There are groups of people in China who have low income and live a poor life. They hold a relatively disadvantaged position in society. We call them low-income groups. The basic reason is that they lack knowledge and skills that enable them to obtain a good profession or high income. How to solve the problem? Through education. Only education can help them out of poverty.
Most Chinese farmers are in these groups, with a key factor being that they have received low-level education. A survey by D. Gale Johnson, former president of the American Economic Association, economics professor at University of Chicago and an honorary professor of Peking University who has done considerable research on the gap between Chinese urban and rural areas, shows that Chinese farmers’ income grows by 3.5-5.5 percent if they go to school for one more year. That is to say, if Chinese farmers can receive education for four more years, the income gap between urban and rural workers will be reduced by 15-20 percent. The influence of education to farmers is not immediate, but strong and far-reaching.
Similarly, the first group of laid-off workers in cities are often those lacking knowledge and skills. They didn’t get enough education when they were children, nor did they continue their education or improve their knowledge during work. Once they are laid off, it becomes more difficult for them to find another job.
“Graduation of a poor student from college means graduation of a family from low-income groups,” said Su Yan from Pufang Group of Hubei Province at the recently concluded fifth Session of the Ninth National People’s Congress (NPC). However, education fees are becoming higher and higher, and a poor family can hardly support a child through to graduation. To avoid the unfavorable consequences of this scenario, Su has called for policies in favor of low-income groups.
Compared with other investments, investment in education will reap rewards in at least 15 years. For the benefit of the whole society, government must take the opportunity to popularize national education. The rapid economic development of Western countries after World War II in a large degree can be attributed to the improvement of the quality of education.
In the Report on the Implementation of the Central and Local Budgets for 2001 and on the Draft Central and Local Budgets for 2002, Chinese Finance Minister Xiang Huaicheng said that China gradually has increased its investment in science and education gradually and effectively implemented its strategy of developing the country through science and education. Expenditures for education from the central budget for 2001 totaled 21.3 billion yuan, of which expenditures in higher education were 11.816 billion yuan. In 2002, a total of 25. 1 billion yuan of expenditures for education and a total of 40.8 billion yuan of expenditures for science and technology are earmarked in the central budget. The expenditure in higher education is 15.098 billion yuan, up 27.77 percent from the previous year. Despite this great progress, the investment in education of China is only one-third the average level of developed countries and half the average level of developing countries.
As early as the 1980s, some warned that China would face serious results if its backwardness in education were not changed quickly. Recently, deputies to NPC and members of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) also called for greater investment in higher education.
Basic education is another big concern of NPC deputies and CPPCC members. Wu Changshun, former president of Beijing No.5 Middle School, urged that compulsory education free of charge be realized as early as possible. China’s per capita gross domestic product (GDP) exceeded US$800 in 2000, he said, so it is possible for the country to realize the compulsory education. Liu Bin, who has been in charge of basic education for 16 years, said that compulsory education in rural areas must be supported with government’s financial budget.
At present, some 10 percent of primary school students, 50 percent of junior high school students and 75 percent of senior high school students still cannot gain access to a higher level education. And college students only account for 9 percent of youths of the same age. While in the United States, Europe, Japan and Republic of Korea, the figure goes to 35-50 percent.
To change this situation, approaches to education investment body must become more diversified. In 1999, China deepened its reform in higher education. Many colleges and universities began enrolling more students, and a lot of private funds went into education, especially into higher education. Premier Zhu Rongji took education investment and consumption as an important part of expanding domestic needs. If a college student spends 10,000 yuan each year, the 500,000 students by extra enrolling will consume 5 billion yuan. This will be a great contribution to China, which is now experiencing deflation.
Another way to raise education funds is to sell education lottery tickets, according to Zhu Jiongqiang, a CPPCC member. China’s education needs a large sum of money since it covers a wide range of people. Based on experiences in issuing welfare and sports lottery tickets, Zhu thought the education lottery ticket also was possible. What’s more, China can learn from foreign countries by encouraging private and enterprise donations to education and then giving preferences to donators.
After China joins the World Trade Organization, education globalization will become a trend. Foreign education funding will come to China sooner or later. There are great opportunities for the Chinese education cause. If China can change ideas early and perfect its operation model and relative rules, Chinese education will surely face a new situation.
(科学时报 [Science Times] translated by Li Jinhui for china.org.cn March 26, 2002)