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Free Training Offered to Residents in Zhejiang

Zhejiang Province is offering free educational coupons to all residents - both old and young - who want to enroll in courses outside of the usual curriculum.

Residents of Hangzhou, capital of the province, can apply for a 10-yuan (US$1.20) coupon, which entitles them to lifelong training in such areas as computer technology and music appreciation. Classes are held at local community schools.

The city government is investing 628,000 yuan (US$76,000) in the program, officials said.

"Many people do not consider taking courses outside those taught at public school," said Jiang Li, director of the Hangzhou Education Bureau. "It is the government's responsibility to create an atmosphere of lifelong learning."

Jiang emphasized that additional training programs are important for those who want to refine their skills and apply them to rewarding careers.

Rui'an, a city in southeast Zhejiang, has issued more than 400 education coupons for migrant children, who generally cannot afford a good education.

Each coupon exempts students from all tuition costs.

Migrant children can choose any primary or secondary school in the city.

Schools are strictly forbidden from refusing admission to migrants.

"Migrant workers have contributed a lot to the city. Their children should be granted equal educational opportunities," said Ye Yaoguo, head of the Rui'an Education Bureau.

Previously, migrant parents had to pay a large sum, usually 5,000 yuan, for their children to study in local public schools.

The high expense dissuaded many from applying at all.

Often migrants, many of whom have come from Anhui and Sichuan provinces in search of a better life, had no choice but to send their kids to dilapidated schools run by migrants themselves.

The coupon system is expected to significantly improve the educational environment for the migrants, many of whom have suffered from discriminatory practices throughout the country and who are eager to work hard and make important contributions to society.

(eastday.com February 28, 2004)

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