Media have reported that the Central Committee of the China Association for Promoting Democracy has submitted a total of 46 proposals to the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), including one to increase teacher pay as a catalyst to attract more pre-school teachers with higher qualifications.
Last year the Minister of Education Chen Baosheng highlighted a shortage of 1 million preschool teachers and 900,000 childcare workers. This demonstrates that the lack of qualified teachers is still a major hurdle for China as it seeks to extend the coverage of quality preschool education. The key to removing this barrier therefore is to raise preschool teacher salaries and their social status.
Three factors have contributed to stifling the growth of preschool teacher salaries: first is that some state-run kindergartens hire lower-paid temporary staff to fill vacancies rather than employing full-time staff, due to a lack of government funding; second is the failure of some privately-owned kindergartens to meet the required government teacher-pupil ratios and teacher pay grades, compounded by the fact that it is difficult for teachers in privately-owned kindergartens to earn government-accredited academic titles; finally, some for-profit kindergartens still cap teacher pay to reduce costs, despite charging high tuition fees.
Targeted measures are required to address these problems, starting with an increase of government funding for preschool education. Expenditure on preschool education in 2016 was 280.4 billion yuan, accounting for 7.21% of total education expenditure (3.89 trillion yuan), of which government funding for preschool education was 132.6 billion yuan, accounting for 4.2% of total government funding for education (3.1373 trillion yuan). Although this proportion is already 1% higher than that in 2012 (3.2%), there is still a large gap to fill. It is estimated that in order to ensure a wide coverage of quality preschool education, expenditure on preschool education should account for no less than 9% of total spending on education, while government funding for preschool education should account for no less than 5% of total government funding for education.
At the same time, the government should impose stricter requirements on different types of kindergarten to ensure adequate teach-pupil ratios and teacher salaries. State-run kindergartens should be prohibited from leaving positions unfilled and from hiring temporary lower-paid staff instead, so as to ensure equal pay for equal work. More government funding should be provided for non-profit kindergartens to raise teacher salaries. For-profit privately-owned kindergartens meanwhile should be subject to stricter supervision to ensure that they hire qualified teachers and offer reasonable salaries.