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Free Compulsory Education

The government should put free compulsory education at the top of its agenda, according to an article in Dongfang Morning News. An excerpt follows:

A report recently released by the Ministry of Education shows there were about 112 million primary school students in 2004, with attendance at 98.1 percent, 3.2 percentage points higher than that in 2000. Meanwhile, the rate of illiteracy among adults was under 4 percent.

As the ministry said, the nation's mass education has realized a historical breakthrough. Until the early part of the 20th century, China had an elite education system, allowing only a very few people the opportunity. The ideal of a number of our forerunners to "salvage the motherland through developing education" had remained but a dream.

Considering this, the achievements China has made in mass education are unprecedented. The country has accomplished these outstanding achievements at a time when its per capita gross domestic product has reached US$1,000. It has become the only big developing nation to halve its illiterate and impoverished populations.

While applauding the inspiring progress, our country still faces challenges in developing its education system. Project Hope is still an indispensable part of the country's primary school education system. The number of dropouts is still high among poor families in impoverished regions. In some remote areas, education funds are often misused and teachers' payments defaulted.

Promoting compulsory education is not a simple task. The government should put education at the top of its top agenda, and lay out feasible and acceptable education plans. Also, it should follow various education development models, and be prepared to spend money where it is needed.

If the poorest regions can get assistance from the most developed regions, and impoverished students are exempt from tuition fees, the country can stamp out illiteracy, and enjoy the ensuing benefits.

(China Daily November 16, 2005)

More Public Funds for Compulsory Education
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