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Free Schooling to Expand

The government will continue increasing spending on education next year and spread free nine-year compulsory education to urban children, Finance Minister Xie Xuren said.

The government will improve the funding system to support the expansion of the free nine-year compulsory education system, particularly in urban areas, next year, Xie told an annual conference of the Ministry of Finance in Beijing.

The compulsory education system currently covers 150 million rural children.

The most recent figures from the Ministry of Education show that there are 26 million urban children who are still subject to incidental fees, though they do not pay tuition.

Starting in the spring term, the central government will increase funding for the free textbooks used in the national compulsory courses, while local governments will provide more money for free textbooks for local compulsory courses, Xie said.

Local governments will also provide scholarships to cover the boarding costs of students from poor families. The central government will provide half of the education funding for areas in central and west China. Provincial governments in those areas will cover the rest.

Local governments in east China will cover all education fees with some supplementary funding from the central government.

Xie said the government will issue new standards for per capita expenditures for students in primary and middle schools, and put those standards into effect within the next two years.

He said the allowance for maintenance and refurbishing of rural schools in central and west China will also be increased, with special financial support for high-altitude and cold areas. In addition, the government will continue providing free education to students taking courses for teaching careers at normal schools and provide scholarships to poor undergraduates and students at vocational schools.

Xie said 558 billion yuan (US$74.3 billion) from the fiscal budget had been spent on education, up 32.7 percent from the same period last year.

And scholarships for the poor helped about 4 million college students and 16 million secondary vocational school students attend classes.

(China Daily December 25, 2007)

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