Free compulsory education can only become a reality with better management and an improved funding mechanism, says a signed article in the Changsha-based Xiaoxiang Morning Post. An excerpt follows:
The draft compulsory education law states that China will provide free compulsory education, but the State Council has yet to draw up a concrete plan to make this a reality.
Some members of the National People's Congress Standing Committee have complained that the law fails to map out exactly how all tuition fees for compulsory education will be scrapped. They have called for the law to offer clearer instructions in this regard.
Compulsory education should be free. This policy should have been implemented as the Chinese economy experienced robust growth in recent years. But why is this draft law so ambiguous when it comes to its implementation? An important reason for this is probably that the supporting system to implement free compulsory education has yet to be completed.
China's compulsory education system relies on local governments for its management and funding. Since the country reformed its taxation system in 1994, however, regional governments' financial conditions have been weakened while little has changed with regard to their jobs and responsibilities. In such a situation, the heaviest burdens of compulsory education are now on the weakest shoulders.
The central government has increased its financial support to regional governments through large amounts of transfer payments in recent years. But this transfer system itself is riddled with problems. As Auditor-General Li Jinhua pointed out recently, a great deal of this money failed to reach its intended destinations.
Changes have to be made to the management and funding mechanism to ensure that this vital piece of legislation is properly implemented. Straightening out the relationship between money and power for governments at all levels is vital in order to realize free compulsory education as soon as possible.
(China Daily June 30, 2006)