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Thursday, December 02, 1999, updated at 14:39(GMT+8)
Education University Teachers to Become High-income Earners

University teachers are most likely to become the new idols of China's younger generation, not only for their analytical thinking skills and the technology they have access to, but also because they'll be earning more money than ever before.

Teachers in China, historically underpaid, have been regarded as "candles" that selflessly burn themselves down for the enlightenment of their students.

However, a newly-published reform package initiated by the Chinese Ministry of Education will change this imbalance between output and income.

The reform package is aimed at rejuvenating China's education and upgrading the overall quality of the Chinese people.

Education Minister Chen Zhili has vowed to raise the quality, salary and status of China's vast legion of teachers, setting teaching as the most respected and admired job in society.

To this end, the Chinese government will give 1.8 billion yuan (220 million US dollars) to prestigious Qinghua University and Beijing University, respectively, in a fresh move to make them two of the best schools in the world.

A large portion of the money will go to raise the salary and allowances of teachers in the two Beijing-based universities.

Starting this month, Qinghua University will give special allowances to all its teachers and staff. And some 100 outstanding scholars of the university will receive a yearly allowance of up to 50,000 yuan. This, combined with the base salaries, will give them an average yearly wage of 70,000 yuan.

In China's largest industrial and commercial city of Shanghai, the ministry and local government have decided to use one third of the 1.2 billion yuan that is allocated to Fudan University there to raise teachers' wages.

The well-known Shanghai Jiaotong University has promised to give each of its "master-level" professors 200,000 yuan in allowances each year.

Meanwhile, Beijing-based People's University and Beijing Normal University, and Jinan University in Guangdong are all drafting new incentive plans for their staffs.

It's predicted that in the near future, China will boast a large number of university teachers whose salaries and allowances amount to well over 50,000 yuan per teacher annually.

For ordinary Chinese, 50,000 yuan a year is no small sum. A nationwide poll conducted early this year shows that the average yearly income of a Chinese household stands at 11,200 yuan.

Professors in China were once the envy of society. Famous university professors were big earners, with their yearly income dozens of times that of ordinary citizens.

Recent survey results indicate that the present average monthly salary of Beijing teachers in various kinds of schools is 1,320 yuan, compared with more than 2,340 yuan which is the highest per- capita income of certain other trades covered by the survey; and 31 percent of university teachers have considered switching to other professions.

Chen Wenshen, assistant president of Beijing University, stressed that the teachers at his school have made enormous contributions to society, yet their salaries are quite low.

"Teachers are also facing the impact of the market economy," Chen noted, saying that raising salaries for teachers will play an important role in stabilizing and attracting advanced talent.

Over the past 20 years, 200,000 of China's academics have gone overseas for advanced education, yet only 70,000 of them have returned to China.

A third of the top graduates from the physics department of Beijing University opt to study abroad every year, with more than 500 going to the United States.

In recent interviews with Xinhua, the majority of university students expressed strong support for raising teachers' incomes substantially.

A postgraduate at Qinghua University said that his tutor spent over 12 hours a day on teaching and scientific research. "Several thousand yuan is too little for his heavy workload," he complained.

In raising the overall incomes for the teachers, the Ministry of Education stressed that incomes should be directly linked with their duties and performance, and those who do better work should be entitled to more money.

In the meantime, the ministry will clamp down on inferior teachers, making it difficult for them to keep their jobs.

For the next two or three years, all the teachers at higher education institutions in China will be either appointed or under contract. The ministry has also unveiled a long-term plan, under which the ratio of university teachers to students should reach the world level of 1:14.

This will mean a heavier workload for the majority of Chinese university teachers, said a ministry official.

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