SCMP Saturday, November 10, 2001

Education becoming major contributor to Beijing's GDP


In the past few years, education has played a greater role in Beijing's economy and has contributed as much as 15 per cent to the capital's gross national product, according to a recent report by a group of academics.
Beijing is the political capital but also the nation's cultural centre and it spends 20.8 billion yuan (US$2.5 billion) on education annually. That spending is the engine that helps drive the education sector's 31.2 billion yuan in profits. That is a conclusion that researchers at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics have reached.
Out of a population of 12.5 million, Beijing has 4.19 million students and faculty members at its more than 11,000 schools and universities, according to the city's Education Committee.
The Committee did a recent study of 1,000 families in the urban area that showed that local people spend 65,000 yuan on average on their children's education, from kindergarten through junior middle school. The cost can run as high as 160,000 yuan if the child goes on to four years of university.
Then there are the add-ons. Many people end up paying several hundred yuan more per month or even above 1,000 yuan if they want to give the child various extracurricular classes, according to the study. Some of the most popular classes are those on computer use, painting, dance often ballet, or how to play a musical instrument.
There is also a fairly strong business in vocational training in the capital, with nearly a million people attending various technical or other kinds of training courses every year to acquire a certificate or prepare for exams. Most districts and suburban villages have schools or training centres that provide adult education courses.
Spending on education is expected to amount to 37 billion yuan by 2005 if the city continues increasing enrolments at middle schools and universities as it plans, the university researchers said.
The city's education plan calls for an increase in the number of high school students to 250,000 by 2005. There are currently 160,000 students enrolled in high schools. The number of university students is expected to go from 400,000 to 800,000.
The city will also open its doors wider to overseas students in hopes of attracting 30,000. There are currently 10,000 foreign students in its colleges and universities. There will be training or adult education courses that can cater to 4.5 million workers or people seeking further education.
If it does indeed have such a large number of avid education consumers, the education sector can expect to take in anywhere from 55 billion to 74 billion yuan in profits and to account for 18 to 24 per cent of the city's GDP by 2005, the researchers have calculated.