Experts have stressed the importance of education in maintaining stability in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region as the country has vowed to crack down on separatists and terrorists who have plotted a series of violent attacks.
The central leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) said on Monday that steps will be taken to boost local education in Xinjiang, including speeding up the building of boarding schools in agricultural and pastoral areas as well as in remote regions.
High school students in Xinjiang's southern regions, mainly inhabited by ethnic Uygur people, will receive free education, according to a statement released after a meeting of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, chaired by its general secretary, Xi Jinping.
Ma Pinyan, a researcher with Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, told Xinhua on Tuesday that the high drop-out ratio in southern Xinjiang is directly related to the backward economic development in the region.
"Implementing free education in high schools will help elevate the overall quality of residents in southern Xinjiang," Ma said.
Zhou Xiaoxi, a youth psychologist with the China Association for Mental Heath, said that most of the terrorists involved in recent attacks are young men in their 20s or 30s, indicating that basic education in the region needs to be strengthened.
"Free education in high schools will lift the enrollment rate of middle school graduates, and prevent them from being brain-washed by the extreme thoughts behind the terrorism," according to Zhou.
The central leadership said special measures will be taken to develop southern Xinjiang in particular and improve local people's livelihood, urging more efforts to implement the existing ethnic policies to promote bilingual education and interaction between ethnic groups.
It also noted that creating jobs for local people will be put on top of the agenda, ensuring that at least one person from zero-employment families is offered a job.
Monday's decisions by the central leadership have been welcomed by government officials, intellectuals as well as Xinjiang residents.
Mullah Abdurekep, president of Xinjiang Islamic Scripture College, said the Party's ethnic and religious policies have guaranteed the happy lives and religious freedom of all Muslims in Xinjiang.
"I will continue propagating the policies to my students and let them know that national unity is the lifeline of all ethnic people," Abdurekep said.
"Without peace and stability, there will be no future for Xinjiang," said Nurlan Ezes, from Kashgar City. "We will never allow anyone to sabotage our shared home."