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Compulsory education law under amendment
Updated: 2006-02-26 09:46

The draft amendment to China's Law on Compulsory Education, aiming to ensure a stable investment system for rural education, was tabled to lawmakers on Saturday for the first review at the beginning of a four-day legislative session.

Zhao Ting studies at a primary school in Huaqiao Town, Central China's Hunan Province February 21, 2006. All the 60 dropouts in the school has been back to class as China started to offer free education for school kids in the poor areas. [newsphoto]

The draft amendment to guarantee a nine-year free education for rural poor children will be deliberated for three rounds before being enacted.

"Education resources are not distributed fairly. Disparity, existing among schools and regions, and between cities and the countryside, is growing every day," said Education Minister Zhou Ji.

The education system, based on the 20-year-old compulsory education law, must be improved as the disparity of education resources has aroused great concern and "strong" complaints from the general public, Zhou said.

According to sources close to the legislative session, the draft amendment placed emphasis on specifying the funding responsibility of central and local governments for rural schools, which is expected to lift the educational burden of poverty-stricken rural families and to give rural kids equal opportunities as their peers in cities.

China enacted the law on compulsory education in 1986, freeing students from tuition fees in six-year primary school and three-year middle school studies.

But families in some rural areas were burdened with heavy "educational expenses," including the costs of textbooks, winter heat, and transportation, as local governments could not set aside enough budget for education.

Urban families and governments of rich regions, on the other hand, have never been troubled with this headache.

In 1998, government budget for compulsory education in Shanghai was 10 times that in the central province of Henan. The figure was 50 times higher in 2005, comparing the budget in Shanghai and that in the countryside of Henan.

The growing wealth gap has started to undermine the people's equal rights to education, sociologists say.

When children in such metropolis as Beijing and Shanghai study in schools equipped with planetarium and swimming pools, children in poor countryside, especially in western China, have to spend their school age in make-shift schools, besieged with worry they might be forced to drop out for high costs of schooling.

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