Tsinghua University declared on Tuesday that it will introduce preferential policies for students from the country's poverty-stricken areas this year.
All the high schools in the 592 poverty-stricken counties defined by the central government will be allowed to nominate one of their students for Tsinghua University. The qualification grades for their enrollment will be lower than their peers from cities and rich rural areas.
Since the country's higher learning institutes were given more freedom to recruit students, they have set their eyes on urban students because they are considered better quality.
The number of children from the rural areas of central and western China attending the country's prestigious universities has been declining and those from the poverty-stricken counties have been a rare sight indeed at the country's great universities, such as Peking University and Tsinghua University.
Surveys have found that from 1978 through 1998 only 30 percent of the students in Peking University came from the rural part of China. This figure has dropped below 15 percent since 2000.
Tsinghua University recruited eight children from rural poor areas under preferential policy this autumn semester. But in the past five years the university has only admitted high school students from less than 20 percent of the State-affirmed poor counties. So the university's new enrollment policy for students in these poor areas is heart-warming.
It is true that there is a wide gap between rural and urban students. This is an inevitable outcome of the unfair distribution of educational resources of urban and rural areas. The poorest of the poverty-stricken areas lack a standardized and universal primary education system.
Urban education enjoys most of the educational resources and urban students can choose better schools that offer benefits such as bonus points. Such a policy widens the education gap between urban and rural areas in the country and makes it difficult for youngsters from poor families in rural areas to enter the elite ranks of society.
"Knowledge can change fate," is a well-known notion that no doubt has encouraged numerous children in rural areas of the country, particularly remote and less developed places, to learn in the hope of improving their livelihoods. Studying for these students is an investment in the future. For some it is seen as a life-saver.
Tsinghua University deserves praise for its new recruitment policy. We hope that more higher learning institutions will join Tsinghua University by opening their doors to students from the less developed areas.
Such a move would help balance rural and urban education and improve the allocation of resources across the country. But an institutional reform of the country's education is the real solution to the inequality of rural and urban education.