Goal for education: Eliminate the gap

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More efforts are needed to achieve balanced development in China's compulsory education regime, as there are still great disparities between urban and rural areas - and even among schools in the same region - the Ministry of Education said on Wednesday.

Some officials still prefer to build "elite schools" by consolidating high-quality educational resources into several schools in urban areas, according to a ministry report.

"Some newly built residential areas in cities are not equipped with schools, and others only reserve small spaces for school campuses, causing parents to do whatever it takes to send their children to the best schools in other districts," the report said.

In Beijing for example, this means buying expensive and sometimes substandard homes in desirable school districts. The pressure to gain entry into a good school has led to a major increase in property prices, especially in Haidian and Xicheng districts, which are home to many of the capital's top schools.

"In addition, the standards for some small schools in rural areas are too low to have basic educational functions, while some small rural schools have been closed down, causing great difficulty for children there in getting an education," the report added.

Xiong Bingqi, vice-president of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said the disparities are "prompting many rural students to migrate to city schools to get a better education, leading to class overcrowding".

According to a study by the institute, the worst overcrowding was at a primary school in populous Henan province, with 113 pupils per classroom.

China intends to phase out supersized classes - defined as more than 66 students - by the end of this year and eliminate large classes of more than 56 by 2020, according to a 2016 guideline released by the State Council.

The government has made great efforts to reduce class sizes and achieve more balanced development in education, He Xiuchao, director of the ministry's supervision bureau, said on Wednesday.

"Through continuous efforts over the past five years, 81 percent of counties have basically achieved balanced development in compulsory education, and we aim to raise the number to 85 percent this year," he said.

The country has built or expanded around 260,000 primary and secondary schools and added 27.3 million admissions, as well as 1.7 million teachers, over the past five years, He said.

Striving for educational balance is an ongoing process.

"We will continue to supervise counties that have met the standards for balanced education and push for a city-level or even provincial-level balanced development," He said.

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