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Premier Gives Top Priority to Education, Teachers

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If education is the cornerstone for the nation's development, teachers are the cornerstone for education, said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in a speech during a visit to a high school in Beijing on September 4 this year.

Xinhua News Agency published the 8,000-character speech, entitled "Teachers are Fundamental to the Great Cause of Education", on Sunday.

Wen listened five classes and had lunch with students at the No. 35 Middle School, and attended a workshop with teachers of the school.

It was a way to show his tribute to teachers ahead of the Teachers' Day, which falls on September 10 every year, and also a way to find out the actual situation of teaching, said the outspoken premier who then gave his own comments on what he saw in class.

Wen first attended a math class focusing on triangular congruence. He praised the math teacher for her heuristic teaching method when she tried to guide the students to find out the solution by themselves. Being a geologist himself, Wen suggested that students be taught a little bit more in a 40-minute class.

After listening a Chinese Language lesson, the premier advised that the teacher should give an introduction on the author of "The Reeds Marshes", one of the works of Sun Li, a well-known Chinese writer.

"The teacher was wise to let her students go through the 3,300-character a story on Anti-Japanese War silently in four minutes, in an attempt to train their fast-reading skill," said Wen, who described it a "surprise" to him, because he was never told to do so in his school days.

It also a surprise to the State leader that most of the students completed the fast reading and some students were asked to summarize the story by their own. It trained the skills of their logic thinking and summarizing ability, said the premier. He also praised the teacher for her effort in teaching his students about patriotism.

The third class was about the method of research, which is unfamiliar with the premier. "After the class, I realized that the class was designed to help students broaden their view," he said.

What the teacher and students discussed at the class was the concept of "teaching room". The teacher asked the students to figure out what composes a "teaching room".

The premier was a little critical about this class as both the teacher and the students failed to mention the issue of safety of a "classroom", such as the occurrence of earthquake, for instance.

At the class, the teacher shunned away from a student's question about ore. The premier once again showed his geological background by suggesting that students be taught something more about the nature. "A teacher is unlikely to know everything, but he can think over the question and give a reply next time," Wen said.

After the fourth class on geography, the premier was once again surprised to learn that many of the students had traveled a lot, at home and abroad.

Wen found some errors in the geographic textbook, which gives a wrong description about China's geographic regions. "North China" should not include Shaanxi and Gansu provinces and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, which are officially regarded as part of northwest China.

The fifth and last was a music class. The teacher first let the students enjoy "We Are the World", one of the best-know works of Michael Jackson. The premier said , "I felt as if it was an artistic training class."

The class's topic of love guided the erudite leader to talk about aesthetics and the best-known Chinese aesthetician Zhu Guangqian. At the class, the premier made an improvisation on the issue of love. He also told the students about some Chinese scientists who were well-learned on other subjects such as arts, music and literature .

In a discussion with teachers, Wen said China failed to foster enough outstanding talents to meet the needs of the nation. Although the country has fostered a large number of professionals, the number of Chinese scientists who have gained an international reputation is too small, he said.

Wen quoted Czech educator John Amos Comenius (1592-1670) as saying, "Teacher is the most splendid profession under the Sun."

According to the premier, China had about 16 million teachers, including 12 million elementary and middle school teachers.

Wen called for bold reforms in the educational sector. China needs a large number of educators with a penetrating judgement on running schools, said the State leader.

The premier said education must meet the requirements of its own development law; the requirements of the changes of times, the requirements of the country in building a socialism with China's own characteristics; and the requirements of the "human-based" principle.

Teachers should be an "envoy of kindness", an "avatar of sincere love", and an "excellent-character" and "very skillful" educator with a "lofty professional moral", said the premier.

He urged teachers to be full of love and loyalty to their cause, be diligent in research and be qualified for their profession, and behave themselves as a model for students.

Wen also disclosed that a student had written to him on the issue of students' suicide. The student told him that many students had turned to suicide at a very young age, asking the premier to have a dialog with students on line on September 1, the day for a new academic year.

The number of suicidal students has been very small, but "it must draw great attention," Wen said.

He urged governments at all levels to support the educational sector and make concerted efforts to improve the working and living conditions of teachers.

(Xinhua News Agency October 12, 2009)

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