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Govt to raise education spending to 4% of GDP

By Chen Xin (China Daily)

08:35, March 06, 2012

The central government has decided in its budget that government spending on education will account for 4 percent of the country's GDP this year, said Premier Wen Jiabao, when delivering the government report at the opening ceremony of the annual session of the National People's Congress on Monday.

Local budgets should also prepare to meet the target, he said.

"More resources should be allocated to central and western regions, rural and remote areas and places with concentrations of ethnic groups, to facilitate balanced development of compulsory education," he said.

In China, compulsory education consists of nine years of primary school and junior middle school education.

"It's the first time that the government put the proportion of education spending in GDP in its work report. It was not easy in the past when there was no enough money, and it's also not easy to make the spending efficient now," said Cheng Tianquan, Party chief of Renmin University of China.

There is little chance of equipping schools in all places with the same resources and facilities, but the government should make efforts to ensure that schools of the same kind possess the same facilities, said Cheng, who is also a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee.

Zhang Li, director of the National Center for Education Development Research under the Ministry of Education, said he is excited that education spending will reach a new high.

Central authorities set a target in 1993, aiming to make education spending account for 4 percent of GDP in 2000 as the figure was equal to the world's average level at that time, he said.

"The government had failed to achieve the goal. But 19 years later, we finally made it. It's great progress," he said.

Zhang said as the government has set a year-on-year GDP growth rate of 7.5 percent this year, education spending could surpass 2 trillion yuan ($317 billion), if the growth target is achieved.

Disparity in tax revenues from various regions has led to different education levels in those places, he said, adding that the additional spending that makes up the 4 percent of GDP would be given to poorer areas to close the gap.

Education spending accounted for 3.66 percent of the country's GDP in 2010, according to Wang Lingyi, a researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

"The use of the spending should also be more transparent and open to the public, to ensure its efficiency," Zhang suggested.

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