School buses to meet national conditions

Updated: 2011-12-31 07:44

By Zhao Yinan (China Daily)

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BEIJING - School bus services in China will accord with national conditions and will not be Western-styled, a senior official said on Friday.

Zhu Zhixin, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, said that China will establish its own system for school bus service, one that matches the country's circumstances, geographical variations, school locations and diversified economy.

He was responding to criticism from netizens who said China's busing system for students should meet Western standards.

School buses to meet national conditions
Because of the complexity of the issue, China's school bus service system will primarily be dominated by the government, Zhu said, stressing coordination among a dozen parties, such as public security and public transportation.

"But the government cannot take care of everything, so social support and understanding will be welcomed," he said.

Zhu made the remarks at an inquiry meeting, held by the National People's Congress Standing Committee, the country's top legislature, on the implementation of a developmental outline of education from 2010 to 2020.

The inquiry meeting comes amid wide social concerns over student safety - especially those who have to commute long distances from home to school - after a string of deadly school bus crashes.

Twenty-one people, including 19 preschoolers and two adults, died and 43 were injured in November when a nine-seat bus illegally carrying 64 people crashed head-on with a coal truck in Gansu province.

The case was followed shortly by another rollover in which 35 of 39 passengers were injured in Northeast China's Liaoning province.

In a more recent case, at least seven students died after an overloaded minivan plunged into a valley in Southwest China's Yunnan province last week.

The series of tragedies gave way to a draft regulation earlier this month, the country's first on school bus safety.

The draft, open for public opinion until Jan 11, gives school buses the right of way, sets up standards on the design and production of buses and stipulates that funding should be subsidized by central and local government revenues.

More rural students now have to travel long distances to schools, as the number of village schools has declined due to consolidation efforts.

Half of primary schools have been closed or merged into nearby schools in the last decade, leaving 260,000 nationwide, said Education Minister Yuan Guiren. Yuan said the consolidation of rural primary schools and high schools has become a hot issue.

"To solve the problem requires better understanding of the three reasons that caused the issue, namely the declining school age population in rural areas due to urbanization, a rising number of students in urban areas and higher standards for the quality of education," he said.

China now has 240 million migrant workers, who brought about 120 million children with them to study at urban schools.