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Education not a cheap suit
China Daily  Updated: 2006-03-14 05:51

Education is a public good, not a business, says a commentary on the An excerpt follows:

When asked by a member of the 10th National Committee of the CPPCC why more and more students from poverty-stricken families cannot afford college education, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Education answered that non-compulsory education has become a market product, and students and their families should buy what they can afford.

The spokesperson even drew an analogy to explain that rich people may buy a 10,000 yuan (US$1,200) suit while some people cannot afford to buy one valued at 100 yuan.

Buying a suit is market behaviour regulated according to our capability. Yet according to his statement, schools are like shops selling educational resources. Such an explanation is truly depressing.

It is a gloomy fact that high fees for non-compulsory education are a burden for many families. Though it has been made clear that compulsory education is a public product that should be provided by the government, the above statement by the spokesperson shows that our educational authorities are treating non-compulsory education as a sheer market product.

Making education a business is actually a denial of their mission. A clothes shop has no responsibility to dress the whole population well, but educational institutions should shoulder the responsibility of cultivating talent for our nation.

Parents are trying their hardest to see that their children achieve good education, so that the children can enjoy higher living standards. This is the social value of education. If the spokesperson says people should treat education just like a suit, does that mean they should accept poverty as something hereditary that they cannot take off?

The use of the "education as clothing" analogy is the acknowledgment of educational industrialization. This goes against the goal of education reform, which seeks to reverse business and restore education as a public good.

(China Daily 03/14/2006 page4)

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