BEIJING, June 10, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — An old Chinese saying goes “to dig a well, you begin with a shallow pit and eventually get a deep one.” The sentence means that a long journey starts with a single step. It comes from “Liu Zi · Chong Xue,” a book written around 1,500 years ago.
Chinese President Xi Jinping viewed education as a first and fundamental step to “dig the well” of eradicating absolute poverty in China, which was achieved in 2020.
Preventing the transfer of poverty across generations
The Yangjialing Fuzhou Hope Primary School in Yan’an, northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, was renovated with donations from Fuzhou City, capital of southeastern Fujian Province in 1995 after Xi Jinping, then Party chief of Fuzhou, encouraged local entrepreneurs to help build schools in the country’s underdeveloped regions.
“Don’t let the kids lose at the starting line,” Xi said when visiting the school in 2015, highlighting education as a key factor in the development of poor areas.
The school, which at one time had only one teacher and a classroom in a cave, has undergone rapid changes with support from the government and society. It has now a four-story building equipped with modern multimedia classrooms, and students are also able to take a free lunch at school.
Statistics from the Ministry of Education (MOE) published in 2020 show China’s total investment in education, including free meals and improving school facilities, had increased by more than eight percent annually in the previous three years.
According to the white paper on China’s poverty alleviation issued in April 2021, the country has renovated 108,000 schools to strengthen the provision of nine-year compulsory education in poor areas since 2013.
“Reducing poverty must begin with reducing ignorance. Therefore, giving rural children a good education is an important task in poverty relief, and also a crucial means to stop poverty being passed on between generations,” Xi has said.
Narrowing education gap
Regarding education equality as the basis of social equality, Xi Jinping has on many occasions stressed the importance of narrowing the gap in educational resources and quality between rural and urban areas.
In the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020), China’s central budget allocated around 749.5 billion yuan ($114.6 billion) worth of subsidies to support compulsory education, and 90 percent of the funds was invested in rural areas, according to the MOE. For instance, students from poor rural household were provided with living allowance from the government to support their study.
The 2021 white paper on China’s poverty alleviation says there have been no dropouts in the countryside due to financial difficulties. Nine-year compulsory education is now available to all children from rural poor households, and the completion rate in 2020 was 94.8 percent.
As China goes digital in education, internet infrastructure has also bridged the gap between urban and rural education – primary and middle schools across the country all have internet connection.
Students at the Yangjialing Fuzhou Hope Primary School are now able to experience the “internet classroom” through which the school uses the internet to share real-time teaching with partner schools in big cities.
Favorable policies have also been leveraged to enroll more poor students, expand employment for graduates, and help students shake off poverty through vocational education.
More than 8 million middle and high school graduates from poor families have received vocational training, 5.14 million poor students have received higher education, and key institutions of higher learning have admitted some 700,000 students from designated rural and poor areas.