Statistics from the ministries of education and finance show that in 2016, government spending on education reached nearly 3.14 trillion yuan ($473 billion), up 7.44 percent over the previous year and accounting for 4.22 percent of the national GDP. This marked the fifth consecutive year that state education investment had surpassed 4 percent of the GDP.
In the past, there was a shortage of funds for China's education and a big gap existed between urban and rural areas as well as between higher education and basic education in terms of investment. For some time, rural areas, home to 60 percent of the total population, had access to only 23 percent of the government's education funds, with the inputs in eastern regions outweighing those in the west exponentially. This irrational distribution seriously hindered the development of education in the vast rural areas, in central and western regions, and in the elementary education sector.
The trend has now been reversed. In 2016, more than half of the government education spending, 52.9 percent of the total, went to primary and middle schools. In regional breakdown terms, central and western regions accounted for 61 percent of the total investment.
As the government increases spending, the focus should turn to how to distribute the money effectively, so as to attain various goals for the country's education system.
In the coming years, a bigger portion of the money should be directed toward kindergartens and used to increase education resources in impoverished areas. It's also important to cut administration expenses, particularly expenditure on vanity projects, through tightened supervision.
(This is an edited excerpt of an article published in China Youth Daily on November 2)