CHINA is to clamp down on educational institutions charging exorbitant tuition fees, particularly in areas where free education is guaranteed by the state. While many of China's government-run colleges and schools are constrained by a shortage of funds, institutions sponsored by enterprises, local governments and even individuals have mushroomed in recent years. But due to a lack of legislation, education officials have already warned against 'chaos' on campuses of some non-government schools, including arbitrary fees, unsuitable facilities and unqualified teaching staff. At a national education telephone conference held yesterday, the Minister of the State Education Commission, Zhu Kaixuan, condemned schools which charged unreasonably high tuition fees under all sorts of pretexts. 'Some schools, equipped with good facilities, tend to charge extremely high fees from students who wish to enroll,' Mr Zhu was quoted by China News Service as saying. 'Some institutions which are supposed to provide free education have asked for fees from students to raise funds for day-to-day running costs'. Mr Zhu said the authorities had strived to crackdown on all practices which went against the country's basic rule of providing nine years of free education to all schoolchildren. According to official statistics, there are more than 60,000 non-government schools in China today. They include about 16,900 kindergartens, 4,030 primary schools, 800 high schools, 200 vocational schools, nearly 1,000 colleges and more than 30,000 schools providing short-term job training and other courses. Guaranteed funding for China's education at all levels and the reform of the education budget's allocation were the keys to better education, according to the minister. 'The authorities should perfect the monitoring system in order to ensure proper and efficient use of the education funds,' he said. Apart from improving the financial situation, Mr Zhu said it was equally important to have a sound framework of legislation overseeing the development of education. China's first Education Law will be submitted to the National People's Congress for deliberation in March, Mr Zhu said. He urged the Government to attach greater importance to investment in education and ensure the 'stability and reliability' of the source of funding. 'Our main tasks for the year are to further consolidate basic education, promote vocational education, strengthen the development of adult education and continue reforms in ideological education,' the minister said. Although Beijing has banned the establishment of new higher education institutions in the next few years, Mr Zhu told the conference that reforms in higher education would continue, with emphasis on quality and efficiency. New higher education institutions could be established if necessary, but only by the re-organisation of existing schools, he said.