Rural elementary and secondary schools will get the bulk of educational funds allowing children to enjoy new computer and multimedia classrooms and free education as early as 2010, according to the Ministry of Education (MOE).
"Rural education is still the weakest link, and our newly-allocated educational funds will be used mainly in rural areas," said Zhang Xinsheng, vice-minister of MOE.
The Chinese Government will increase funds for rural education to fulfil the goal of free compulsory education in rural areas by 2010.
"All the rural students receiving the nine-year compulsory education (elementary and junior secondary education) will be exempted from paying miscellaneous as well as tuition fees by 2010, which is a goal we put forward in the 11th Five-Year Programme (2006-10)," said Han Jin, director of MOE's department of planning, at a press conference yesterday in Beijing. "Already 36 million rural students are now benefiting from this policy."
Zhang said China aims to increase the percentage of educational input in gross domestic product from 3.41 per cent in 2003 to 4 per cent in the future. He added that the central government would allocate special funds to implement the Modern Distant Education Programme in rural elementary schools and secondary schools in five years' time.
Upon completion, all rural secondary schools and primary schools will gain access to satellite educational programmes and have DVD equipment in class to teach the same courses used in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
"The National Report on China's Education for All" issued by MOE yesterday showed that in 2004, the nation allotted 107 billion yuan (US$13.2 billion) for rural primary education and 57.4 billion yuan (US$7 billion) for rural junior secondary education, an increase of 74.35 per cent and 87.69 per cent over 2000 respectively.
But Zhang admitted that rural and literacy education in China face numerous problems.
For example, China still has 87 million illiterate people, of whom 23 million are youths and middle-aged individuals. Eight per cent of the country has not yet adopted the nine-year compulsory education, all in the poor western part of China.
"The current administration is determined to solve this problem," Zhang said.
According to MOE, China had 112 million elementary school pupils in 2004, with an enrolment rate of 98.95 per cent and an enrolment rate for girls of 98.93 per cent.
Zhang said the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Fifth High Level Group Meeting on Education For All, co-sponsored by MOE and UNESCO, will be held on November 28 in Beijing. The theme of the meeting will be "Literacy with special focus on education for rural people."
A day before the meeting, the Sino-African Education Minister Forum will be held in Beijing to discuss educational strategy and international co-operation.
Zhang was elected chairman to the UNESCO's Executive Board on October 24.