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Liaoning Puts More Cash into Schooling

Rural senior high schools in Liaoning Province can only take in half the children graduating from junior high schools.

But a first-time, 700 million yuan (US$84 million) loan from the China Development Bank (CDB) may alleviate the situation in the Northeast China province.

The cash will be used to build high schools that will allow another 33,000 children to study.

The senior high school enrollment rate in the urban area is around 98 percent, but it goes down to 40 percent in rural areas, said Li Shusen, vice-director of the Liaoning Provincial Education Bureau.

School-building is part of a 30-billion-yuan (US$3.6 billion) deal signed in June. Of that, 4 billion yuan (US$480 million) will go towards education development.

"I believe this could help break the bottleneck in Liaoning's high school education and push forward overall education development," said Du Benwei, deputy secretary-general of the provincial government.

The enrollment rate in the countryside is targeted at 70 percent by 2007.

Li said that the money will be used also to improve facilities in the existing senior middle schools in the countryside.

"Our aim is to construct a high school network covering the whole province and enable a majority of students to enroll in," said Li.

Li expected the project would help create 900,000 square-meters of class space to take in 33,000 more students.

Li said the project would help secure one senior middle school in each of the province's 41 counties.

Li also said another 1.3-billion-yuan (US$16 million) project to improve the level of universities and colleges was also undergoing approval.

"Two factors are responsible for the low enrollment rate in the countryside. One is shabby infrastructure and the other is the local economy," said Li.

Different from the nine-year compulsory education, high schools in Liaoning mainly depend on county financing.

So the local economic development, in some way, determines the quality of education.

Statistics from Fuxin, a city in the province's northwestern part, shows that the senior-high enrollment rate there was around 30 percent. In its rural areas, the figure was even lower.

But Li said the local government was taking steps to help students from low-income families attend school.

Education experts, however, blamed high educational costs for the low enrollment.

Farmers are glad to send their children to high school, said Cai Mantang, a researcher from Peking University, but they cannot afford the ever-increasing fees.

(China Daily December 27, 2004)

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