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Closer Scrutiny for Education Spending

China Daily, March 9, 2013 Adjust font size:

The central government will keep spending on education at current levels while stepping up monitoring of how money is used, according to top government officials.

Government spending on education was 7.79 trillion yuan (US$1.25 billion) over the past five years, with an average annual increase of 21.58 percent, or 4 percent of the nation's GDP in 2012.

This is according to the Government Work Report for 2013 delivered by Premier Wen Jiabao during the opening ceremony of the 12th National People's Congress on Tuesday.

This marks the realization of a target set in 1993, when the government issued a guideline on education reform and development and pledged to raise its spending on education to 4 percent of GDP by the end of 2000.

"The huge increase in government spending on education is a significant achievement, as China's transformation of its economic growth pattern is based on enhancing education," Minister of Education Yuan Guiren said during a group discussion at the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Zhang Shaochun, vice-minister of finance, said achieving the 4 percent target is a great success, but there is still a shortage of education funds nationwide, especially in some rural areas.

"To further boost educational development, we will try to maintain the 4 percent level and increase education expenditure in accordance with laws and regulations," Zhang said.

He also said that to ensure money on education is spent wisely, establishing a stable and effective monitoring system is of great significance.

"A series of documents to monitor the spending of educational funds has been drafted to ensure the funds are used wisely. With the joint efforts of other government departments, we will enhance the supervision to ensure the spending of education funds is safe and effective," Zhang said.

Zheng Xiaojing, a CPPCC National Committee member and president of Xidian University, said the increase in education spending does not mean the most needy areas in China have been granted enough funds.

"The increase in education funds is quite encouraging. However, there are still significant differences between ordinary schools and 'key' schools, and rural areas and urban areas in terms of their share of government education funds, which hinders the sound development of education across the nation," Zheng said.

She added that poor teaching facilities and teachers' incomes in rural areas have much room for improvement compared with their urban counterparts, because of inadequate government funding in these areas.

The Government Work Report said priority in allocating government educational resources will go to rural, remote, poverty-stricken and ethnic-group areas.

Financial aid to poverty-stricken families for their children's education has increased, with about 100 billion yuan spent annually in financial aid for such students, benefiting about 80 million of them.

The problem of providing compulsory education for the children of rural migrants working in cities has basically been solved, and 12.6 million children with rural-residence status now receiving compulsory education in cities, according to the report.

Yu Minhong, a CPPCC National Committee member and president of New Oriental Group, said the government should be vigilant toward corruption in the education system to ensure that funds are used in the right places for the right people.

He also said that as the 4 percent target was set 20 years ago, it is no longer sufficient for educational development. "Education spending should reach at least 5 percent (of GDP) for the nation to build a sound and complete education system," Yu said.

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