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China's Efforts to Improve Education in Western Areas Pay Off

China has gained initial achievements since it launched a big campaign in 2004 to help realize nine-year compulsory education and eliminate the illiterate among the youths in western areas, a senior official with the State Ethnic Affairs Commission said in Beijing Monday.

Mou Benli, deputy director with the commission, said at a press conference that the campaign, implemented in 2004 with 10 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion) of planned input from the central budget, aims to reduce the number of illiterate within 5 percent of the local population by 2007.

By the end of 2004, 474, or 67.8 percent, of all the country's 699 autonomous counties (banners) have achieved the goals, Mou said.

China has taken a series of measures to promote the education in ethnic minority areas. From 2001, the country began to carry out the second phases of the State's "Compulsory Education Project for Impoverished Areas" and the "Project for Renovation of Dilapidated Buildings of Rural Primary and Middle Schools."

Meanwhile, the state also practices the policy of exempting poor students from tuition and miscellaneous fees and subsidizing their boarding expenses. It has established state scholarship and provided loans to help students from ethnic minority areas complete their schooling.

In addition, efforts have been made to perform bilingual teaching in both Chinese Mandarin and the languages of the ethnic minorities, build schools and colleges to enroll more ethnic students, and pair schools so that those in the economically-developed east can provide educational aid to those in the impoverished west.

Statistics show that in 2004, the enrollment of ethnic students in preliminary and middle schools and colleges nationwide amounted to more than 21.35 million, up 13.48 percent over that of 1999.

The numbers of those in middle schools and colleges reached 6.761 million and 807,300 last year, up 31.47 percent and 69.31 percent respectively over those of 1999.

The number of full-time ethnic teachers reached about 1.025 million in 2004, up 11.36 percent over that of 1999.

According to the fifth national census conducted in 2000, the schooling for China's 16 ethnic groups were longer than the national average, and the illiteracy rates in the provinces of Qinghai, Yunnan, Guizhou and Gansu, as well as the Tibet and Ningxia Hui autonomous regions had dropped by a margin wider than the national average.

(Xinhua News Agency May 31, 2005)


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