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Job Satisfaction of School Teachers

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  • Gansu Survey of Children and FamiliesGansu Survey of Children and Families Papers University of Pennsylvania Year 2005 Keeping Teachers Happy: Job Satisfaction among Primary School Teachers in Rural Northwest China Tanja Sargent Emily Hannum University of Pennsylvania University of Pennsylvania, [email protected] paper is posted at ScholarlyCommons.http://repository.upenn.edu/gansu papers/1
  • Keeping Teachers Happy: Job Satisfaction among Primary School Teachers in Rural Northwest China TANJA SARGENT AND EMILY HANNUMIntroductionFrameworks for understanding the production of academic achievement andthe labor force outcomes of schooling often consider teacher quality to bea key input.1 The distribution of quality teachers is an essential factor drivingthe transmission of inequality, because the recruitment and retention ofqualied teachers tends to be problematic in areas of high poverty, such asinner cities in the United States and rural areas in developing nations.2 Thisleads to a situation in which the neediest children are often paired with theleast qualied teachers. Despite the importance of teachers as an elementof educational stratication, very little research has emerged about the factorsthat are conducive to maintaining a quality teacher workforce in low-resourcecommunities of developing countries. We begin to address this gap with astudy of teacher job satisfaction in impoverished rural areas in northwestChina. In China, teacher retention is a growing concern. From a long-termperspective, market transition and the opening up of labor markets hascreated alternate career paths for current and potential teachers.3 Perhaps We wish to acknowledge extremely helpful comments from three anonymous reviewers and fromthe CER editors. This research is part of an ongoing study made possible through grants from theSpencer Foundation, the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health, and theWorld Bank. The rst author was supported during her work on this article from a Foreign Languageand Area Studies fellowship and a David L. Boren graduate fellowship. Earlier versions of this articlewere presented at the International Sociology Association Research Committee 28 on Social Straticationand Mobility, New York University (August 2003), and at the Comparative and International EducationSociety Annual Meeting, Salt Lake City (March 2004). 1 Linda Darling-Hammond, Doing What Matters Most: Investing in Quality Teaching (New York: Na-tional Commission on Teaching and Americas Future, 1997). 2 Linda Darling-Hammond and J. Green, Teacher Quality and Equality, in Access to Knowledge,ed. P. Keating and J. I. Goodlad (New York: College Entrance Examination Board, 1990). See also JosephP. Farrell and Joao Oliveira, Teachers in Developing Countries: Improving Effectiveness and Managing Costs (Washington, DC: World Bank, 1993); Linda Ankrah-Dove, The Deployment and Training of Teachersfor Remote Rural Schools in Less-Developed Countries, International Review of Education 28 (1982):327; Robert E. Kliltgaard, Khalil Y. Siddiqui, Mohammad Arshad, Naheed Niaz, and Muneer Khan,The Economics of Teacher Education in Pakistan, Comparative Education Review 29, no. 1 (1985):97110. 3 Xu Zhongwei discusses the problem of net movement of teachers out of the teaching professionand into the commercial sector, such as in foreign joint venture companies, other private companies,hotels, and the travel industry, where the working conditions are better and the opportunities forprofessional advancement more numerous. See Xu Zhongwei, Shichang jingji yu jiaoshi liudong [TheComparative Education Review, vol. 49, no. 2. 2005 by the Comparative and International Education Society. All rights reserved.0010-4086/2005/4902-0003$05.00Comparative Education Review 173
  • SARGENT AND HANNUMeven more important, the decentralization of school nance in China hasdisequalized the economic resources available to schools in different locales.4During the same time period when school resources have begun increasinglyto vary, good teachers are gaining greater exibility to move to better jobswithin the school system.5 As teacher labor markets continue to evolve, thistrend will increase the career choices of individuals. This trend also meansthat schools serving poor rural communities will face new barriers to retainingqualied teachers. What conditions keep rural teachers happy with their work? In this article,we address this question by examining the factors leading to satisfactionamong teachers serving poor rural communities. We analyze a survey of ruralprimary school teachers, principals, and village leaders conducted in the year2000 in Gansu, a northwestern province that is one of Chinas poorest.6 Welook at three measures of job satisfaction: whether teachers perceive teachingto be their ideal profession, whether teachers want to change their profession,and whether teachers are satised with the local education bureau.7 Drawingon earlier research, we test hypotheses about three kinds of factors associatedwith teacher satisfaction: 1. Community factors: teachers are more satised in communities with greater economic and social resources, and in communities that are less remote. 2. School environment factors: teachers are more satised in schools with better economic resources, in larger schools, in schools where there are more opportunities for professional advancement, in schools where the workload is lighter, and in schools where there is an organizational climate characterized by experienced leadershipmarket economy and teacher turnover], in Shichang jingji dachao xia de jiaoyu gaige, ed. Jin Xibin (Guang-zhou: Guangdong Educational Press, 1998), 304. See also Yanjie Bian, Chinese Social Stratication andSocial Mobility, Annual Review of Sociology 28 (2002): 91116, for an excellent review of increasing socialand labor market mobility in postreform China. 4 Albert Park, Scott Rozelle, Christine Wong, Changqing Ren, Distributional Consequences ofReforming Local Public Finance in China, China Quarterly 147 (1996): 75178; Mun C. Tsang, FinancialReform of Basic Education in China, Economics of Education Review 15, no. 4 (1996): 42344. 5 This is as a result of the new employment-contract system for teachers, which is gradually beingimplemented in China. See Yi Guobin, Nongcun zhongxiaoxue jiaoshi pinrenzhi de shijian yu sikao[The rural primary and middle school teacher employment-contract system: Implementation and con-siderations], China Education and Research Network (P. R. China), August 14, 2004, available at http://www.edu.cn/20010919/3002166.shtml. 6 Provinces that are classied as being in the northwest are Gansu, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia,Qinghai, Shaanxi, and Xinjiang. These provinces share many similarities in terms of climate, geography,economic, and social indicators. They are also home to many ethnic minority groups. 7 One reviewer pointed out that our measurement of job satisfaction is not consistent with strategiesemployed in the Western industrial psychology literature, which focuses on developing detailed de-scriptions of specic dimensions of work satisfaction. This literature is certainly relevant to understandingthe psychology of teachers in China, and indeed many Chinese scholars of teacher job satisfaction drawheavily on this research (see n. 18). However, we are more interested in teacher satisfaction as asociological phenomenon rather than a psychological one. For this reason, we seek to discover therelationships between feelings of overall satisfaction and community, school, and individual backgroundfactors.174 May 2005
  • KEEPING TEACHERS HAPPY that supports teacher collaboration. 3. Teacher characteristics: young teachers, male teachers, unmarried teachers, and teachers with greater human capital are less satised, while teachers who are more socially similar to the local community are more satised.We begin the article with a discussion of research on teacher satisfaction, ingeneral, and in the context of rural Gansu, in particular. We then providea brief overview of the data and methods used in the study, followed bybivariate and multivariate analyses of teacher satisfaction. We close by con-sidering implications of the main results for understanding educational op-portunity and inequality in rural Gansu, as well as for further research onthe role of teachers as elements of educational opportunity and inequalityin developing countries.Background and ContextTeachers and Educational Stratication Teachers are an essential link in the transmission of educational oppor-tunity to poor children. Teacher job satisfaction has, in turn, been tied toteachers work performance, including teachers involvement, commitment,and motivation on the job. Teacher job dissatisfaction is closely associatedwith teacher absenteeism and a tendency toward attrition from the teachingprofession.8 Teacher commitment may also be an important factor deter-mining the successful implementation of educational reforms in schools.9 InChina, the current era of educational reforms aims to bring about a shifttoward more student-centered teaching and learning, a greater emphasis oncritical thinking and the application of skills, and the establishment of a moredemocratic classro
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