China / Society

Rural-school closure policy put on hold

By Cheng Yingqi ( Updated: 2012-11-23 15:43

The Ministry of Education has suspended a 12-year-old policy that encouraged closures and mergers of rural schools, a senior official said.

Wang Dinghua, the ministry's deputy director of the Department of Basic Education I, made the remarks in response to a recently released report by an education NGO, 21st Century Education Research Institute, according to media reports on Thursday.

According to the report, the number of primary and secondary schools in China's rural area dropped by 50 percent from 2000 to 2010. This means that 63 primary schools and three middle schools close every day, and four rural schools shut down every hour, making it more difficult for young children to attend school in rural areas.

The policy originally was published to cope with the decreasing school enrollment rate caused by the reduced birth rate in rural regions.

However, as education resources centralized in town centers, new problems appeared. For example, people were forced to leave their homes and land simply because schools were too far away, according to earlier media reports.

"As a whole, the policy improved the quality of education, allocation of teachers and efficiency of education," Wang said. But Wang also acknowledged some deviations in the implementation of the policy, which caused the excessive reduction of rural schools.

In September, the general office of the State Council released a new policy on adjusting the layout of rural schools.

"We should balance the education resource quality and children's needs for nearby schools," Wang said.

"In principle, grade-one to grade-three students should go to schools near their resident places, and middle schools can receive boarding students."

The information office of the Ministry of Education would not confirm Yang's comments on Nov 22.

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