Provinces to carry burden of free education
Provincial, not county, governments must bear the cost of the free rural education programme under an amended bill presented to lawmakers yesterday at the start of a four-day session, Xinhua reported.
Under the plan, rural students would be exempt from all tuition and miscellaneous fees, including costs for books, winter heat and transport.
Teachers in urban public schools who have senior professional titles or are newly hired would be required to teach in rural areas for a period of time.
The amended Law on Compulsory Education is part of the central government's effort to alleviate poverty in the countryside.
'Education resources are not distributed fairly,' Education Minister Zhou Ji said. 'Disparity, among schools and regions and between cities and the countryside, is growing every day.'
Premier Wen Jiabao promised in March that all rural students would have free education beginning next year so they could complete the required nine years of schooling.
According to the Ministry of Education, all urban students completed nine years in 2004, while in rural areas 2.4 per cent of primary school children and 3.9 per cent of junior high school students dropped out.
Beijing has promised to allocate 218 billion yuan for compulsory education in the countryside in the next five years.
The policy applies to 14 million rural students in the nine-year compulsory education system in 592 counties designated as priorities for state poverty relief work, according to the report and other sources.
Zhang Jianhua , a State Council official in charge of education, science and culture, said the draft demanded expenses for this purpose be listed in the budget of the provincial governments.
'The governments are required to give priority to rural schools when they draw up the budget for compulsory education,' he said.
The State Council approved draft revisions last month, almost 10 months after 740 National People's Congress representatives filed the initiative at the last NPC session.
If the amended bill is passed, China will have its first revised compulsory education law in 20 years.