“Despite significant progress over recent years, preschool education remains one of the weakest links in China’s education system”, said Education Minister Chen Baosheng at the 2018 NPC & CPPCC Sessions, who highlighted the issue of insufficient universal preschool resources.
To increase the provision of quality preschool resources, more investment is needed not only to improve infrastructure, but also to build a stronger teacher workforce. Teachers are the backbone of the education system and strongly influence the quality of education. However, there are still many challenges to overcome to increase the country’s national teaching body.
The 2017 National Statistical Report on Education Development shows that the teacher-pupil ratio was 1:11, which is much lower than the 1:5-7 recommended in the Kindergarten Teacher Staffing Standard. These statistics reveal a shortfall of over 4 million preschool teachers across the country. With the introduction of “two children” policy, this gap is likely to grow.
The current preschool teacher training system is unable to equip candidates with required skills, which is compounding the problem. A considerable proportion of teachers have not received adequate professional training. Other issues add to the problem, such as low teacher salaries, low social prestige and the difficulty of career progression for teachers.
To address these problems, a number of measures need to be introduced. First, enrolment in preschool teacher education degree programs needs to be expanded and special tuition-free enrolment plans should be introduced for students from remote and rural areas. Second, a professional certification system needs to be put in place for teacher education programs accompanied by strong oversight, to regularly evaluate program quality and ensure action is taken against programs that fall short of quality benchmarks. Third, the on-the-job training mechanisms need to be improved by increasing the coverage of state- and province-sponsored preschool teacher training schemes, introducing training guidelines, and creating a national unified and mobile e-learning platform to help preschool teachers embrace life-long learning, etc. Fourth, supportive policy measures need to be implemented to raise the salaries and social status of preschool teachers, whilst hurdles in preschool teacher career advancement need to be removed and the proportion of preschool teachers holding a senior title should be raised.