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Education Goals Achieved

The Chinese Ministry of Education said the country has achieved two "basic" goals: popularizing nine-year compulsory education and eliminating youth and adult illiteracy.

The ministry announced the news at a meeting marking the 15th anniversary of the Law on Compulsory Education.

The law was the first of its kind in China and made basic education compulsory.

Since its founding in 1949, the People's Republic has viewed education for all as a primary task.

In 1993, the Chinese government promised to popularize nine-year compulsory education by 2000 at the "International Basic Education Conference" attended by nine other populous countries.

It did not renege on that promise.

By the end of last year, 99.1 percent of children were attending school and the rate of youth and adult illiteracy had dropped to below 5.5 percent, according to the China Education Daily.

Despite recent economic development, China is aware of the fact that modernization will not be sustainable without the participation of a well-educated labor force.

To ensure the Law on Compulsory Education continues to function smoothly, China issued the "China Education Reform and Development Outline" in 1993, giving guidelines and standards.

From 1995 to 2000, 10 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion) of special funds were allotted by central and provincial/regional governments to develop compulsory education in the country's poorest regions.

This was the largest sum China had ever injected into basic education.

However, this is only one part of the picture.

Since China's population is so large, even a 5-percent illiteracy rate means a huge number of people.

The drop-out and illiteracy rate in China's underdeveloped regions is still high.

A reliable mechanism for funding compulsory education in poorer areas should be established, especially as China plans to launch tax and fee reforms in its rural regions.

To cut down farmers' financial burdens, China will free them from a long list of exorbitant fees and require them to pay only one agricultural tax, some surtaxes and a special agricultural product tax.

Under such reforms, rural compulsory education, which used to depend on fees, will experience further fund shortages.

As the tax-for-fees pilot project has just started in east China's Anhui Province, how to solve the problems in the education sector still remains unclear.

Experts believe investment channels should be diversified.

Globally, around one-third of basic education is financed by the private sector, a combination of commercial enterprises, non-governmental organizations and parents.

Moreover, education for children of China's floating population should not be overlooked.

Statistics from China Women's News indicate that there are about 80 million itinerant workers in China. Most of them are surplus labourers from the countryside seeking jobs in big cities.

Among them, there are 20 million school-age children.

These children are usually refused by local primary schools because they are not categorized as local residents.

Although in big cities such as Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen where the floating population is concentrated, some local primary schools accept children from outside, the 1,000-yuan (US$122) tuition fee each semester is still too high for most of these families.

To meet the demand, some privately-run primary schools have been built for these children, but many are not up to standard.

The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Public Security jointly issued the "temporary measures on the schooling of floating laborers' children," encouraging social forces to run public schools for them.

(China Daily 04/19/2001)

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