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Inner Mongolia Steps Down from 'Horseback School'

Ji Musi, a thirteen-year girl, is sitting in a bright classroom and listening to the teacher carefully. As a pupil in the Xilin Hot Ethnic Primary School in north China's Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, she needs to learn standard Mandarin in grade two and English in grade three, both in addition to her local tongue, Mongolian. Now she can communicate with foreigners. At school she has also learned to play the horse-head fiddle, a traditional Mongolian musical instrument. Ji is enrolled in classes providing "education for all-around development".  

Ji's dorm building is next to her classrooms. Every floor in the dorm building is equipped with water dispensers. Students enjoy the same benefits in their dorms as students in major cities. As a pupil from the grasslands, Ji and other 350 children board here. They are not charged tuition fees, and book fees. She has free room and board as well.

Siqin Bilige, the headmaster of the school, holds special feelings toward Inner Mongolia's new education policies. Also born in the grassland, Siqin was a pupil of the "horseback school". He remembered that his "classroom" was an adobe room without desks. Students from different grades sat on one bed to study. His teacher rode to this place once a week to hold classes.

"My teacher was a herdsman with limited knowledge. He couldn't teach us standard Mandarin, so I didn't learn it until junior high school," Siqin recalled.

From Siqin Bilige to Ji Musi, Inner Mongolia's education has quietly stepped down from the "horseback" and "adobe house". Now it is welcoming the good news of spreading the nine-year compulsory education on the prairie.

Since late June, the China National Education and Examination Office has evaluated results regarding Inner Mongolia's attempts to "basically expand nine-year compulsory education" and "basically eliminate young adult illiteracy". Once the result is up to par, Inner Mongolia can announce the success of its nine-year compulsory education, said He Chengbao, director-general of the Inner Mongolian Education Department.

According to statistics from the Inner Mongolian Education Department, the dropout rate of primary school pupils is 0.09 percent and the number of junior high school is 0.12 percent. The illiteracy rate of young adults accounts for 2.7 percent.

"I doubted the data at first, but the education department said that the data has been checked. Inner Mongolia's education has achieved great strides," stated Chu Bo, the party secretary of Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region.

He Chengbao cannot control his emotion when mentioning the tremendous changes in provincial education. "The basic education on the prairie originated from a row of adobe houses attending 'horseback schools', but now most children have gotten junior high school diplomas."

Inner Mongolia's education is progressing rapidly. Currently it is pushing forward projects to "rebuild dilapidated houses", "room and board system" and "provincial education development". It is also trying to send disabled children to school by cooperating with overseas non-governmental organizations.

Inner Mongolia is planning to increase the cost of living subsidy for primary school boarders and needy junior high school students. It is making efforts to ensure that needy students can continue their college studies through governmental financial aid and tax deductions.

(China Development Gateway by Sun Wan August 16, 2007)

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