NW China county extends free education to pre-schoolers

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Pre-schoolers in the Subei Mongolian Autonomous County in northwest China's Gansu Province will receive free education starting from next year, local officials said on Monday.

The move will turn Subei into the third county in the province to provide 15-year free education, from kindergarten to high school, while most regions in China stick to a nine-year compulsory education covering only primary and junior high schools.

Qi Ling, director the Subei education bureau, said that local government regarded the measure as "one of the real work" to benefit local residents and had allocated 200,000 yuan (about 29,300 U.S. dollars) for it.

Earlier this year, the Aksay Kazak Autonomous County and Sunan Yugur Autonomous County in Gansu adopted the same measure.

With farming and animal husbandry as the main economic pillars, all of the three counties are scarcely inhabited. In Subei, for instance, there are only 13,000 people scattered in a land area of 70,000 square kilometers. The population in Sunan and Aksay is 35,000 and 10,000 respectively.

There are no senior high schools in Aksay and Subei due to the small number of students, while parents there have to send their children to nearby cities such as Jiuquan and Dunhuang for high-school education.

To ease local residents' financial burden, Qi said the government not only paid for tuition fees but also granted living and transportation subsidies for students until they graduate from high schools.

Ha Deng, an official with the Education Department of Gansu Province, said that the policy adopted by the three counties aimed to encourage parents to send their children to school.

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