Minban Educational Industry, Occasionally Messy

Many private schools (民办学校, minban xuexiao) in Shanghai are facing a problem – teachers quit their jobs without prior notice. It has become a problem especially during the past two years, reports Xinmin Net. And all that while teachers’ incomes at private schools are often higher than at public schools – private schools have managed to attract many outstanding teachers, writes Xinmin. But to some degree, the education market had apparently been so attractive that now there are too many schools competing for teachers.

And for students, for that matter. In December last year, sixty private schools signed a convention in Zhengzhou (郑州市),  known as the Jinshui District Private Education Industry Convention (金水区民办教育行业公约). They agreed to refrain from excessive rebates for students, unusually low school fees, and “derogatory propaganda” against their respective competitors (对同行进行贬低性的宣传). A non-governmental organization (NGO), the Jinshui District Association of Private Education (郑州市金水区民办教育协会) helped to bring the agreement about, and oversees its implementation. Henan Education Net (河南省教育网) points out that the schools are trying to sort out their problems by themselves. During the semester prior to the agreement, three teachers are known to have left their position without prior notice, to join a competitor – schools without sufficient staff tend to “poach” on competitors (although three cases wouldn’t seem to be a real lot).

Public schools are competitors, too. Conditions for teachers at public schools are improving. In terms of actual incomes, the difference between private and public school teachers aren’t that big, Xinmin Net quotes an unnamed private school principal, but public schools offer new teachers a career preparation, which isn’t always the case at private schools. Besides, public school teachers enjoy much better medical care after retiring, and better pension schemes. When teachers come in to Shanghai from other provinces to join career preparation, they may also successfully apply for registered residence in Shanghai (户口, hukou).

Average Chinese teachers’ annual incomes in higher education were around 23,300 Yuan in 2003, and 13,300 Yuan in primary and middle schools, but compared to civil servants’ incomes in general, those of teachers are still lowChina Daily wrote this month. Teachers’ incomes don’t seem to differ very much in regional terms, however, if a teacher’s monthly income in Ningxia is really 1,580 Yuan. (That said, the previous numbers are from 2003, and the one referring to Ningxia is about this year – but this blog post suggests that things haven’t changed much during the past six years, anyway.)

As current labor law (劳动合同法) tends to protect the individual teachers (according to the Xinmin article, anyway), a principal complains about the teachers’ strong position and asks who protects the interests of the schools and their students: 学生和学校的利益又有谁来保护?. A teacher may sometimes face some obstacles from educational authorities when  switching his job within a district, but not once he hops into another district’s school, and the schools reportedly aren’t entitled to demand contract penalties from fugitives. Suggestions have been made that the state should help to touch the private school teachers’ pension schemes up, to help making positions with private schools more attractive.

So far, leaning on “good relations” (guanxi) with the CCP may be a popular tool among school boards. A survey in Shanghai showed that in all non-governmental institutions the Party has played an active role with regard to political and ideological work among students. Most boards of trustees rely on the Party’s organisation to carry out political and ideological work, including appointing teachers in charge of classes or as political advisors, an author wrote in an article for China Perspectives in 2005.  But the article also points out that problems in the current private education sector should not simply be viewed as the result of a lack of Party leadership and supervision, but as the consequence of a lack of a comprehensive rule of law and operational regulations.

The sixty private schools in Zhengzhou have apparently started to draw their own conclusions. But their agreement – if it proves sustainable – can only help to make competition less messy among them. And job-hopping is a problem in China, across all trades. Basically, as far as the private education businesses’ competition with public schools is concerned, it would seem that to date, there are either too many non-teachers earning too much from the operation of private schools, or that private education in general is simply too cheap.


Little Desire for Positions as Head Teacher, June 15, 2009
No Independent Labor Unions, but Strikes, December 19, 2008
Teacher’s Day in Tainan, Fili’s World, October 1, 2007

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: