BEIJING, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- Premier Wen Jiabao has called for China's education policy makers to develop practical schemes to ensure that the poor have equal access to education.
In a just-released speech Wen delivered at a meeting of the State Council, or the cabinet, in late August, which is to be published by the People's Daily on Monday, he urged policy makers to take into account regional economic imbalances and income differentials between urban residents and farmers, which existed despite the country's tremendous economic achievements.
Education policies should be based on realities and reflect thefairly low level of per capita income, he said.
Wealth disparities, developmental imbalances between urban and rural areas and the huge rural migrant population should all be considered when forming education policies, he told the meeting, which approved a 12-year education plan (2009-2020).
Education has a "far-reaching impact" and serves as the "cornerstone" of national development, according to the released version of the speech.
To address current economic challenges and tackle structural economic problems, the country must rely on scientific and technological progress and raising the quality of the workforce, Wen said.
To ensure that people have equal access to education is in the public interest and in line with the demands of economic and social development, he said.
Wen urged policy-makers to carry out "systematic" and "consistent" education reform and called for pilot programs to test the feasibility of education plans.
He also urged to build a modern education system with Chinese characteristics that would integrate world-class education concepts.
Other factors to be considered in education plans should be thedemographic, industrial and employment structures, according to Wen.
Wen also stressed that vocational education was crucial for economic development and job-creation, as China was in dire need of workers with practical skills.
He said: "Currently, the country should arrange the scale and subjects of vocational education in line with social demand."
In China, students can go to vocational schools to learn specialized trades. Such graduates are popular with employers, as they have practical skills and usually demand lower wages than people with college degrees. But they don't have high social status.
Wen said such prejudices should be discarded, and society should raise the salaries and social status of vocational workers.
As for teaching system reform, Wen said curriculums should reflect the students' abilities and social needs, while reducing their study burdens.
"Our main teaching method is still 'instill' instead of 'inspire.' Teachers should teach students to think, live and get along with others, in addition to knowledge. That is the aim of our education reform."
Wen also addressed key issues including college education, the school system, teacher development and educational investment.
The 12-year education plan, which Wen called "a tough mission,"was drawn up in consultation with experts and reflected advice from school officials, teachers, students and parents.