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Reform Success Rests on Education Officials
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Access to education is the ticket to ride the country's wave of rapid development.

The Chinese pin high hopes on the country's educational undertakings, which are currently in the throes of reform.

Complaints against inadequate government expenditure on education are loud.

The Chinese government has made clear its resolution to steadily raise education spending from this year on. The central government plans to increase education expenditure from 2.79 percent of gross domestic product at present to 4 percent in five years.

Such a substantial increase in educational funds will lay a solid foundation for reform.

A down-to-earth reformer who is going to carry out these supportive policies is also instrumental to this process.

In this sense, the Ministry of Education has an unavoidable responsibility to do its utmost to promote the reform.

Nevertheless, after citing higher gross enrolment for middle schools, a spokesman of the Ministry of Education drew a sweeping conclusion at a press conference earlier this week when he said the country's educational course was "successful."

If that was merely a personal judgment, the educational official deserves the bashing domestic media gave to him for being short-sighted, if not senseless.

It is true that in terms of compulsory education, the country stands out among a number of developing countries with its primary school attendance and gross enrolment for junior high school hitting 99.15 percent and 95 percent respectively last year. And thanks to expanding enrolment by institutions of higher learning over recent years, the country is also poised to become the largest producer of graduates with master and doctoral degrees in the world.

But boasting the achievements while ignoring the costs the heavy burden of educational fees, unbearable for many poor families is not a correct way to either assess educational undertakings or muster support for reform.

Before jumping to his conclusion, the spokesman should really have looked at the predicament of those rural families who were reduced to poverty because of rocketing educational fees.

At a time when the country's legislators are gathering in Beijing to prioritize national issues in line with their importance and urgency to the public's welfare, such an assertion is misleading.

The sense of optimism that the education authorities put on may influence the legislators in their understanding of the severity of the problems, and thus discourage them from putting their weight behind policies and measures to expedite educational reform.

Better education has proved critical to the development of human resources. Making education fair and affordable will benefit the poor, and therefore help narrow the country's widening income gap.

Besides, China's endeavour to build itself into an innovative country also requires drastic educational reforms.

Under such circumstances, the education authorities are obligated to take a leading role in ensuring proper use of increased education spending as well as equitable distribution of education resources for all people.

Admittedly, it is a demanding task to meet the public's huge and various demands for education.

But it is not an impossible one.

(China Daily March 2, 2006)

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