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ADB Grant to Boost Compulsory Education

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) announced on Tuesday that it would help China to upgrade compulsory education programs through a technical assistance grant of US$500,000.

The ADB said that the grant will help put in place effective financing policies, strategies and mechanisms to ensure universal access to nine years of high-quality education.

The focus of application of the funds will be on ensuring equitable, timely and stable resource flows to schools, increasing enrollment and improving teaching and learning processes.

A macro-level study will be conducted, together with a more in-depth micro-level investigation centered on sample counties in a poor western province, a moderate-income central province and a prosperous eastern province.

Getting a good education is one of the best ways to escape poverty and to ensure that people do not wind up on the wrong side of the digital divide, the bank said.

"Basic education plays a critical role by allowing citizens to respond to a changing socioeconomic environment and to participate in, and contribute productively to, China's economic and social development," said Christopher Spohr, an ADB social sector economist.

"Education is public good and most of the financing comes from the public sector. However, government budgets, particularly at the local level, are under stress. Reforms in the policies that are used to finance education are vital to achieving the goal of universal compulsory education and to achieve the second Millennium Development Goal (MDG)," he added.

The ADB said that although China has made significant progress in making elementary education nearly universally accessible, major challenges remain.

In poor and disadvantaged areas, communities have difficulty mobilizing and managing resources, leading to weak system management and inadequate funding for teacher salaries and learning materials, it noted.

"Poverty disproportionately threatens education prospects for girls, who comprise roughly 80 percent of China's dropouts. Their parents cannot afford the fees and cost of books," Spohr said.

In view of these challenges, the Chinese government has renewed its commitment to achieving the second MDG of providing education for all, reflected in an action plan released in April 2003, and to achieving the "two basics": elimination of literacy and universal nine-year compulsory education.

Special emphasis has been given to the country's western region, where, as of the end of the 2002-2003 school year, 372 counties had not yet achieved universal compulsory education, 60 counties had failed to provide full primary education and 260 were still battling illiteracy among young and middle-aged adults.

The ADB is dedicated to reducing poverty in the Asia and Pacific region through pro-poor sustainable economic growth, social development and good governance. In 2003, it approved loans amounting to US$6.1 billion and technical assistance totaling US$177 million.

(Xinhua News Agency, October 13, 2004)

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