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Under-fire education minister removed from post
(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-11-02 07:55

China's unpopular education minister, Zhou Ji, has been removed from the post amid widespread public dissatisfaction with the nation's schools system.

Under-fire education minister removed from post

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), the top legislative body, made the decision on Saturday.

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The committee gave no reason for the reshuffle but did say 63-year-old Zhou, who has two more years until retirement, will "get a new appointment".

Yuan Guiren, 59, vice-minister of education and former president of Beijing Normal University, was named as Zhou's successor.

The sudden move is the latest shake-up to a public education system that Chinese traditionally feel is a fair pathway to advancement but which has been plagued with problems, such as under-funding of primary and secondary schools, and poor standards in higher education.

Though many of the issues predated his appointment in 2003, Zhou, who was educated in the United States, has come under fire for making little impact in solving them.

During the NPC session in March, he received more "nay" votes - 384 - than any other minister that year when about 3,000 deputies chose the nation's new cabinet.

The removal also comes just weeks after two senior administrators at Wuhan University in Hubei province were arrested over allegations of bribery.

Zhou has never been linked publicly with the matter, but he has spent the majority of his career in Wuhan's education sector and served as city mayor for two years before being promoted to vice-minister of education in 2002.

The alleged corruption at the university sums up the challenges facing China's college system, say analysts.

Beijing instigated a rapid expansion of higher education in the 1990s, injecting money to create competitive world-class schools and provide more spaces for students.

In 2000, Wuhan University merged with three other schools and launched a 980-million-yuan ($140 million) program to construct new teaching buildings, dormitories and housing for professors. The arrested administrators are accused of taking bribes related to the project.

Liu Qun, an anti-corruption investigator for the Wuhan government, was quoted by China Newsweek magazine as saying it was only "the tip of the iceberg".

The president of another university in Wuhan was also detained for questioning, while the head of a teacher's college in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province, has been arrested on charges of unspecified economic crimes, police said.

China Daily - AP