Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is enforcing a regulation offering free high school education in four of its ethnic-minority dominated prefectures, warning against any interference with student’s right to education.
"No body is allowed to coerce or deceive school-age students out of high school or interfere with their studies to encourage them to drop-out," according to the 32-article regulation endorsed by the regional legislature.
"Individuals or organizations that cause students to leave school early shall be held legally responsible," it added without elaboration.
The prefectures earmarked to exempt high school tuition fees are largely inhabited by the Uygur, Mongol, Kyrgyz, and Tajik ethnic minorities. School enrolment in Xinjiang is lower than the national average, said sources with the local government. Statistics show high school enrolment in the four prefectures was 23 percent in 2010, far below the national average of 80 percent.
Xinjiang’s four prefectures are home to 90,000 school-age teenagers.
The regulation orders authorities to ensure the tuition-free policy is implemented. Local governments must include free high school education in their development plans and real estate developers have been urged to construct high schools near new residential communities, according to the regulation.
Overall, China has nine years of free compulsory education -- six years of primary school and three years of junior high school. Programs to extend free education beyond the nine years are being tested in phases.