School Lunch Campaign Paying Off

ByZou Shuo December 27, 2021
School Lunch Campaign Paying off
Children lunch together with a teacher in September at a rural school in Yangcheng County, Jincheng, Shanxi Province. [Xinhua/Chai Ting]


Decade-Old Program Helping Students in Countryside Become Taller, Healthier

Rural students in China have grown taller and healthier on average over the past decade thanks to a nutrition improvement plan initiated 10 years ago to ensure young people in the countryside receiving compulsory education can also enjoy daily nutritious lunches at school, said a report.

Based on a survey of 2.27 million rural students, the report found that 15-year-old boys are an average of 10 centimeters taller and girls of the same age added 8 cm on average in 2020 compared to average heights in 2012.

The malnutrition rate of students in underdeveloped rural regions was down from 20.3 percent to 10.2 percent over the period, while 86.7 percent of surveyed students met national fitness levels in 2020, up from 70.3 percent in 2012, the report said, which was released by the China Development Research Foundation.

Almost 38 million students have benefited since 2011 from the national program of nutrition enhancement for rural students receiving compulsory education, according to the Ministry of Education.

A total of 28 provincial-level regions around the country have carried out the program, covering 130,000 compulsory education schools in rural areas and 40 percent of rural students receiving compulsory education, the ministry said.

Over 196.7 billion yuan ($30.9 billion) was allocated from the central government's budget to the program, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in less-developed regions, mainly in the form of new cafeteria staff.

The nutrition enhancement plan is part of comprehensive efforts carried out by the Chinese government to improve rural education and ensure that "no students are left behind due to financial difficulties" and "all students enjoy the opportunity to shine".

The country's total investment in education reached more than 5.3 trillion yuan last year, up 5.7 percent from 2019, according to the national education expenditure report.

Government budgetary spending on education totaled about 4.3 trillion yuan last year, up 7.2 percent year-on-year.

Such spending accounted for 4.2 percent of the nation's GDP last year, which marked the ninth consecutive year that it exceeded 4 percent.

As the country achieved the target of eradicating absolute poverty last year, the number of dropouts in compulsory education from registered impoverished families has been reduced from 200,000 in 2019 to zero last year.

The number of dropouts had fallen to 831 by the end of November last year, marking a 99.9 percent decrease from 2019, said Lyu Yugang, director of the Ministry of Education's department of basic education.

Ren Youqun, head of the ministry's department of teacher education, said a program launched in 2006 has led to the hiring of 1.03 million university graduates to teach at rural schools in central and western provincial-level regions, and the program is expected to hire another 84,300 rural teachers this year.

A new program launched in July has enrolled 9,530 students at the country's top teacher training universities, who upon graduation are expected to teach at rural kindergartens, primary and middle schools in formerly impoverished counties.

Education Minister Huai Jinpeng said education equality is a basic education policy in the nation and great efforts have been made in closing the education development gap between different regions, schools, groups and urban and rural areas to safeguard people's rights in getting education and improving their satisfaction in education.

People's satisfaction rate is an important criterion in educational development and education should never be profit driven in order to further promote education equality, Huai said in a signed article published recently in Study Times.

More efforts will be made in promoting balanced education development in compulsory education by incorporating internet technology in education, he said.

While the country has achieved the goal of making sure all students can receive education, it should aim for building an educational system that provides quality learning to students, so that all students can share education's benefits equally and achieve all-around development, he added.


(Source: China Daily)


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