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China raises education spending, but more needs to be done

By Li Hongbing (People's Daily Overseas Edition)

09:19, March 13, 2012

Edited and translated by People's Daily Online

The central government spending on education will account for 4 percent of the country's GDP this year. Local financial organizations should decide their budgets accordingly, said Premier Wen Jiabao, when delivering the government report at the opening ceremony of the annual session of the National People's Congress.

The 4 percent is the most familiar percentage to China's educational circle. China's education has been pursuing the "4 percent" for about 20 years. It was a long and rough journey. If in 1993 some parents, holding their newly-born child, read the newly-printed "Reform and Development Program for China's Education" and regarded China's promise of realizing the goal of putting 4 percent of the GDP into education by the middle of the 1990s or the end of the 20th century as a luscious apple, then, in 2012, the child, who has graduated from high school, has ultimately picked up this luscious "apple."

According to international standards, this "apple" shows the importance of education to a country. During the mid-1980s, China's spending on education had been lower than 3 percent of GDP. In the late 1980s, the State Education Commission made a suggestion to the CPC Central Committee and the State Council that the percentage should be increased to 4 percent by the mid-1990s or 2000. However, the percentage had been lower than 3.5 percent till 2011.

Higher spending on education is beneficial to almost every family in China. Why did it take the country 19 years to increase education spending to 4 percent of GDP?

First, as the central government has taken economic development as the country's primary task, almost all local governments are thirsty for investment, and are least willing to invest in education. Due to their obsession with GDP growth and lack of transparency and supervision, education always takes the smallest share of government spending.

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