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Farmers Spend More on Education
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As living conditions improve among farmers, more are putting emphasis on spending their money on education instead of clothing or food.

Expenditures on consumers goods, such as agricultural materials, clothing and food, have been uppermost in farmers' minds for hundreds of years.

According to new surveys, however, more and more farmers in China are changing their spending habits as the rural economy grows and living conditions improve

Surveys conducted by The Consumers' Association (CCA) show that 44.3 percent of a farming family's annual income goes towards the education of children.

That's 25.3 percent higher than expenditures on materials and 22.3 percent higher than money spent on home decorations.

While many rural consumers have set foot on the high-end of the consumer spectrum, a great number of farmers still strive for a better life.

Wang Zailan, in her 40s, is an illiterate housewife in Lianfeng, Shizhu County in Southwest China's Chongqing Municipal City.

A black and white TV set is the only household electrical appliances her family owns. Her elder son is now at university and the youngest has just graduated from junior middle school.

To ensure the children's education, the family has accumulated a debt of 10,000 yuan (US$1,200).

"I had a bitter life for a lack of schooling," she said. "I won't expect my sons to go through a similar fate."

Another farmer, Ma Haiying, 32, once worked in South China's Guangdong Province. She has now returned to her hometown in Qianxian County, in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province to look after her daughter, who is a grade three student in primary school.

"To go to school is the best option for the growth of my child. There are no young parents around me who fail to send their children to school."

According to the statistics revealed by the CCA, age, income level and gender are all the elements affecting farmer's outlook towards education.

The older the farmers are, the less enthusiastic they are about education.

"My husband supports me and he is still working in Guangdong Province now. We want to save money for my daughter to go to university," Ma said.

Ma Jin, Ma Haiying's 61-year-old father, explained the traditional views espoused by many farmers.

"It used to be mean to spend such a sum of money on seemingly useless education. But nowadays more and more elderly people like me are also aware of the importance of education," he said.

Chang Yaowu, a sociologist at Chongqing University, said agriculture is the foundation of China's growth. Eighty percent of the population are farmers so changes in farmers' awareness is of great importance, both to the development of the rural economy and improvements in the country's quality of life, he said.

(China Daily February 3, 2004)




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