Legislators attending the current First Session of the 10th National People's Congress in Beijing have called for a revision of the existing law on compulsory education.
A total of 376 deputies to the NPC, China's top lawmaking body, have jointly signed a motion on revising the 17-year-old law on compulsory education. They include government officials, private entrepreneurs, experts and scholars, as well as farmers and workers, and constitute nearly one eighth of the total NPC deputies.
"In my memory there has never been a motion winning so much support from so many legislators in the NPC's history," said an NPC staffer in charge of handling the deputies' motions on Friday.
"We all share the view that top priority should be given to education if the Chinese nation wants to attain its long-term development goals," said Wang Bintai, a deputy from Jiangsu Province and one of the motion's initiators.
Statistics showed that by 2002, 90 percent of the Chinese population had undergone nine years of compulsory education as a result of the enforcement of the law since July 1986.
However, there are still approximately 450 counties in China where tens of millions of people remain outside the compulsory education scheme. Most of the counties are situated in the outlying and underdeveloped western regions, a traditional habitat to many of China's ethnic minorities.
Meanwhile, the recent years also witnessed a widening gap in compulsory education development in different regions of the country.
"In my school there are colored TV sets, slide projectors, desktop and laptop computers and Internet connection in every classroom, but some schools in the rural areas are housed in dilapidated buildings with no teaching facilities but a blackboard and a piece of chalk for each room," said NPC deputy Ren Jichang, headmaster of a famed middle school in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province.
Ren said he was also worried to see many children drop out of school because of difficulties faced by their families. A survey found that some 20 to 30 million teenagers in China leave schools for this reason last year.
The revised compulsory education law should explicitly state the liability of governments at all levels for guaranteeing adequate funds be allocated to education, said the deputies in their motion.
It should also be more concerned about the "disadvantageous group of people" in society.
(Eastday.com March 17, 2003)