Teacher Rotation: China’s New National Campaign for Equity
By 2020, about one million teachers and principals in China will be swapped between good and poor schools annually, if the nation’s new strategy for easing education inequity goes as planned. The strategy is outlined in a policy document[in Chinese] jointly issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Finance, and Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security recently.
The policy requires no less than 10% of teachers in urban and high quality schools be reassigned to teach in rural and poor schools each year. To prevent schools from sending less qualified teachers, the policy requires at least 20% of the rotated teachers be “backbone” [high quality] teachers. The policy also requires principals and deputy principals be rotated to a different school after serving two terms in the same school. Teachers from rural schools and or poor schools will have the opportunity to fill the vacated positions urban schools and better quality schools.
The policy is the implementation of a directive issued by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Part last November urging local governments to rotate school leaders and teachers from high quality schools to less-privileged ones to balance education resources. Prior to the official issuance of the national policy, over 22 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) had already developed similar policies and begun piloting similar programs.
The national policy document does not include much detail about how the rotation actually happens. It leaves the execution plan to the local governments. Existing local policies suggest that the duration of the rotation is typically two to three years for teachers and one term of service for principals. Teachers and school leaders would return to their original school afterwards, should they wish. In some cases, teachers may be transferred to another school. The rotation is among schools within the same administrative district or county. There are a variety of carrots and sticks to encourage participation, including cash bonuses, priority and or prerequisite for promotion, and housing privileges.
The plan is ambitious. Ultimately, the central government expects to systematize the practice, making teacher and leader rotation routine for all schools. It also is expected to lead a transition in the teaching profession in China by making teachers employees of the system, instead of each school.
Whether the policy will deliver the expected outcomes—more equal distribution of teaching resources and thus more equitable education—is uncertain for many reasons. Interested readers can read a report about some local experiments of the strategy in a China Daily story published in Feb before the national policy was issued.