Gansu, a province found within the country of China, is approximately located in the upper part of the Yellow River. Most specifically, it is located in a region where the Qinghai-Tibet, Loess and Inner Mongolia plateau converge. It has been mentioned that Gansu is considered as the birthplace for the rich culture of China and its unfailing nationality. The province of Gansu encompasses 425,800 kilometers of land with about twenty six million in population. It is composed of 12 municipalities and eighty-six counties.
Gansu serves as home and abode for several ethnic groups, amounting to a total of about two million people and comprising about nine percent of the total population of the whole region. Over the past several years, the quality of education among the ethnic tribes and minority groups has markedly improved. In pastoral countries, several centers dedicated to learning and education have been created with over a hundred boarding schools in the area which provide children of herdsmen with the necessary education they require. Meanwhile, education in other areas in the province of Gansu has also seen a marked improvement. It is estimated that about seventy percent of children belonging to the ethnic and minority groups are enrolled in primary schools.
With the aid of the World Bank, the province of Gansu was able to provide a total of seventy two million yuan that support about three hundred schools within the region. The program instituted within the province regarding compulsory education was able to invest over 150 million yuan for several educational institutions in various counties within the Gansu province.
Gansu was also successful in creating several centers that are dedicated to the training and continuing education of teachers, as they become an important fixture in their role towards educating the students within the region. Another important thing that the Gansu Department of Education foresaw is the improvement of bilingual education especially in areas that are populated with minority groups. This led to the incorporation of courses on ethnic languages in more than 300 primary and secondary educational institutions.
Although, there have been marked improvements in education within the Gansu province, it cannot be denied that there are still several factors that hinder basic education.
The Gansu province, when compared to other regions in China, most specifically to the regions found in the eastern coast, the latter is undeniably more underdeveloped than the eastern coast regions. In a statistical data that were published in the year 2000, it has been clearly depicted that 592 counties belong below the poverty line. Of these 592 counties, over half of them can be found in the western region (Sun & Zhao, 2004, pp.111-2). In addition to these, people within the western region received lower incomes compared to their eastern counterparts, thus limiting their access towards even the most basic education. This fact is corroborated by a survey which was conducted in the year 1999 which showed that cohorts that live in the western region and aged fifteen years and above have a 35% illiteracy rate, which, when compared to the national average, is 14% higher (R. Wang, 2004, p.105).
Another factor that serves to hinder the development of basic educational reform is a lack in educators and teachers that are qualified and are up to the task. It should be noted the Chinese government lifted the control it set over the labor mobility during the years of reformation. Due to this event, highly qualified educators left the rural areas in large numbers as they saw a better opportunity for themselves in urban cities and areas that are more developed. By the year 2001, there were about seven hundred thousand “daike” teachers within the primary and secondary schools all over the country. These teachers, although not part of the government payroll, are still funded and are appointed locally. These teachers account for about six percent of the total educators within the whole country.
Daike educators were distributed largely in rural areas, such as in the western region of China, accounting for as high as twenty percent of the teaching staff within the primary and secondary schools. Unfortunately, many of daike teachers are not trained well in teaching and educating (Zhuang & Lai, 2002, p. 26). Compared to the urban areas within the eastern region of China, about forty-four percent of teachers in primary schools are recipients of a degree in university or a diploma in college at the very least. In the rural areas of China, however, only fifteen percent of educators have the same credentials as their western counterparts. (T. Wang, 2004, p.64).
As shortage in the number of qualified educators pose a significant problem in the field of education, this has been further compounded with another problem that deals with the lack of teachers and educators who possess the skill and knowledge to teach specialized subjects and courses. Traditional subjects such as the study of the Chinese literature do not pose much of a problem. However, educators who can adequately teach subjects such as computer, music, English and the like are seriously lacking. Due to this problem, these important subjects are sometimes left out of the curriculum and are not offered by the school. There are also times when these subjects may be taught by an educator that is wholly lacking in expertise and training. Thus, it is a common practice in schools in the rural areas to employ teachers who teach subjects that they are not even trained for (Wu & Yang, 2005, p. 12).
As we all know for a fact, the quality of teaching is an important determinant of the success rate of children in their studies as well as in determining the quality of education that an institution provides. The proposed implementation of Distance Education allows teachers to be trained in an efficient manner without the need to sacrifice quality. In turn, this will lead to the improvement of the quality of teachers employed in primary and secondary schools (Robinson, 2008).
Another deterrent in the provision of basic education in the Gansu province is the lack of funding. As stated earlier, more than half of the population in this area very poor and live below the poverty line. In addition, these regions do not have the necessary economic developments that would allow local education for everyone. New reforms that were put form by the government have only served to increase the inequity and unfairness in terms of public spending.
The inadequate funds also have a negative effect on the quality of the teaching staff’s work and living environment. As it is, the teaching staff is already encumbered by a lot of work. Coupled with the lack of adequate funds and a very poor system of transportation, these teachers have very minimal chances of being able to attend seminars and conferences that would further their knowledge and skill. The lack of adequate funds also means that teachers in the rural areas are paid less as compared to those in the urban areas. Furthermore, rural teachers and educators do not have benefits such as pensions, healthcare insurance, and the like ( J. Zhao, 2005, p. 5). Due to this unfortunate fact, graduates still flock to urban areas to teach and rarely do they go to the rural areas Zhang, 2003, p. 118).
As such, one project undertaken in the Gansu province is the Distance Education Program, which aims to educate students and teachers alike in an efficient way without the need to sacrifice quality. The program has been successful in improving the interest of students and enhancing the teaching skills of educators. It has served as
New reforms in the field of education also advocate approaches that are learner-centered instead of the traditional teacher-centered approach. The central aim of this approach is to make learning a pleasant event and allow students to develop initiative and a healthy interest in learning.
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