China's Ministry of Education (MOE) said on Monday it will increase its free textbook subsidies program for rural primary and middle schools by 28.6 percent over 2007, an investment of roughly 16.7 billion yuan (US$2.3 billion) annually.
The MOE website, http://www.moe.edu.cn/, said the free textbooks subsidies for rural primary schools would increase from 70 yuan per student annually to 90 yuan. For rural middle schools, it would rise from 140 yuan to 180 yuan.
Since the fall semester started last year, the MOE had spent more than 13 billion yuan on the textbook program to facilitate about 150 million rural primary and middle school students, the website said.
The free textbook program was specifically aimed at compulsory education. Chinese Education Law stipulated all citizens were to receive nine years of compulsory fulltime education - six years of primary school and three of middle school.
The compulsory education was free. Previously, however, families were responsible for paying for their children's textbooks and learning guidebooks.
The central government budget was responsible for purchasing textbooks that were designated for students by national educational authorities. For other textbooks chosen by local educational boards, local budgets needed to be used for supplying students free of charge, the ministry said.
It also stipulated that neither local educational authorities nor schools should charge students for textbooks or learning guidebooks.
It also encouraged local governments to provide financial support to cover living costs of boarding students from poor families. Half of the financial support would be from the central government.
Finance Minister Xie Xuren said recently the funding for guaranteed compulsory education would soon be extended to urban students.
In the first 11 months of 2007, he said 557.8 billion yuan of fiscal expenditure was used for education, up 32.7 percent compared with the same period the year before.
(Xinhua News Agency January 7, 2008)