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Education for the Poor
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That Premier Wen Jiabao talked about education for the poor a day before the country's 23rd Teachers' Day that fell yesterday is significant in many respects.

In the premier's words, education is also for children from impoverished families to enjoy as much equality and fairness as possible in seeking the same opportunities afforded to others.

The premier was frank about existing realities, admitting that the country's economic development is unbalanced and so is its education system. And his concerns indicate he knows well how important education is for many poverty-stricken rural children.

His concerns find expression in his cabinet's policy to initiate free education on a trial basis in six normal universities nationwide this year.

The students who apply must teach at grass-root level for at least 10 years after graduation. They must sign contracts with both the universities and their hometown education departments before being enrolled.

That Wen talked about his education-for-the-poor with such students at Beijing Normal University has added to the importance he and his cabinet attach to the issue. The drain of quality teachers has remained a stumbling block in rural education, especially in the poverty-stricken areas.

To realize equal and fair education for the impoverished it is not enough just to make it free or provide subsidies. The education must be good as their urban counterparts.

Undoubtedly, those who are receiving free education in readiness for their future careers as teachers are going to boost education in the poor rural areas. Their joining the ranks of rural teachers will considerably upgrade the teaching quality there.

These teachers must be committed to doing an excellent job. There is no denying that they will face many temptations in this pluralistic society, but they must show resolve in resisting these temptations and really devote themselves to the task at hand.

So if education for the poor is to be a success, it requires a force of dedicated teachers. State finance must at the same time help improve their working conditions and increase their income. Only then will education pave the way for better opportunities for rural children.

(China Daily September 11, 2007)

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