The central government has launched a national campaign to evaluate basic school conditions and oversee billions of yuan in renovation projects in an effort to improve education in areas with high poverty.
The four-year campaign will include supervision of ongoing renovation projects at 218,000 schools in China’s 2,656 counties, focusing on safety and spending, according to government guidelines made public on Dec 16.
A nationwide school improvement project allocated 522.7 billion yuan ($80.8 billion) to improving conditions at primary and junior secondary schools that provide compulsory education in low-income areas.
He Xiuchao, head of the supervision office at the Ministry of Education, said the campaign is aimed at ensuring the country will be able to modernize education and make it more equitable before 2020.
“It is a hugely important issue as it involves the basic education level of the whole nation,” he said at a news conference on Dec 17.
The spending will help schools in the poorest areas purchase educational equipment worth 106.6 billion yuan, and renovate or expand school buildings by 220 million square meters. Formally launched in April 2014, it is the largest single investment for compulsory education in the central government’s history.
As of October, construction of 51.66 million sq m of school space had been completed, and educational equipment worth 28.2 billion yuan had been purchased.
Hu said the authorities will also enhance information disclosure to the public, including updates on the progress of projects and use of funds, to ensure that parents and society generally will be able to supervise the projects.
The investment will help ensure balanced development of the nine-year compulsory education nationwide, said Tian Zuyin, deputy director of the supervision office.
One of the main targets of the project is to ensure that pupils and junior secondary school students in all areas of the country enjoy the same education standards, he said.
Wang Jiayi, head of the education department in Gansu province, said a project there will prioritize the development of information technology to ensure that more students will be able to experience the Internet.
“We should also take factors of urbanization into account, as the number of students in many rural areas could be reduced by half after the projects are finished,” he said.