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Disparity of Education Investment Exists
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There is still a marked gap in investment in education across different regions in China, despite increased government funds, a report said.

The report was released by a supervision team under the Ministry of Education on Friday, after an investigation into the statistics of the years 2000 to 2004 in 2,800 counties.

By the end of 2004, no public funds were assigned to primary schools in 163 counties and secondary schools in 142 counties, and the operation and maintenance of the schools had to depend on miscellaneous sources.

In 2004, one student in an urban primary school could use 2.9 sets of teaching facilities by average, but one student in a rural primary school only had one set of teaching facility. Looking at this disparity by regions, the ratio in primary schools between eastern regions and western regions was 1.8:1, and that of secondary schools was 2.2:1.

The report showed that the number of qualified teachers in urban primary schools was originally 2.2 percentage points higher than rural ones, and now this figure has lowered to 1.5 percentage points. If compared by regions, the number of qualified teachers in West China was two percentage points lower than in East China, one percent down from 2000.

Zheng Fuzhi, head of the supervision team, told Xinhua that educational input in primary and secondary schools in the country's rural areas has a six percent higher growth rate than in urban areas. And the ratio of educational investment between urban and rural areas lowered to 1.2:1, from the original 1.5:1.

Budgeted educational investment for a rural primary school student was 1,014 yuan in 2004, from 413 yuan in 2000. For a rural secondary student it was 1,074 yuan, from 534 yuan in 2000.

The report said infrastructure of rural schools had almost reached the same level with urban ones. From 2002 to 2004, newly built and rebuilt classrooms and dorms in rural areas covered more than 100 million square meters. Yet teaching facilities were still in a short demand in West and Central China where most rural populations live.

In 2004, every 100 rural secondary school students shared 3.2 sets of computers, the number of which increased by 60 percent from that of 2000.

Earlier this year, Premier Wen Jiabao said in a speech that the underdevelopment of public services including education and public health is the weakest link in building a new socialist countryside.

In a blueprint for a new socialist countryside drawn up by the Chinese government, every farmer's child will be able to go to school. In the next two years, China will make rural students exempt from all education tuition fees during the period of compulsory education and provide free textbooks and boarding subsidies for students from needy families. And in the next five years, China will spend 218 billion yuan (US$27.25 billion) to help improve education in its rural areas.

(Xinhua News Agency February 25, 2006)

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