School fee waivers benefit Shaoxing kids
The middle school in the town of Pingshui, 240 kilometres south of Shanghai, began its spring semester yesterday, but for some low-income parents, this semester is unprecedentedly different.
Students in all primary and middle schools, as well as another three in Shaoxing, are exempt of the so-called miscellaneous expenses that used to be imposed.
The exemption will be guaranteed by town revenues in years to come, no mater what their families's incomes.
Up to now, no other schools in China have carried out free compulsory education with such fee exemptions.
"This is the first step to carrying out the free compulsory education,'' said Li Yangen, the headmaster of Pingshui Middle School.
Li said both parents and teachers were happy to see the reduction of fees since money can be spent on more useful ways, such as the extracurricular activities for kids.
Pingshui is one of the four towns where a new local regulation came into force to ensure more than 19,000 students enjoy partial fee waivers.
Textbook expenses will be exempted in these four towns in January, 2005, as well.
A total fee waiver for 102,000 students in 15 counties and four streets of Shaoxing County in East China's Zhejiang Province will be realized on January 1, 2007, according to officials with the local Education Bureau.
Under the regulation, the fee -- 160 yuan (US$19.2) for a primary student and 220 yuan (US$26.4) for a junior middle school student per year -- will be waived.
"As a powerful economic area, we are allowed to put more money into education,'' said Li Jianzhong, the chief of the office of local Education Bureau.
About 3.8 million yuan (US$456,000) in expenditures will be subsidized to schools by local government, according to Li.
According to statistics from the local government, the net income of every farmer in Shaoxing County was 6,850 yuan (US$822) last year.
" In fact, free compulsory education, which begins on the first grade of primary school to the third grade of junior middle school, does not mean that you can go to school without paying any money,'' Li said.
Li added that they carried out the reduction of miscellaneous expenses in four towns that are poorer compared to 11 other towns to lighten the economic burden on farmers.
They are also considering if the same policy can be applied to more than 11,000 children of migrant workers in the county.
However, a survey carried out in Yangzhou, a city in East China's Jiangsu Province, revealed that expenditures on education have become a heavy burden on urban families.
It shows that education expenses make up 46 per cent of per capita disposable income of a family and 62 per cent of per capita consumer expenditures.
Each school term a family pays various education expenditures of about 2,669 yuan (US$320), composed of miscellaneous expenses, textbook costs , fees for private teachers, costs for attending extracurricular activities and extra fee for transient students.
The cost of room and board will not be reduced, however.
Li said the government had not considered arranging school-bus. Most of villagers live in the mountain areas and children usually prefer living in school, Li said.
As economic and social development continues, towns and cities in the country as well as prosperous rural areas, especially those along the eastern and southern coasts, have begun making detailed long-term plans for the modernization drive. The effort is to catch up with developed nations in elementary and secondary education.