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Education Report Identifies Achievements, Challenges

The Ministry of Education released the National Report on China's Education for All in Beijing yesterday, saying that budgets allocated for rural education had increased dramatically between 2000 and 2004, but that rural and literacy education still face numerous problems.

"Rural education is still the weakest link, and newly-allocated educational funds will be used mainly in rural areas," said Vice Minister Zhang Xinsheng.

He said the aim to increase education funding from 3.41 percent of GDP in 2003 to 4 percent would be met in future, and that central government would allocate special funds to implement the Modern Distant Education Program in rural elementary and secondary schools in the next five years.

"All rural students receiving nine-year compulsory (elementary and junior secondary) education will be exempt from paying tuition and other fees by 2010, a goal we put forward in the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10)," said Han Jin, director of the ministry's department of planning. "Already 36 million rural students are benefiting from this policy."

Upon completion, all rural secondary schools and primary schools will gain access to satellite educational programs and have DVD equipment in class to teach the same courses used in cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

The report said that in 2004, 107 billion yuan (US$13.2 billion) was budgeted for rural primary education and 57.4 billion yuan (US$7 billion) for rural junior secondary education, an increase of 74.35 and 87.69 percent respectively on 2000.

But China still has 87 million illiterate people, 23 million of whom were aged between 15 and 50, and eight percent of counties have yet to implement nine-year compulsory education, all in poorer western regions.

Zhang, who was elected chairman of UNESCO's Executive Board on October 24, said the organization's 5th High Level Group Meeting on Education For All, co-sponsored by the ministry, will be held in Beijing on November 28.

(China Daily November 11, 2005)

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