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China Expands Compulsory Education in Rural Areas
The Chinese government will put five billion yuan (US$603.89 million) before the end of 2005 into the second phase of its project to promote compulsory education, to help students in rural areas have schooling, Ministry of Education sources said in Beijing on Thursday.

The project will cover 522 county-level places in 19 provinces and regions in central and western parts of China, 462 of these in the west. A total of 124 million people will benefit from the project, among them 49 million of minority ethnic groups.

The project will also collect local funds totaling 2.25 billion yuan (US$271.75 million), to build and renovate 9,800 primary and middle schools, train 467,000 teachers, and purchase 37,600 sets of equipment, 2.1 million sets of desks and chairs and 24 million books.

The project will help more than 60,000 schools in rural areas set up a computer system. Students from poverty-stricken families will have textbooks free of charge or pay lower tuition fees.

As China continues its strategy to develop its west, 91.8 percent of the project's funds will flow into those western areas being developed.

The promotion of compulsory education in rural areas, initiated in 1996, is the largest educational project launched in the country since 1949 when New China was founded. By the end of 2000, the first phase of the project had cost a total of 12.5 billion yuan (US$1.51 billion), involving 852 county-level places in 22 provinces and regions and 255 million people.

So far, enrollment rates for primary and junior high schools in central China have risen to 99 percent and 91 percent respectively, from an original 97 percent and 77 percent. Among 469 county-level units in west China, 242 have popularized primary education, and 164 have popularized nine-year primary and junior high schooling.

(People’s Daily May 10, 2002)

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