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Free compulsory education to spread to urban children in 2008
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China will continue to spend more on education next year and spread the free nine-year compulsory education to urban children, said Finance Minister Xie Xuren.

The government would continue to improve the funding system to guarantee free nine-year compulsory education currently enjoyed by 150 million rural children, while spreading it to their urban counterparts next year, Xie told an annual conference of the Ministry of Finance in Beijing.

Starting from the spring term, China would increase the funding for free textbooks used for the national compulsory courses, and the local governments would provide more money for free textbooks for local compulsory courses, he said.

Local governments would also provide scholarships to cover the living costs of boarding students from poor families. The central government would provide half of the education funding for areas in central and west China, while provincial governments in those areas would cover the rest of the costs.

Local governments in east China would provide all education fees with some supplementary funding from the central government.

Xie said the government would issue new standards for per capita expenditure of students in primary and middle schools, and put those standards into effect within the next two years.

He said the allowance for maintenance and refurbishing of rural schools in central and west China would also be raised with special financial support to high-altitude and cold areas.

In addition, the government would continue free education for students taking courses for teaching careers at normal schools and provide scholarships for poor undergraduates and students at vocational schools.

According to Xie, the first 11 months saw 557.8 billion yuan (about 74.3 billion U.S. dollars) of fiscal expenditure used for education, up 32.7 percent compared with the same period last year.

As a result of the implementation of scholarships for the poor, about four million college students and 16 million secondary vocational school students had benefited.

(Xinhua News Agency December 24, 2007)

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