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Students in Teachers Universities Begin Enjoying Free Education

A total of 11,000 Chinese students enrolled this year by six teachers universities in the country will complete their undergraduate studies with the government financing.

These students began registration respectively at the six universities based in Beijing, Shanghai, Changchun, Wuhan, Xi'an and Chongqing on Tuesday.

Premier Wen Jiabao said in the government work report delivered at the annual session of the National People's Congress in March that the country would provide free education for students in teachers universities.

Song Ling, 19, one of the 11,000 students, registered at the Dongbei Normal University in Changchun, capital of Jilin Province, on Tuesday. She would have had to spend 3,000 yuan for tuition, 1,000 yuan for accommodation and at least 3,600 for living expenses each year if not for the country's free-education program.

The expense would be a great challenge to her family with an annual disposal income of 3,000 yuan.

"To be a teacher is my dream. Now I can realize my dream without bringing burdens to my family," grinned Song Ling from a village of neighboring Heilongjiang Province in northeast China.

Song Haijiang, Song Ling's father, said "We are exempted from tuition and accommodation fees and the government would even offer living allowance. My daughter will be able to concentrate on her studies and not worry about the money."

"The move is to show respect for educational profession in society and to foster larger numbers of outstanding teachers," said Wen, adding the new policy is "to encourage prominent educators to run schools and more outstanding young people to become lifelong educators."

The Ministry of Education came up with the rules of implementation of the policy in May.

Li Yichun, vice president of Dongbei Normal University, said the policy encourages poor students with good school records, who are mainly from the central and western parts of China, to become teachers, and allows poor rural residents to benefit from the fast-growing economy.

Under the policy, the government would spend about 10,000 yuan on each student, and a total of 110 million yuan on the 11,000 students, according to Song Yonggang, a senior official with the Ministry of Education.

The policy has attracted more rural high school students to apply for teachers universities this year. They accounted for 60.2 percent of the teachers university applicants, 16.3 percentage points higher than that of the previous year.

The admission scores of teachers universities were also raised with more applicants, according to statistics.

Song Ling and her schoolmates who benefit from the policy signed an agreement with the universities, under which they, upon graduation, would have to go back to the provinces they came from and serve as teachers there for at least 10 years. They are also required to work in rural schools for at least two years before working at urban schools.

A national survey has found that rural schools in China lack about 43 percent of teachers. Statistics last year showed the academic degrees held by teachers in about 310,000 primary and secondary schools did not reach the national standard.

China has 500,000 provisional teachers without formal schooling, and 75.9 percent of them are working in rural areas in economically backward western and central parts of China.

(Xinhua News Agency September 5, 2007)

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