President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, the eve of Teachers' Day in China, urged Party organs and governments to make teaching the most respected job in China.
Xi was speaking at Beijing Normal University, where he visited labs and teaching sessions, talking with students and faculty.
The improvement of education and the prosperity of the nation need teachers with sound ethics, great teaching skills and high energy levels, said Xi.
He called on teachers to set the bar high and dedicate themselves to the cause of modernization. He urged governments at all levels to put education on the top of their agenda and continue education reform.
At a session for teachers from rural areas, Xi said more work was needed in poor western, rural, remote and island areas. He told the teachers that "China will be strong if youth is strong; China will be strong if the central and western regions are strong."
In a speech at the end of his tour, Xi said that good teachers, generation after generation, are the hope of a nation. "The importance of teachers lies in shaping souls, forging lives and crafting humans... To become a good teacher, one must have lofty ideals, solid knowledge and a kind heart."
Xi promised education would be a priority, with increased government input and more reform. Government spending on education has accounted for 4 percent of GDP since 2012. China is the world's biggest developing country and its education service still has weaknesses. Access to education is still limited and varies between regions. Infrastructure and management of schools, as well as overall educational quality, are not what people expect, he said.
The income of teachers, especially those in rural and less developed regions, is not enough, he added.
He urged Communist Party committees and governments to focus on the professionalism of teachers, to care about them, pay them better, and protect their rights and interests, making teaching the most respected job in China.
"Today's students are the major driving force that will realize our great Chinese dream: the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Teachers are dream builders, undertaking their mission to forge a 'dream team'," he said, urging all teachers to make a greater contribution to the educational cause.
Xi warned against teachers who misbehave. Those who lose their integrity and even break the law should be dismissed and punished by law, he said.
"We should have zero tolerance of a teacher who harms students," he said.
Before the tour, Xi, together with other senior leaders including Li Keqiang, Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli, met and congratulated award winning teachers at a ceremony in Beijing.