BEIJING, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) -- China's nine-year compulsory education policy has made great achievements in recent years, covering more than 160 million primary and middle school students so far in both rural and urban areas, said Education Minister Zhou Ji at a news conference here Friday.
Last year, the enrollment percentage in about 300,900 primary schools and 57,900 middle schools across the country both reached 98 percent, Zhou said.
In past several years, the government also spent tens of billions of yuan to establish more than 8,000 boarding schools nationwide, rebuild dangerous buildings and improve living conditions in schools, he said.
China's nine-year compulsory education policy, which was launched in 1986, enables students over six years old nationwide to have free education at both primary and secondary schools.
Besides, Zhou also stressed the importance of shortening the gap between urban and rural areas in terms of teachers' quality issues, through means of improving rural teachers' economic and social status.
From January 1 this year, the government released a wage reform ensuring the payment of rural teachers should not be lower than that of local civil servants.
Further, the government issued many preferential policies to encourage teachers, college graduates as well as normal schools' students to go to the countryside to teach. So far this year, there are more than 200,000 college graduates who have done so.
As for the nation's vocational education development issue, which is considered as an important task for China's education development, Zhou said secondary vocational education will have free access this year, in order to greater promote its development.
The policy will be employed firstly in agriculture related majors and for poor students, Zhou said.
But he did not reveal the exact time for the policy to take effect.
He said secondary vocational school development scale is now equal to that of the high school, with students' enrollment number larger than the high school.
Last year the enrollment number in secondary vocational schools reached 8.1 million, and the number might be 8.6 million for this year, he said.