Currently, Chinese leaders and experts are paying more attention to the income gap between rural and urban residents, and the government has taken a series of measures to narrow this gap. This is a good thing. But the gap between rural and urban areas is not only in income, but also in education.
Last month, I went to some rural areas in Guangdong Province to conduct research on the implementation of compulsory education. I visited some schools and talked to some education experts and teachers. Then I drew a conclusion: The biggest gap between rural and urban areas is perhaps not in income, but in education.
In cities, classrooms are beautiful and bright. But in rural areas, even in Guangdong, one of the country's richest provinces, many schools lack light, some are even on the verge of collapse.
Furthermore, due to a shortage of classrooms, classes in rural schools tend to be big. In Leizhou, a poor county, for example, there are over 100 students in each class in some schools. "It is too crowded to breathe," a teacher from a local middle school said.
In cities of the province, almost all schools have computers, while many rural students have never even seen a computer.
Rural schools also suffer a shortage of teaching facilities, in some cases a blackboard and chalk are all a class owns.
Due to the comparatively lower salaries and lower level of living and working conditions in rural areas, most high-quality teachers flow into cities. Rural schools not only suffer a shortage of teachers but many of the current teachers are of a low professional level. Some subjects, such as English and computers, can't be started because there are no teachers.
To our pleasure, the government has paid more attention to rural compulsory education. The central government has planned fee exemptions and subsides for students in 592 poor counties included in the national poverty-relief program by 2007.
These are welcome steps, but they are far from enough. The government should allocate more educational resources to rural areas. This is of great significance in realizing the country's goal of building a harmonious society.
(China Daily June 8, 2005)