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UPDATED: July 8, 2013 NO. 28 JULY 11, 2013
Must Teachers Renew Qualifications?


Chinese teachers in public schools enjoy permanent job security. Once hired, they typically have tenure until retirement. However, education commissions in Beijing and Shanghai may introduce a new policy requiring the renewal of teaching qualifications every five years. School instructors might have to pass examinations or lose their teaching licenses.

Threatening to break the "permanent security" of tenured instructors coincides with the emergence of several major scandals involving corporal punishment, physical abuse or sexual molestation of students. Greater accountability might force teachers to improve their methodology and thus provide better instruction to students. However, questions remain as to whether such a system could be implemented effectively in pilot cities or nationwide.

Who should take responsibility for evaluating teachers? Should it be officials in the Ministry of Education, education experts and headmasters, or parents and students? What will this new policy mean to teachers and the Chinese education system? Debates arise across the country. The following are excerpts of opinions:


Fang Zhonghua (Beijing Evening News): To demand teachers to renew teaching qualifications every five years, instead of letting them possess the job forever despite what they do, is a significant reformative measure in China's educational arena. This policy will encourage teachers to keep learning and devote themselves to students, as they know if they do not meet new requirements they'll be fired like anyone else.

It seems that in China, as long as teachers do not make big mistakes, they can keep their jobs until retirement. As a result, some teachers begin to passively cope with their work and stop learning and improving themselves. Some pay little attention to students' performance and in some extreme cases, teachers even infringe students' legal rights.

When the new policy is introduced, the situation will improve. If a teacher wants to keep his or her job, he or she has to work hard enough to let students achieve better academic performance, and gradually, overall education qualification will improve. I think the cycle of qualification renewal should even be shortened to three years, instead of five years, so that teachers will be urged to polish their skills in teaching.

Rong Jiecai (Zhanjiang Daily): The disadvantage of "permanent job security" for teachers is that some teachers may lack the sense of self-discipline and thus do not devote themselves to teaching and are not as responsible for students as they should be.

Without an effective mechanism that selects the superior and eliminates the inferior, teachers will always be able to go on with teaching even if they are incapable of doing the work. It's unfair and unlucky for the students who have to accept such a teacher. If the qualification renewal policy is adopted, these teachers will begin to mind their own behavior to some extent, and this is good to their students. Unqualified teachers will be eliminated for the good of the students.

It's high time to adopt this renewal policy. Teachers are important people who shape the minds and souls of the next generation. High moral and academic level is inevitably required for them. The new policy will alarm incapable instructors or teachers of low moral standards. In order to pass the qualification exam, teachers should have to think of better and more effective measures to deal with teaching and the students, rather than spending more time on paid tutoring after work than in class, or simply punishing students poor in work with violent means. When the unsuitable and incapable teachers are eliminated from the team, the renewed team will act more effectively.

Zheng Wen (xinhuanet.com): Teachers compose a large team operating on public expenses. How to optimize this team, keep its stability and stimulate its creativity is a big question facing modern education. The qualification renewal policy is undoubtedly an active and pragmatic reform. Nevertheless, to start the reform, we should first create a social environment that respects teachers and their work.

In some regions, due to relatively low pay, teachers are living in an embarrassing situation, and they can't feel the kind of happiness or achievement that the profession of teaching is supposed to bring them. To respect teachers and improve their living standards are key to increasing teachers' feeling of honor and to increase the attractiveness of the profession.

When teachers get to have the strong feeling that they are respected, they'll feel honored and happy, and then they will naturally begin to pay more attention to their own deeds. They will try to learn more and teach students in more effective and helpful ways. When every teacher devotes themselves to teaching and feels honored about their job, then the goal of renewing the old team will be functionally reached, without causing too many side effects.

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