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Free Tuition in 2007 for Rural Primary and Secondary Students
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2007 will be a milestone for rural education in China since all rural students will be exempt from tuition and incidental expenses related to their nine-year compulsory education.

Zhou Ji, minister of education, made the remark on December 11 in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province, according to a Xinhua News Agency report on December 12.

Meanwhile China will complete the Two Basic Plans in Western China, namely the implementation of the nine-year compulsory education system and the eradication of young adults illiteracy, as well as finishing the construction of long-distance education systems in rural areas.

The exemption will aid almost 150 million pupils and middle school students in rural areas across the country. On average every pupil will save 140 yuan (US$17.5) a year after the move, the figure rising to 180 yuan for every middle school student, and to 500 yuan for every poor boarding student.

According to Zhou Ji, when the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, the schooling rates for primary and middle school students around the country stood respectively at 20 percent and 6 percent. Illiteracy rates were at 80 percent. In 2005, the schooling rates for primary and middle school students reached 99 percent and 95 percent with higher education soaring above 21 percent.

China launched the Two Basic Plans in Western China in 2004, beginning to exempt tuition and incidental expenses for rural students in the spring of 2006, which have by far benefited over 50 million rural students, said Zhou.

From 2006 to 2010, central and local governments will spend a total of 218.2 billion yuan on compulsory rural education, providing free textbooks for students from poor backgrounds and donating subsidies to boarding students for living expenses. In addition, a long-term maintenance and renovation system for school buildings will be created while the incomes of rural teachers in primary and middle schools will be further improved and guaranteed.

(China.org.cn by Wang Qian, December 12, 2006)

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