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Xinjiang Extends Free Education by 3 Years

Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region plans to provide free education for high school students, extending the current nine-year free compulsory education period by three years.

The change will start "as soon as possible" in Hotan, Kashgar and Kizilsu Kirgiz, all in the south of Xinjiang, and expand to other areas, according to information from a meeting of the Xinjiang committee of the Communist Party of China on Sunday.

Only 56 percent of Xinjiang's junior high school graduates go to high school, below the national level of 80.5 percent. The figure for Hotan, Kashgar and Kizilsu Kirgiz is a mere 23 percent.

Xinjiang also plans to provide free education for students in normal universities and increase subsidies for poor college students.

The central government said in March, during the annual legislative session, that the central budget for education this year would increase from last year's 107.6 billion yuan (US$15.7 billion) to 156.2 billion yuan, and local governments would increase their spending.

In September, urban primary and junior high school students joined their rural counterparts in the nine-year free education plan. However, students must still pay to go to high schools and colleges.

(Xinhua News Agency November 24, 2008)

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