'Legendary' teacher is not the retiring type

By Ma Zhenhuan in Hangzhou and Yang Jun in Guiyang (China Daily) Updated : 2019-11-12



After working as a principal at a top school in a prosperous province, it was not an easy decision to pack up and move to a rural high school in an impoverished area - especially when you have just retired. 

However, for Chen Liqun, a renowned high school headmaster in Zhejiang province, taking over a village school in southwestern China's Guizhou province was a good way to give back to students. 

Chen, now 62, worked as a teacher and principal at high schools in eastern China's Zhejiang province for 34 years. He retired from Hangzhou Xuejun High School, a top-ranking school in the provincial capital, in 2016, and like many of his peers could have gone on to make a lot of money.

Educators with Chen's experience are in high demand at private schools, and have the potential to rake in an annual salary of more than 2 million yuan ($283,000). 

He instead volunteered to take charge of Minzu High School in Guizhou's Taijiang county, 1,400 kilometers from his home. 

"I'm much happier to see an impoverished student enter the gates of a university rather than earn much more money," Chen said. Brought up in a rural part of Lin'an county, Hangzhou, Chen said he hoped to help children who are in the same situation that he was once in.

Taijiang is home to the Miao ethnic group and still regarded as a poverty-stricken area.

Minzu High School is the only public school in Taijiang. Before Chen's arrival in 2016, only about 100 students, or 10 percent of the school's population, obtained high enough scores in the national college entrance exam to enter college. At top schools in Zhejiang the rate is as high as 100 percent.

The student's parents had low expectations for their children and teachers struggled to implement their goals, resulting in a low college enrollment rate, according to Chen. Every year, more than 100 students dropped out and others, with brighter academic prospects, transferred to better schools.

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