CHINA has embarked on a massive programme to retrain its 10 million teachers in an attempt to improve teaching quality and sharpen their political awareness.
All teachers will be retrained every five years. They will also have to sit an examination and schools will have the right to force them to resit within a given deadline if they fail.
Ultimately, according to Jian Xiao-li, a teacher-trainer in Guangzhou, this will mean teachers could face the sack.
"Most are not yet qualified for the job they are doing. If they do not have a qualification they could lose their jobs," she said.
Teachers will be retrained in politics, ideology, morality, subject knowledge, modern pedagogy, education research and analysis, teaching skills, the use of information technology, and child psychology.
The balance of subjects reflects the fact that schools are regarded as a key channel for the Chinese Communist party to maintain political influence and control.
Topics in political educatio include, for example, socialism with Chinese characteristics, the building of New China and Deng Xiao-peng's thought. It also stresses the professional morality of teachers, anti-corruption and information about the law.
The state-owned China Daily said retraining had become a priority because some badly-trained staff had been too harsh with pupils. Their punishments had driven some students to suicide.
Newly-qualified teachers must receive a minimum of 120 hours' additional training. And serving teachers who do not hold the equivalent of the certificate in education, who constitute the majority, must complete at least 240 hours. Key teachers who hold certificates will also be required to improve their teaching skills and knowledge, though the hours have not been specified.
The introduction of exams comes as provinces are moving to end teachers' right to a job for life. Schools in Beijing, Qingdao Province and Shandong Province are being given the freedom to hire teachers, fire those without qualifications, and set their own pay scales to reward the best.