Rural students in China's relatively backward western region will enjoy free compulsory education from 2006, according to a government decision.
The treatment will be granted to rural students in the central and eastern regions in 2007, according to the decision made Friday at an executive meeting of the State Council, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao.
In addition, students from poor rural families will be granted free textbooks. Boarding students will receive subsidies to support their daily lives, according to the decision.
The decision, which is on beefing up the guarantee system for rural compulsory education, also orders raising the basic standard for public expenses of rural primary and high schools, guaranteeing funds for schoolhouse maintenance and guaranteeing timely disbursement of wages to teachers.
It says the central government will share the cost for schoolhouse maintenance in the western and central regions with local governments.
"Various localities and departments should give priorities to the development of rural compulsory education and strive to address the problem of inadequate input to ensure sustained and health development of the sector," said the decision.
In recent years, China has beefed up support of rural compulsory education, which lacks adequate funds and high-quality teachers. Rate of dropouts is high in many rural schools.
(Xinhua News Agency December 24, 2005)