Xinjiang’s Aksu expands bilingual schools

By Bai Tiantian Source:Global Times Published: 2015-12-9 0:23:01

Govt takes on teacher shortage to put a kindergarten in every village

Southern Xinjiang's Aksu prefecture plans to set up a Putonghua-Uyghur bilingual kindergarten in each and every village, an ambitious approach to the region's latest effort to promote ethnic unity through education.

The Aksu prefectural government has also vowed to recruit more teachers and encourage professionals in education, technology, culture and healthcare to take part in voluntary services in poor areas, according to a report from Aksu's Internet information office.

No data is immediately available on how many bilingual kindergartens currently exist in Aksu or what percentage of the population already has access to bilingual education.

But Liu Gang, an official in charge of bilingual education in Aksu's Awat county, told the Global Times in a phone interview on Tuesday that roughly half of the county's population currently has access to bilingual schools and that the county plans to build 66 more kindergartens between 2016 and 2021 to achieve full coverage.

"The bilingual program is extremely popular among local parents, who believe language skills are crucial for their children's future education and career paths," Liu said.

He noted that the region faces a shortage of bilingual teachers and that the government has raised salaries to make the positions more attractive.

"Entry-level teachers are now paid around 4,000 yuan ($642) per month after tax, which is pretty competitive at the local level," Liu said.

According to data from the Aksu education bureau's website, the prefecture was short of 262 bilingual teachers in 2015, an improvement from 328 vacancies in 2014.

Overall, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has a shortage of more than 30,000 bilingual teachers, the Xinhua News Agency reported. The region currently employs some 70,000 teachers with bilingual proficiency, and some 450,000 children have received bilingual education from kindergartens since 2010.

The Xinjiang government launched a program in 2009 in which would-be teachers receive free college education upon signing an agreement with the government. This year alone, 134 students have graduated from the program and have started working in local schools in Aksu.

Zhang Chunxian, the Party chief of Xinjiang, said at a conference in Kashgar last month that the government aims to solve the problem of southern Xinjiang's shortage of bilingual teachers in the next five years.

He said that bilingual education should enhance the concept of "five recognitions" among students from various ethnic groups.

The term "five recognitions" - coined by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Sixth Tibet Work Forum in August this year - refers to recognition of the country, the Chinese nation, Chinese culture, the Communist Party of China and socialism with Chinese characteristics.

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