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Free Education in Rural Areas
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A differentiated financial input mechanism is needed to push compulsory education in rural areas, says a signed article in Beijing News. An excerpt follows:


Compulsory education is a public good offered by the government to the people. It should be free, compulsory and open to all children of school age.


Being free of charge is a precondition to forcing parents to send their school-age children to school.


However, because of the restraints of China's current economic strength, it is unrealistic to promote completely free compulsory education nationwide.


At the current stage, the central and local governments, individual families, and some other social channels jointly shoulder the costs of compulsory education.


Such an input structure, however, does not ensure lower-income families can afford their child's education. As a result, some children of impoverished families, especially those in poor rural areas, miss out on compulsory education.


In such a situation, a differentiated fiscal input policy is badly needed to reform the compulsory education system, especially the compulsory education input system in the vast rural areas.


At a time when the nation is still not developed enough to promote free compulsory education in all regions, priority should be given to rural areas, especially impoverished rural areas. And government finance, especially central finance, should shoulder the cost of compulsory education in those regions.


After that, free compulsory education should gradually spread to those regions with better economic conditions.


(China Daily February 22, 2006)

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