Rural education concern
Updated: 2012-09-26 07:59
When describing the importance they attach to education, local officials like to say that no matter how financially constrained they are, they will never let education suffer.
But it seems there is a discrepancy between what some of them say and what some of them do when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is.
The central government's allocation of funds for free textbooks for rural students since the autumn of 2007 and its financial support for free lunches for rural poverty-stricken kids since last year have set good examples for local governments.
But when 3,000 kids in Central China's Hubei province have to bring their own desks and chairs to school at the start of the new semester it begs the question whether local governments are placing the same importance on education as the central government.
Some clearly are. Changzhi county in Shanxi province is providing free education to all kids in the county from kindergarten to senior middle school, starting this autumn. While Fugu county, in the neighboring Shaanxi province, has done the same since 2011. Both counties had given students 12-year free education from primary to senior middle school two years ago.
True, they are among the richest counties. But not all governments with handsome revenues are equally forthcoming.
In their case it is not a question of whether they can afford to spend on education or not, but a question of whether they are willing to.
That explains why some kids have to bring their own desks and chairs to school and why many teachers in rural schools are still underpaid.
The central government has done a great deal, from providing nine-year free education for all rural kids starting from 2006, to the annual input of 16 billion yuan ($2.5 billion) in a program to provide 26 million rural students with free lunches from 2011.
And if local government leaders mean what they say about the importance of education, it should not be that difficult for the majority of rural schools to have their poor teaching conditions considerably improved.
The real concern for education is providing equal and fair education for all, which requires all governments to provide the means to achieve this.
(China Daily 09/26/2012 page8)