Representatives attending a hearing on a draft plan for an all-in-one education fee system for East China's Jiangsu Province have questioned the raising of tuition fees for nine-year compulsory education by 20 percent.
Nineteen representatives, including educationalists, officials, students, their parents, members of the public and reporters, attended the hearing last Friday in Nanjing, the provincial capital.
The hearing was one of many being held across the nation on the one-fee system for education which will be introduced this autumn.
Ma Xinnian, director of the Finance Department of the Jiangsu Provincial Education Bureau, announced the uniform tuition system draft plan for primary school (six years) and junior secondary school (three years) education.
Three kinds of fees would be charged according to a unified standard, they are tuition fees, textbook fees and exercise book fees, among which the maximum limit of tuition fees would increase by 20 percent.
For example, the tuition fees for a junior secondary school student in southern Jiangsu is currently 108 yuan (US$13) per term, while the maximum listed in the plan is 130 yuan (US$15.7) per term.
Besides the fees mentioned, there are another seven service fees in the draft. Schools can charge these fees when they provide services such as dormitories, health examinations, organizing social activities and school uniforms.
The draft plan also said the textbook fee would fall through the reform of the textbook publishing management system.
A special fund of 11 million yuan (US$1.33 million) will be established to provide free textbooks to the province's poverty-stricken students.
And blind, deaf and mute students will enjoy a partial or total waiver of tuition fees and textbook fees, and a living allowance.
"The rise in tuition fees is mainly a result of increased educational costs and increased incomes over the past four years," said Ma.
Half of the 16 primary and junior secondary schools covered in a 2003 audit received insufficient income to cover their expenses.
And teachers in some districts, due to local financial constraints, are only able to receive their basic wage, but no bonuses.
Dai Jiucai, an accountant at Tianyuan Accounting Firm, which conducted the audit, told at the hearing that they had audited both the education expenditure and income of 16 schools in Nanjing, Yangzhou, Xuzhou and Wuxi.
He said decisions ought not to be based on the 2003 statistics, as they only dealt with 16 schools in four cities.
"The tuition fee should not be raised simply because people's incomes are increasing," said Sun Yimin, a parent representative and a laid-off worker from Yancheng, "The rise violates the original intention of one-fee system, which is to reduce the parents' burden."
Guo Jincheng, a representative of the Jiangsu Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, thought the fee rise was understandable, but the 20 percent margin was too high.
"The price can be increased step by step, and finally reach this markup in several years' time," he said.
Gong Liting, a businessman from Wuxi, suggested that developed districts carry out a zero fee system.
"Jiangsu is an economically developed province which should have the ability to cancel all of the fees for nine-year compulsory education," he said.
Five school principals attended the hearing, all of whom pointed to the problems resulting from their inadequate finances.
(China Daily August 16, 2004)