XI'AN, Aug.12 (Xinhua) -- High school graduates who enroll in China's top two universities of Tsinghua and Peking will be awarded 100,000 yuan each (14,638 U.S. dollars), according to an enrollment notice of a senior high school in west China's Shaanxi Province.
"We know it is rare to offer such high award to elite students. But no students from our county has ever been admitted to the two top universities in the last 30 years. We think it is a shame, as the county has been better off and has invested heavily in boosting education," said Yang Yun, principal of the Wuqi Senior High School, the only high school in the county of 120,000 people.
He said the school has taken steps to attract excellent students, including cash awards for students achieving high scores in the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE), scholarships for various talents and financial subsidies for students from low-income households.
"The school issued grants worth 3.4 million yuan to students last year. Each scholarship ranges from 2,000 to 50,000 yuan," he said.
"In addition to scholarships for high scores, we have also set up scholarships for innovation, sports, artistic excellence and many others, through which we encourage our students to be well-rounded," he said.
Liu Yanliang, who was enrolled by the City University of Hong Kong last year as the top student from Wuqi received 65,000 yuan in cash award.
"Good scores mean good cash awards," said the principal Yang.
"Education in Wuqi used to be very poor, and talented students went to the big cites of Yan'an or Xi'an" in Shanxi to pursue high school studies" said Yang Shiyuan, an education official in Wuqi.
He said the county's economy has been growing fast. The county government can afford high educational expenditures to improve the basic education standard.
Wuqi has been verified to have a deposit of 150 million tons of petroleum and natural gas. The county has become better-off through developing the petrochemical industry. Its financial revenue surpassed 2 billion yuan in 2006, when it became the richest county in Shaanxi.
The county government invested 140 million yuan to help upgrade the Wuqi Senior High School in 2005. In 2007, the county carried out 12-year free compulsory education for local students, as compared to the country's previous nine-year free compulsory education.
Since the policy took effect in 2007, 95 percent of school-aged pupils in Wuqi went to the high school, which increased from 60 percent before 2007.
"Under the policy, each student in the Wuqi high school is exempt from school fees of up to 10,000 yuan for the three years of schooling," said parent Wang Feng. "The school frees us from the burden of school fees, and if the kids can study well, he or she can earn scholarships and save money for advanced study."
Despite the positive outcome, parents still worry that the score-oriented stimulus goes against the country's call for quality-oriented education.
However, the educational official Yang said: "Under the current education system, scores in college entrance exams are still the most important factor in evaluating schools' teaching quality."
Since 2008, the school began to recruit good teachers nationwide with yearly salaries as high as 150,000 yuan -- which is about the standard of white-collar salary in big cities. It also set up a 10 million-yuan grant for special teaching and research projects.
The principal Yang said good teachers can help more students reach their dream of going to the top universities of Tsinghua and Peking.