Speech by Zhou Ji, Minister of Education

September 12, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning!

The accessibility to education and wellbeing of students from impoverished families has been tearing the heartstrings of the whole society. Friends from the press circle also continuously pay much attention to this issue. We are deeply grateful.

CPC General Secretary Hu Jintao has emphasized for many times that education relates to every family and benefits generation after generation, it is an important reflection of the idea that development must be for the people and by the people and its achievement should be shared among the people. It is our party and government's obligation to guarantee the access to education for the public, as well as the demand for promoting social fairness, justice and building a harmonious society. Education equity is an important aspect of social fairness. In order to build up and fulfill the scientific view of development and to promote social harmony, we must insist on giving priority to education development, and take education equity as a basic state policy, we must endeavor to embody social fairness in education and make it possible for every student to have access to good and affordable education.

Since the reform and opening up, especially in the new century, historic leap and great achievements have been made in the development of education. With a right direction, breakthrough has been made in the reform. Hundred millions of youngsters have been provided opportunities that may change their lives. In the past years, we gave rural education a strategic importance and actively promote the "two basics" in western rural areas. We established funds guarantee mechanism for rural compulsory education, actively carried out the “two exemptions and one subsidy” policy, vigorously developed vocational education, earnestly improved the quality of higher education and promoted the coordinated development of education, particularly public education. All the above mentioned efforts are for the coordinated development between urban and rural areas, between different types and levels of education, between the scope, structure and quality of the education, aiming at promoting education equity and ensuring people can enjoy the opportunity of receiving good education.

The guarantee for the accessibility and affordability of impoverished students for schools is an important aspect to promote education equity. To maintain the continuous, sustainable and healthy development of our educational undertaking, we must consolidate the achievements, deepen reform, improve quality and sustain development; we must seriously face and solve those deep-rooted problems in the process of educational reform and development, one of which is to provide sufficient financial aid for students from impoverished families.

The CPC Central Committee and the State Council attach great importance to the work of financial aid for those poverty-stricken students. A series of measures have been taken to give more financial support to them. At compulsory education stage, tuition and miscellaneous fees of those students have been totally exempted. In vocational education sector, state grants have been set up for secondary vocational schools. At the higher education level, an aid system centered by state student loans, integrated by scholarships, loans, grants, subsidy and reduction has been basically formulated for college students from impoverished families. Remarkable outcomes have been achieved, but it is still far from enough, improvements need to be made

Premier Wen Jiabao solemnly declared in this year's report on government's work: from this year's autumn semester, a sound state scholarship and grants system will be established in HEIs, vocational colleges and secondary vocational schools; meanwhile, state student loan system will be further carried out.

This is another significant move following the total exemption of tuition and miscellaneous fees for rural students receiving compulsory education, and the promotion of education equity, which fully embodies the advantage of socialist system. It is an action of great significance and profound impact to push forward the construction of socialist harmonious society.

The new financial aid system can be summarized in one sentence as: 50 billion yuan annually to support 20 million students. To be specific, from now on, each year the central and local fiscal input for student aid as well as aid funding arranged by schools, totaling 50 billion yuan each year, will support 20 million students, among which 4 million are college students and 16 million are secondary vocational school students. In higher education sector, an aid system for college students from impoverished families will be formulated, including state scholarship, state encouragement scholarship, state grants, free education for students majoring in teaching, state student loan, work-study program and exemption and reduction of tuition fees. In secondary vocational schools, the state grants support all the full-time students from rural as well as urban impoverished families. An aid system composed of state grants, combination of study and work, apprenticeship, part-time study, exemption and reduction of tuition fees will be set up. The establishment of new aid policies will make higher education and vocational education affordable to every impoverished student. To ensure every student have access to good and affordable education is steadily becoming a reality.

In recent months, in order to fully implement the new policies, according to the disposition of the central government, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance have been working closely; all levels of local governments have taken a series of practical measures to push forward the fulfilling of the new aiding system. Much work has been done by all the higher educational institutions and secondary vocational schools. At present, the new aiding policy moves smoothly and achieves good reflection.

The CPC Central Committee and State Council attach great importance and enormous care to education development. Just a few days ago, on August 31, the colloquium of national excellent teachers was held in Zhongnaihai. State leaders including General Secretary Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao cordially met the representatives of excellent teachers all around the country. General Secretary Hu delivered an important speech, in which he deeply elaborated the important position and role of education in advancing the country's development and rejuvenating the nation, stressed that we shall consistently stick to and implement the principle of putting education development in a strategic priority position, call for the public to respect teachers and value education undertaking, develop education tremendously. The General Secretary' remarks deeply inspired and exhilarated teachers and educators. We will work diligently and step vigorously forward to contribute more to the construction of socialist modernization and the great rejuvenation of our country, striving to make people satisfied with education undertaking. We will greet the 17th National Conference of CPC with excellent achievements.

Now I am glad to take your questions.