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Minister Pledges Nine Years Schooling

All Chinese children of primary and middle school age will have access to classrooms within two years, Zhou Ji, the minister for education announced Thursday.

Children in poor central and western regions of country will have access to primary and middle schools to bring the remaining "8 percent of rural areas without education" in line with the rest of the nation, said Zhou Ji.

"We aim to upgrade educational development in these areas and minimize the disparity between the backward western provinces and the better developed eastern regions," said the minister at a news conference of the State Council Information Office in Beijing.

Most of the country has had primary and middle school level learning programs for years, Zhou said.

"The central government will allocate 10 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion) to build 7,730 boarding schools in 955 counties across the country, in order to accommodate the 2.03 million students," he added. Under the new scheme, all children will receive nine years of schooling.

Zhou set out the education ministry's stall for the coming year.

Expanding mutual recognition of higher learning academic degrees with foreign countries, and improving efficiency of Sino-foreign jointly-run schools and intermediary service agencies for Chinese self-financed students going abroad for study are on the agenda, he said.

(China Daily January 28, 2005)

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