In China, no rural children left behind

The Chinese government has just announced a new $1 billion plan to provide free education to 150 million rural children. Their schooling has been ostensibly free for decades, but fees are often introduced by local authorities, leaving cash-strapped parents unable to pay. (Fees average $18 a child in rural areas, where the average income is ...

605536_Chinakids5.jpg
605536_Chinakids5.jpg

The Chinese government has just announced a new $1 billion plan to provide free education to 150 million rural children. Their schooling has been ostensibly free for decades, but fees are often introduced by local authorities, leaving cash-strapped parents unable to pay. (Fees average $18 a child in rural areas, where the average income is approximately $367).

The primary motivation behind the plan is to narrow the ever-widening gap between wealthy, urban Chinese and their poorer, rural fellow citizens. Education is one of the top financial burdens for rural families, who have been largely left behind in China's economic boom.

Higher spending on education is just one of several initiatives, including more and better rural healthcare, that the government has promised to deliver in response to growing rural unrest. Whether it's enough to stop the riots that seem to be occuring more and more across the countryside remains to be seen. Ironically, one group of children is excluded from the new education plan: The children of the millions of rural families who have flocked to China's booming cities in recent years.

The Chinese government has just announced a new $1 billion plan to provide free education to 150 million rural children. Their schooling has been ostensibly free for decades, but fees are often introduced by local authorities, leaving cash-strapped parents unable to pay. (Fees average $18 a child in rural areas, where the average income is approximately $367).

The primary motivation behind the plan is to narrow the ever-widening gap between wealthy, urban Chinese and their poorer, rural fellow citizens. Education is one of the top financial burdens for rural families, who have been largely left behind in China’s economic boom.

Higher spending on education is just one of several initiatives, including more and better rural healthcare, that the government has promised to deliver in response to growing rural unrest. Whether it’s enough to stop the riots that seem to be occuring more and more across the countryside remains to be seen. Ironically, one group of children is excluded from the new education plan: The children of the millions of rural families who have flocked to China’s booming cities in recent years.

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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