The draft amendment to China's Law on Compulsory Education, aiming to ensure a stable investment system for rural education, was tabled to lawmakers on Saturday for the first review at the beginning of a four-day legislative session.
The draft amendment to guarantee a nine-year free education for rural poor children will be deliberated for three rounds before being enacted.
"Education resources are not distributed fairly. Disparity, existing among schools and regions, and between cities and the countryside, is growing every day," said Education Minister Zhou Ji.
The education system, based on the 20-year-old compulsory education law, must be improved as the disparity of education resources has aroused great concern and "strong" complaints from the general public, Zhou said.
According to sources close to the legislative session, the draft amendment placed emphasis on specifying the funding responsibility of central and local governments for rural schools, which is expected to lift the educational burden of poverty-stricken rural families and to give rural kids equal opportunities as their peers in cities.
Zhang Jianhua, a State Council official in charge of education, science and culture, said the draft amendment asks the provincial governments, rather than county-level governments as stipulated in the to-be-revised law, to take the responsibility to fund compulsory education in their own provinces.
The draft also demands expenses for this purpose should be listed in the budget of the provincial governments, said Zhang, director of the Education, Science and Cultural Department of the Legislative Affairs Office, the State Council.
The Chinese government has promised to allocate 218 billion yuan (US$26.9 billion) in the next five years to boost compulsory education in rural areas.
Rural students are expected to be exempted from all tuition fees and other educational expenses, including the costs of textbooks, winter heat, and transportation, according to the government.
(Xinhua News Agency February 25, 2006)