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The Ministry of Education is busy playing down public expectations that the country will soon extend compulsory education from nine to 12 years.

Inadequate government expenditure precludes officials' commitment to better and longer public education for all students across the country.

But it does not justify their insistence that extensions are not even on the table even though a medium- and long-term education planning is under consideration.

Education will always enable us to look forward and fuel our dreams for a better future.

Besides, the country's urgent need to boost domestic demand to combat the current global downturn means the government must do its utmost to alleviate educational and other social welfare burdens on Chinese consumers.

Unfortunately, by ignoring public debate about 12-year compulsory education, officials are demonstrating their lack of insight.

The answer that the Chinese government was "not considering" extending the duration of compulsory education amounts to little more than a perfunctory response to rising calls for superior teaching and more of it.

China's Education Law requires spending on education be no less than 4 percent of gross domestic product.

Though the Chinese government has considerably boosted expenditure in recent years, it still spends far less than required on education.

The Ministry of Education's argument that 12 years of compulsory education is not in line with realities on the ground, may sound pertinent.

But this is a static, if not backward-looking, view of our nation.

Given China's fast and stable economic growth, as well as the central government's determination to spend more on education, how can national living conditions continue to thwart the introduction of 12-year compulsory education in the future?

If the education program that the central government is drafting really intends to adopt a medium and long-term focus, a chapter on how to extend the current compulsory 9-year system is a must.

It is predictable that better and longer compulsory education will not only improve productivity of China's labor force in the long run but also allow quite a number of consumers to save less and spend more right now.

(China Daily April 3, 2009)

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