By Zhang Zhihao (chinadaily.com.cn)
China's education system just got larger, younger and smarter.
With about 280,000 new teachers appointed last year, China now has 15.4 million teachers in 510,000 schools. They are supporting 306 million students nationwide, making it the largest education system in the world, the Ministry of Education said.
"They spend their lives on a 1-meter wide podium, tirelessly educating China's next generation," said Wang Dinghua, head of the Teacher's Work Division at the Ministry of Education. "They are invaluable to China's transformation."
Of the newly appointed teachers, 206,800 belong to pre-middle school education; 45,600 to elementary education; and 38,100 to higher education, Wang said.
The age structure has shifted toward young, middle-aged teachers. About 56 percent of primary and middle school teachers are below the age of 40. For higher education, 71 percent are below the age of 45.
The ratio of teachers with advanced degrees increased across all levels. For primary and middle schools, vocational school and higher education, the ratios are now 98 percent, 90 percent and 99 percent respectively.
Teacher training colleges in China pumped out more than 700,000 graduates last year, with about 2.8 million currently undertaking training, "ensuring China's education system will have new blood in the future," Wang said.
However, supervising 15.4 million teachers is a monumental task. Last year, the Ministry of Education launched a national management database, which keeps track of bios, teaching experience, academic achievements and reviews of every teacher in the country.
The database will be accessible to national and local governments, as well as some school officials.
"The allocation of teachers is essential in ensuring the balanced development of compulsory education," Wang said. "With the new system, we will have a better picture of each teacher's experience and appoint them to the most suitable posts."
The information will also serve as a crucial reference for promoting or punishing teaching staff.
"Teachers with good reviews will no longer fall under the radar and those with bad records will be punished accordingly," Wang said.
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