|Ningshan County, nestled deep in the Qinling Mountains of northwest China's Shaanxi Province, has extended its compulsory education program to 15 years, offering local students free schooling from kindergarten to high school.
|That's six more years than the national compulsory education system requires. What's more, the local government has achieved the expanded schooling program with total fiscal revenue of just 30 million yuan (US$4.72 million) in 2010, spending 13 million yuan on the program – nearly 40 percent of its annual revenue, more than triple the 12.5 percent spent on education nationwide.
|"Development of education is a priority project aimed at improving people's lives," Chen Lunbao, party secretary of Ningshan County, said. "Although it doesn't work immediately, children are always the hope for both the country and its families."
|Since 2007, this poor county has been taken a number of steps to improve local education.
|Zhang Dengqin, a 12-year-old girl at Tangping Primary School, gets free hot food at school. Four years ago, the school, like many others in the county, had no canteens. Most students lived on campus and had to bring their own food with them to the school each week.
|Visiting villages on a winter day in 2007 as part of an inspection tour, Chen, then county mayor, came across a group of boarding students on their way to school.