Editor’s Note: China is undergoing extensive growth and development with up to thirty million people each year moving from rural areas to the cities. This poses critical requirements for rural education to be comparable to education available in the cities. This paper describes programs in Gansu Province to reduce the gap between big-city and rural education in primary and secondary schools.
The Rural Distance Education in
Percentages to all school (%)
45 000 000
2 660 000
20 000 000
5 937 000
4 065 000
3 000 000
16 060 000
363 939 000
Gansu Daily, 2007
Linze is another pioneer to develop Distance Education in a whole county. It is the first county that established its own education website in Gansu Province. The local government funded
16 060 000 RMB from 1997 to 2004, which is 31% of Linze’s GDP in 2004, the year they set up their own education website. 100% of the schools in Linze are now using Distance Education methods (Linze, 2005).
Teacher quality is one of the key factors determine the participation rates of children in schooling and the quality of their education. It is also an important element in remoting social justice in terms of educational quality in rural and remote areas, where teachers tend to be less qualified than their urban peers and not well resourced and supported. Implementation of Distance Education enables teacher training to be carried out on a large scale with high efficiency and quality. All teachers in primary and secondary school can receive training and further education, which can lead to a remarkable improvement of the overall quality of primary and secondary school teachers. Only EU-CHINA GBEP directly benefited 105,000 rural-area teachers and head-teachers and indirectly benefited 2.6 million students as they experienced improved teaching. This does not include students that experienced Distance Education directly (Robinson, 2008).
Huining is one of the poorest but also is one of high quality education counties in China. The Nine-Year Compulsory Education (NYCE) had been universalized in this county since 2004. Gansu province put more than 20 000 000 RMB to develop Distance Education in this county. By the year 2007, more than 12 000 teachers and 160 000 students had benefited from the policy. All primary and secondary schools in Huining county has been covered by Distance Education Network (Table 2).
3 955 200
Gansu Economic Daily,
While Distance Education is a main platform for providing professional development for rural teachers, teachers should be trained, not only in professional techniques of teaching, but in how to use the equipment. In China, “daike” teachers (community appointed and paid) are not recognized by the government or eligible for inclusion in the professional development provision, even though they may be qualified and teaching in government schools (Robinson & Yi, 2008). Gansu Province averages more than 9.7% of “daike” teachers and in some areas more than half or even higher. The salaries of these teachers are very low, average between 300-500 RMB/month. Some are more than 50 years old with low education background sand they need work in farm as well. These teachers have less chance to be further educated and some of them are slow to adopt the new techniques in teaching though the established Distance Education system. Take Ganzhou as an example. 80% of the teachers can use the computer to give a lecture, only 40% of them can find and create educational resources to use in teaching, prepare lesson plans, and retrieve and store online information on the new curriculum and teaching methods (Table 3).
Basic mastered (%)
Practically mastered (%)
Gansu Daily, 2007
The NYCE and Distance Education program provide scholarship and other policies like “Two free and one allowance.” This means that students from a poor family do not need pay for tuition and book fees and can enjoy an allowance from the school. (Minle, 2005;Qinchen, 2005; Tianshui, 2004;) In Minle, as an example, 8,583 students from poor families enjoyed the “Two free and one allowance” policy and the school itself has a related favorable policy for the rest of the students. Seven hundred and eighty one (781) students were released from 20 600 RMB fees in primary school and 346 students were freed about 25 100 RMB fees in secondary school in one term in 2005. The county also merged 49 schools, reestablished 8 new schools in other places, and established one lodging (boarding) school. These policies greatly encouraged students from poor families to go back to school and continue their studies. The quality of teaching was improved in all aspects. At the end of 2004, 77% of the students were qualified in the 6 subjects exam given to all senior students from secondary schools, and 86% of the students were enrolled in high school. Among primary school students, 98.7% passed the 2 subjects exam . Compared to the past, the qualified percentage for both primary and secondary school graduates were increased more than 20% in Minle and the whole province (Table 4).
Graduated or qualified percentage (%)
Gansu Daily, 2007
The use of Distance Education in rural areas has the potential to distribute learning more widely and equitably across the teaching force and student learners. It has already improved teaching quality, student enrollment, changed the mind of teachers, and widened the view of both of teachers and students. It has improved the variety of resources and support available to teachers, opening up new avenues to professional development.
The central government has put “revitalized China Through Science and Education” as a basic policy and put the status of education in rural areas as the “priority among priorities” .In 2003, 3.344 billion RMB was allocated to pilot the ‘National Modern Distance Education Program in Rural Areas’. As a result, the pilot project, including 10,000 primary and secondary schools in western areas of Gansu has been completed successfully (MoE, 2004). The Gansu Province take Distance Education as a government mandate. In the 11th 5-years development policy, the government will provide more money to develop Distance Education, construct and enhance the infrastructure, and extend information technique courses and workshops. It will use primary and secondary schools to develop methods of instruction and rely on universities for information technique construction and integration of all educational resources. This will be under leadership of the Education Technology Center in Gansu Province.
Though Distance Education has been successfully established in Gansu Province and achieved improvement in teaching quality and social impact, it still has a long way to go to keep up with developed areas and other countries. The rural Distance Education programs of Gansu should ‘consolidate existing achievements, deepen reform, improve quality, and pursue a sustainable development’ policy. To consolidate existing achievements, the Province government should sustain funding to maintain the system and ensure that it runs smoothly in technique and equipment.
Take Gaoling of Kongtong primary school, Pingliang District as an example. The school established a Model 1 and Model 2 classroom in Oct. 2004, but few of the teachers can use it. Some of the teachers don’t know how to operate the equipment. As a result, they delete important information and the computer can not run any more. Some schools in this district are too poor to use these equipments. Pankou, Huasuo primary school, with only 37 students, has 300 RMB for daily teaching and to maintain the Distance Education equipment (Zeng, 2005).
The Province government should insist on continuing the development of Distance Education in rural areas. It should learn from other places, introduce new methods and resources to improve teaching quality, and shorten the education gap with developed districts to facilitate development of the local economy. The government needs programs to change teachers’ minds and teaching methods through workshops and practice courses; to have teachers view and emulate other teachers courses, and meanwhile enhance teacher training on how to use the equipment in various ways. To sustain development of rural Distance Education, the Province government should not only fund the education system, but should encourage teachers create their own teaching materials, communicate about teaching methods, share experiences, participate in teaching competitions, and apply “best practices.”. The resources of rural Distance Education must have diversity. Resources developed by the national must suit local requirements, and have different models to support different bases in different place. And third, the government should continue funding to ensure that the school can maintain and run the equipment smoothly.
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Meiting Bai. Ms. Bai is Assistant Lecturer of Gansu Radio and TV University, Lanzhou China 730030.
Telephone :86 931 8721735 (O) Fax: 86 931 8721735