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Education still to get its due

(China Daily)
Updated: 2010-02-26 07:48
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The Ministry of Education has said one of its crucial tasks this year is to try and raise the country's expenditure on education to 4 percent of GDP. But this is a disgrace because that figure should have been reached 10 years ago, says an article in Changjiang Daily. Excerpts:

The central government planned as early as 1993 to raise the expenditure on education to 4 percent of GDP by 2000. But the most the education sector has got was 3.48 percent of GDP in 2008.

The intractability of the issue has nothing to do with State funds or the willingness to solve it. The country's GDP has been growing every year and the government has always prioritized the development of education. The question is whether this priority is reflected in administrative practice and whether it can be measured?

Regretfully, the existing funding system doesn't show the education or healthcare sector has been given priority. The government has focused on two things: fiscal income and expenditure on economic development - and in both the cases the rule has been "the more, the better". No wonder, tax revenue and economic growth have become two crucial reference points in the assessment of an official's performance.

But a modern country's strength should be supported by its ability to provide goods and service. It should not be measured by its fiscal income alone. In fact, overgrowing fiscal income would mean over-expansion of government power.

In contrast, the lack of resources and efforts in the education, healthcare and social security sectors indicate poor governance.

In a word, expenditure on education is basically a question of whether a country's fiscal system is for the benefit of the government or the public.

Inadequate expenditure on education may indicate the government is still in the process of transformation. But it is high time this transformation shifted from management-type to service-type.

(China Daily 02/26/2010 page9)