermediate or senior professional title.