Free education program for future teachers should be extended nationwide: Premier

13:28, June 18, 2011      

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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (L) presents diploma to a graduate during the commencement ceremony held for tuition-free graduates in Beijing Normal University in Beijing, capital of China, June 17, 2011. (Xinhua/Yao Dawei)

A pilot program that offers four-year state-funded undergraduate study programs for future teachers in six of China's elite teaching universities, should be gradually extended nationwide, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said on Friday.

Wen made the remarks while attending a graduation ceremony at Beijing Normal University for representatives of the first batch of students to take advantage of the state-funded program.

Initiated in 2007, the pilot program allows six teaching universities in the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Changchun, Wuhan, Xi'an and Chongqing to provide free tuition for 12,000 students annually.

The students are also granted an allowance. All costs are covered by the central budget.

To be eligible for free tuition, the students must agree to work at primary or middle schools in their hometowns for at least 10 years after graduating. The students are also required to spend their first two years in a rural school, as many of China's rural schools do not have enough qualified teachers.

The six universities have given free tuition to 46,000 students over the last four years. Ninety percent of this year's graduates will work in underdeveloped areas in central and western China, according to the Ministry of Education.

"The program is intended to show respect for the educational profession and to convince more people to become life-long educators," Wen said.

Wen called for efforts to improve the program by allowing participants to change their majors, ensuring that only those students who genuinely wish to become teachers remain in the program.

He also suggested increasing the program's allowance and giving more general awards to outstanding undergraduates.

Those who teach in rural schools should be encouraged to pursue on-the-job master's degrees as well, he said.

Wen said he hopes the state-funded teachers will treat their students with love, be dedicated and innovative and continue their studies after graduation.

More than 2,600 teachers and representatives of graduates from the six universities covered by the program were present at Friday's ceremony.

Source: Xinhua

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