To teachers: Illuminating the search for well-being
Updated 22:47, 10-Sep-2021
Wang Yan
Examinees hug their teacher after the first subject exam at a high school in Gu'an County, north China's Hebei Province, June 7, 2021. /Xinhua

Examinees hug their teacher after the first subject exam at a high school in Gu'an County, north China's Hebei Province, June 7, 2021. /Xinhua

Editor's note: Wang Yan is an associate research fellow at Beijing Foreign Studies University. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Teachers matter. A teacher is oftentimes perceived as a knowledgeable person who inspires and illuminates the road in search for knowledge and for meaning of life. They guide the changes in students' intellectual and spiritual growth and therefore have an impact on social and economic development.

Today marks Teachers' Day in China. However, many teachers in the country are facing new changes in their work due to newly issued "double reduction" policy, which aims to ease the excessive homework and after-school tutoring burden on students. The policy also obligates schools to extend their education services as alternative of off-campus tutoring.

The policy is underpinned by the rationale that private supplementary tutoring, associated with excessive learning burden, not only has a psychologically and educationally negative impact on children's well-being but also exacerbates social and economic inequalities by dividing those who pay for tutoring services and who don't.

With the "double reduction" policy taking effect, students will have less workload in terms of tutoring and homework, and could also access on-campus learning services after school and during holidays, leading a more enjoyable study life at a lower cost. 

Meanwhile, the new policy implies tremendous changes to teachers. Teachers in public schools will have to change their teaching approaches and modalities to maintain or even improve students' learning performance with less homework and examinations. Besides, teachers and tutors in private agencies will have to change their jobs and even go through temporary unemployment because some for-profit agencies may close down.

In the past, the teachers in public schools, in spite of their teaching performance, in many cases could have their students fare well in examinations as many students use paid tutoring services outside of the class. But now the teachers have to rely on quality teaching in class to achieve the learning goals, with more emphasis on cost-efficiency of learning and education, so the new policy requires teachers to learn, adapt and grow quickly. On the other hand, it warrants better curriculum and pedagogy, better school-based management and better parent-school partnership.

While all the tutoring agencies are transformed into nonprofit agencies, the tutors might temporarily lose their clients and have less income. Yet teaching should not be a lucrative profession, and marketization and privatization is contrary to the purpose of education. The tutors could still work in non-profit tutoring agencies or other education institutions. Those dedicated teachers with know-hows would still be able to realize their aspiration through various pathways, such as teaching in the emerging adult education industry, given the workforce's growing demand for reskilling and upskilling. Another option is arts-related training because arts will play an increasingly important role in the market.

Fourth-graders attend a class at Yangfangdian central primary school in Haidian district, Beijing, June 8, 2020. /Xinhua

Fourth-graders attend a class at Yangfangdian central primary school in Haidian district, Beijing, June 8, 2020. /Xinhua

Through efforts over past four decades, China has developed the largest education system in the world, with nearly 200 million students enrolled in primary and secondary schools. The fee-free basic education of nine year has been made accessible at the beginning of the 21st century.

Chinese high school students also ranked first in mathematics, reading and science, according to the Program for International Student Assessment (2018), which is done every three years by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Behind these achievements are the dedicated work of Chinese teachers with their aspirations, perseverance and resilience. Only with such teachers, the education sector could serve its function as the best equalizer of the society through empowering everyone to achieve well-being and prosperity regardless of their social and economic status.

Private supplementary tutoring is often referred to as "shadow education." Just as the shadow cast by a sundial can tell the observer about the passage of time, the shadow of an education system can tell about the changes in a society. Through the reform the tutors emerge from the shadows, which brought excessive learning burden and costs to students and their families, into the light of addressing a greater variety of educational opportunities and pathways. Teachers in public schools will also grow in their capacity to better educate their students for changing labor markets and diversification of skills required by technology-driven economies.

Through the policy, hopefully, all the teachers in China will be honored for their work under the sun preparing minds and hearts that will change the future of the world.

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