HONG KONG: China's Cabinet has approved a much-anticipated plan of education reform which promises greater spending, wider access, improved quality and less corruption.
Premier Wen Jiabao, who presided over the meeting on Wednesday, called for the opening of a new chapter in Chinese education history, the South China Morning Post reported yesterday.
The country's education sector has long suffered from problems ranging from funding shortage to unbalanced development between rural and urban areas.
The development of education, ranging from pre-school to vocational level in rural areas, will be a priority in the country's overall development programme, according to the plan.
The Medium and Long-term National Educational Reform and Development Plan (2010-2020) sets the total budget for education at 4 per cent of gross domestic product by 2012. In 2008, it accounted for just 3.48 per cent of GDP, compared with the world's average level of 4.5 per cent.
The seemingly humble target was supposed to have been met in 2000, but local government officials hesitated to spend on education, the Post said.
The blueprint also pledges to narrow the educational gap between rural and urban areas by building more schools, providing more teachers and enrolling more high- school graduates in college from rural, ethnic minority-dominated or less developed regions.
Under the plan, pre-school education will be available to every citizen by 2020, at least 90 per cent of middle-school graduates will progress to high school, more than 40 per cent of high-school graduates will go on to university and citizens should receive, on the average, at least 11.2 years of education.
In the cities, students will be given less school work, allowing them to have more time for extracurricular activities.
However, netizens on the popular Sina.com portal have criticised the blueprint's vagueness. Many said it failed to adequately address fundamental issues in the Chinese educational system - such as academic corruption, heavy regimentation and discrimination against rural residents, the Post reported.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.
For more The Straits Times stories, click here.