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Rein in Collection of Rampant School Fees

As the autumn school season draws nearer, a string of public hearings on compulsory schooling fees have been or are being held across the country.

As required by the Ministry of Education, a new payment system for schooling will be introduced nationwide at all primary and junior middle schools this autumn.

Under the new program, primary and secondary schools will be forbidden to levy miscellaneous fees on students for any reason. Instead, students, who enjoy free tuitions under the Compulsory Education Law, will only have to pay a set fee. The amount, for instance, fees for textbooks and exercise books, will be decided by appropriate provincial education authorities.

Ad hoc collection of schooling fees from students has registered an outpouring of public resentment and anger in recent years.

In some places, primary and secondary students are required to hand in numerous fees, some of which sound ridiculous, such as an air-conditioning fee, or a computer-use fee.

How much sway public hearings, which are required before price tags will finally be decided, will have on any decisions reached remains unknown.

We hope the Ministry of Education's latest bid to rein in the rampant unscrupulous fees bears fruit.

At the same time, it would be helpful to ponder the question as to why the current situation came about in the first place.

It is true some schools' management staff have collected the much-resented fees for personal gain, for example, providing the money in the form of bonuses to personnel.

However, it is also true that some schools are actually "forced" to resort to such fees, since they are in dire need of money to improve educational facilities or simply to pay teachers their salaries.

It is no secret that educational undertakings are underfunded in many places.

Strained education budgets are to some extent to blame as the cause of the rampant ad hoc fees being collected

However, it cannot serve as a legitimate excuse to continue the fee-collecting practices the new rules seek to avoid. It should still be taken into consideration as the new program is implemented.

(China Daily August 18, 2004)

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