Boosting rural education

Updated: 2011-08-15 08:04

(China Daily)

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The Chinese government's decision to inject more money into rural education is a laudable step to make the best use of the country's bulging public coffers.

It is hoped that Chinese policymakers will make even bolder strides in this regard and strive to boost equal education to help bridge the development gap between rural and urban areas.

More importantly, increased public expenditure on education is essential so that the country is prepared for both short-term shocks, such as a possible double-dip recession in the global economy, and long-term challenges like adapting economic growth to an aging population.

The Ministry of Finance announced on Thursday an extra 7.93 billion yuan ($1.24 billion) from the central budget this year to support nine years of compulsory education for all students in the country's rural areas. The additional spending represents a 20-percent increase in the central government's budgetary expenditure on rural education this year.

Admittedly, this on its own will do little to level the distribution of educational resources between rural and urban areas. Without years, if not decades, of considerably increased public expenditure, China's under-funded rural education will remain no match for its urban counterpart.

However, the move to increase government spending on rural education will be welcomed by rural teachers and students. And it is heartening that the central government has acted with such a sense of urgency.

The injection of extra public funds in rural education is the latest effort by the government to increase the proportion of fiscal expenditure on education in the national economy to 4 percent by 2012.

This goal represents one of two that Premier Wen Jiabao said was more important than GDP growth rate at the National People's Congress earlier this year.

The fast-growing fiscal revenues are more than able to support the needed expansion in public spending on education.

For the first seven months of this year, the national fiscal revenues jumped 30.5 percent from a year earlier to reach 6.67 trillion yuan. Such faster revenue growth has left the country a fiscal surplus of 1.53 trillion yuan even though expenditures rose 29.7 percent to 5.14 trillion yuan during the same period.

Since China's fight against inflation does not allow another infrastructure-centered stimulus package to shore up economic growth in case of a global double-dip recession, the country is able to and should make education-related investment a key engine of growth.

Besides, compared with the huge holding of low-yielding foreign government bonds, more public expenditure on education to enhance the country's overall human capital now will be a more promising investment when the country's aging population makes transformation of the growth model a reality in coming decades.

(China Daily 08/15/2011 page8)