On September 1 this year, Yangchenghu Primary School in Suzhou, east China's Jiangsu Province, opened its doors to its first group of students. The total investment in this school amounts to 110 million yuan ($16 million), and it has many advanced facilities. There is convenient access to the Internet, elevators installed and every classroom has an independent lavatory. Its affiliated kindergarten is equipped with a ground source heat pump system. Its advanced facilities have won it a reputation as the "most luxurious primary school" in Suzhou.
The school's fees are consistent with the national standard. For example, every student in grade six pays 14 yuan ($2) per semester.
It's reported the 10 new schools put into operation in Suzhou this year were all built according to the requirements for modern education and all of them have entailed considerable costs. Local education officials said Suzhou is an economically developed area, which makes it possible for the area to take the lead in improving local schools' conditions.
Suzhou is the richest city in Jiangsu Province. In 2009, its GDP ranked sixth and third in China in aggregate and per-capita terms, respectively.
Those who support the school argue it's China's reality that regions differ from each other greatly in terms of development level. Despite the differences, one thing is certain: The goal of economic development is to improve people's livelihoods and as an important part of that, education deserves to be put in first place. Therefore, as long as the school was not built on embezzled funds or other forms of corruption, it should not be the envy of the rest of the region or the country simply because it's much better equipped than other schools.
Although Suzhou is a wealthy city, people critical of the school say, it's impossible for all of the schools in the area to be so well equipped. It's unfair to focus on one primary school while many other schools still lack certain educational resources. Only a small number of local students are able to enjoy the luxury of this school while most other students have no access to these types of conditions. The building of the school actually widens the gap among schools and students in this area are being offered uneven resources.
The right direction
Jiang Hongbing (People's Daily): The input in Yangchenghu Primary School seems huge, but it is not the only one in China's economically developed regions that have been enthusiastic about modernization of education. In contrast to some private schools, this school is nothing at all.
In most places in China, the most luxurious edifices are without exception government buildings. This time, the best building is a primary school. Isn't this a great step forward in terms of governance concepts? As long as the local education authorities have not neglected other schools for the sake of this school, as long as the investment has been carefully planned and implemented, without wasting taxpayers' money, and as long as this school pays the same attention to improving its teaching staff and teaching methods, it's better the rest of society doesn't point fingers at it.
He He (gb.cri.cn): Yangchenghu Primary School is publicly funded, so despite a huge investment, fee charging is strictly conducted according to the state standard and is very low. Migrant workers' children are also allowed into this school. The huge investment is not a waste but is playing a very effective role in promoting local education.
Uneven distribution of educational resources is hated by the whole of society and thus ensuring every one has equal access to relatively advanced educational resources is an arduous task. Given China's current economic reality, which shows very uneven features, we have to allow some developed areas to invest more in education than poor areas, so as to highlight the extremely important position of education in a region and even in the country. Yangchenghu Primary School is to some extent an example to encourage the rest of the country to follow suit to provide the best for the children, which is also the country's national education objective. If primary schools all over the country are built up as the area's most luxurious architecture, nobody need feel odd about Yangchenghu Primary School anymore.
Wang Chuantao (Changsha Evening News): As to how should a school be constructed, people have different views. To see bigger numbers of well-equipped schools rising in China is a good thing. Wenchuan Middle School, which was destroyed by the massive earthquake in Sichuan Province in May 2008, was rebuilt on the cost of 200 million yuan ($30 million). Suzhou this time spent 110 million yuan on the new primary school. By doing so, the local government hopes to provide a more solid, more advanced equipped and more beautiful school for local children. Yangchenghu School is called the "most luxurious primary school," because it is equipped with facilities such as a ground source heat pump system and elevators and every classroom has projectors, TV sets, Internet access and an independent lavatory. But we notice in many other countries, these things are already very common in primary and middle schools. In China, at the present time, only a small number are lucky enough to enjoy this kind of convenience. We should feel happy for these lucky children. As for the others who don't have such good conditions, the government needs to think about how to offer similar provisions as soon as possible, instead of scolding the "most luxurious primary school" and feeling satisfied about the average education level.
More importantly, this school did not transfer its huge cost to its students or their parents. Students are charged no more than other schools. This school was built from local tax revenue, implying the principle of "from the people and for the people."
Do not worry about the luxury of public services. It is a reflection of the public's interests being paid more attention and ordinary people's dignity, decency and happiness being increasingly valued.
Ding Hongxian (China Ethnic News): In spite of the country's rapid economic growth, the goal of investing 4 percent of China's GDP in education remains unattained. In some regions, although local governments' revenue is growing, their input in education falls far behind. For example, in an economically developed county in central China's Henan Province, several primary and middle schools do not even have desks and stools for students and students have to bring these things to school themselves. This problem has remained unsolved for 10 years by now. This county does not lack money, but the local government has definitely neglected education.