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Rich-poor education gap to be addressed

"China is scheduled to offer nine year compulsory education free to children in rural areas starting from 2006." Premier Wen Jiabao announced yesterday addressing the "Fifth High Level Group Meeting on Education For All" sponsored by UNESCO.

On the opening day of the three-day UN gathering on education, Premier Wen listed three tasks top on the nation's education work agenda: spreading compulsory education, vocational education, illiteracy elimination and developing education in rural areas.

Among the three, to further develop the rural education in China's large rural areas is given an extraordinary priority as shares light on China's stability and overall sustaining development.

China plans to offer nine-year education free to children in its rural areas by 2010 and nationwide by 2015.

There are in China more than 200 million primary and middle school students, among which some 80 per cent live in the large countryside. Given the harsh reality that a considerable number of rural children quit school under the economic pressure, they are the preserving force to shake off a seemingly deep-rooted and ever-broadening wealth gap of the country.

The nation's whole budget earmarked for education mainly goes to the impoverished rural areas every year establishing new schools and improving the faculty quality, said Wen at the UN conference, soliciting help from developed countries "without additional prerequisites."

"The developing countries have experienced plenty of sufferings. Their people and children urgently need education, development and peace," said the premier.

Calling for education cooperation among developing countries the Premier said, "The developing countries themselves should also strengthen cooperation and help each other,"

Wen pledged that China would increase its education aid to other developing nations. A sum of US$ one million from China would soon go to Africa for aid programs, revealed by UNESCO official Peter Smith.

In 2004, about 94 percent of Chinese had access to free nine-year compulsory education, nine percent more than in 2000.

China is revising its Compulsory Education Law to promote compulsory education and offer every child equal access to education. Enditem


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