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Education Funds Earmarked for Poor Regions

The state will invest 5 billion yuan (US$602 million) in poverty-stricken areas to further expand primary and middle school education programs, the Ministry of Education announced Wednesday.

The move, a part of the National Educational Development Program for the 10th Five-Year Plan period (2001-05), aims to upgrade laborers’ skills in an effort to help accelerate regional economic growth, said Mu Yangchun, director of the ministry’s planning department, at a press conference in Beijing.

Poverty-stricken areas mainly cover central and western provinces and autonomous regions, such as Qinghai Province, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and other areas, where economic and educational climates are relatively backward due to adverse ecological conditions, sources from the ministry said.

For these areas, spreading primary and middle school level education programs is crucial.

In better developed eastern regions, such educational programs have already been popularized, according to the ministry.

Mu said the ministry has completed a draft of the long-term educational development plan.

Over the next few years people across the country will be able to update their knowledge through various channels such as TV, broadcasts, computer-aided long-distance teaching programs, community-based vocational education and job training courses, said Mu.

Improving the educational competence of every citizen is the ministry’s long-term task, as the average public learning level is still low, said Mu.

The ministry’s statistics indicate that among employees throughout China, the number of staff with an educational background above a higher education level is less than 4 percent.

The plan reveals that by 2005, the number of students attending colleges and universities will reach 15 percent, from its present 11 percent level.

Efforts will also be made to cultivate talent specializing in computer science, biological technology, new materials, medicine and communications, to facilitate the ongoing restructuring of national economic sectors, according to the draft plan.

Non-state schools are also being encouraged to open to help ease the shortage of teaching teams, Mu said.

Latest statistics show that China now has over 54,000 non-state primary, middle and higher-learning schools, attended by more than 7 million students. These schools are an important supplement to state-run ones, he said.

The ministry also plans to collect computer teaching software designed by teachers, educational experts and computer companies from across the country. Software selected as excellent will be recommended to primary and middle schools to help raise teaching efficiency, said Wang Xiaowu, vice-director of the ministry’s development center for basic education curricula.

(China Daily 03/29/2001)

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