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Education Gap Overtakes Economic Disparity

According to research reported by China Youth Daily on June 26, the education gap between urban and rural areas is increasing even faster than differences in economic development, despite central government efforts.


Drop-out rates in 17 rural middle schools were recorded by the survey. The highest rate was 74 percent, and the average 43 percent. One goal of the national nine-year compulsory education policy is to reduce it to less than 3 percent.


Schools in many rural areas had three classes in grade one, two in grade two and only one in grade three.


The survey, by Shanghai's East China Normal University, was included in a program called "Case Research into China's Key Education Policies in Transition," launched three years ago with funding from the Ministry of Education.


The program aims to provide accurate information on the real situation nationwide and to find reasons for differences in outcomes as well as formulating detailed public education policy proposals.


In cities, only 2 percent of primary school leavers were not enrolled in middle school, compared to 10 percent in rural areas.


In 2001, the national average rate of middle school leavers entering high school was 53 percent, while in cities it was 70-100 percent. The rate in the countryside was only 30-40 percent, and some remote areas reported rates of less than 30 percent.  


Since the continued implementation of China's "Western Development" policy, the country's central provinces have become the lowest funded in terms of education. In 2001, the average annual education input per primary school student was 2,075 yuan (US$250) in east China, 851 yuan (US$103) in central China and 987 yuan (US$119) in western China.


Professor Yuan Zhenguo, the sponsor of the program, said the education gap is now much bigger than economy gap due to under funding in rural areas.


(China.org.cn by Wang Zhiyong July 4, 2005)


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