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Local governments should ensure education spending is properly allocated this year, especially in rural and poor areas, lawmakers and political advisers said.
Government spending on education will increase to 4 percent of GDP this year, said Premier Wen Jiabao in his 2012 Government Work Report.
Students jump with rubber bands at the Deqen county ethnic primary school in the Diqing Tibet autonomous prefecture, Yunnan province, on March 9. Among the 390 students of the school, 388 are from the Tibetan ethnic group. The prefecture government has subsidized more than 200,000 children of local Tibetan farmers and herdsmen since 2007. [Lin Yiguang / Xinhua]
It was the first time that education funding has been specified in the annual work report, but some remained cautious about its implementation.
Zhong Binglin, a CPPCC member and president of Beijing Normal University, said the authorities at both central and local levels must take strict measures to make sure the promised amount was spent on education.
According to the World Bank, by 2001, government spending on education in industrialized countries such as Australia, Canada, France, Japan and the United States accounted for almost 5 percent of their GDP.
In low-income countries, including Cuba, Columbia, and Peru, it was 5.6 percent.
"As the country's economy grows, government investment into education should increase as well," said Hu Haiyan, president of Beijing Institute of Technology.
To achieve the target, Cheng Yuechong, deputy mayor of Ningbo, Zhejiang province, said they would adjust their expenditure structure to favor education more.
"Also, 10 percent of local land-transfer fees will go to education," he said.
Zhu Qingshi, president of the South University of Science and Technology, said the increased education budget was very welcome but the key issue was how to use it well.
"The government should further optimize the use of education funding and set varied targets for different kinds of education like vocational, pre-school, middle school and higher education," Zhong said.
In his opinion, pre-school, vocational and middle school education should get the biggest boost, with nine-year compulsory education being better balanced.
In higher education, the focus should be mainly on quality control, he said. Authorities should increase expenditure for each student and empower college and university administrations to make spending decisions on the most efficient use of funds.
To secure proper use of the funds, public supervision and government audits must be introduced, he added.
Currently, China badly lacks quality education resources, which means low standards in some areas, Zhong said.
Previous reports have stated that the number of students from poor rural families enrolled by key universities is declining.
The government should encourage universities through favorable funding to recruit more students from underprivileged families, he said.
Shi Yiyun, a CPPCC member, said an institution should be set up to secure education funding for poorer regions.
Currently, distribution of quality resources is highly skewed, said Li Yining, a famed economist and CPPCC member.
Children of elites go to schools with qualified teachers and good infrastructures while those from relatively poor families could only enter substandard ones, he claimed.
To address the issue, Li Heping, deputy director of education bureau of Anhui province, said more funding should be directed at the current weak links, such as compulsory education in rural areas and vocational education.
"Also, less developed regions in central and western China should get more help," he said.
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