Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, in Northwest China, will offer free high school education to all students in the region starting in December benefiting nearly 860,000 students, education regulators announced.
The move will provide every student in Xinjiang with 15 years of free education, covering three years of preschool, nine years of primary and middle school education and three years of high school or vocational training.
Tuition fees will be waived for students who will also receive free accommodation and textbooks. Subsidies will be provided to students from low-income families, according to the Xinjiang Daily on Monday.
Chinese experts say the policy not only showcases the government's ability to bring practical benefits to people living in less developed areas, but will also help sway Xinjiang youth from falling under the influence of extremist elements.
"We should keep in mind that teens are teens no matter where they grow up in China. Xinjiang's youth grow up in a more complicated situation." La Disheng, a professor at the Party School of the Communist Party of China Xinjiang regional committee, told the Global Times.
La stressed that providing universal free education in Xinjiang will serve as a foundation for their pursuit of a good life, and in turn help build a better China in the decades to come.
The policy does not differentiate students based on their ethnic background, which showcases the program's equality, noted Xiong Kunxin, a professor at Beijing's Minzu University of China.
Xiong told the Global Times that unlike previous policies favoring ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang, this reform is designed to lessen the sense of inequality felt by the local Han people.
Xinjiang had previously implemented a pre-school to middle school free education program for students in Southern Xinjiang's Kashgar, Hotan and Aksu prefectures, while students in the Kizilsu Kirgiz Autonomous Prefecture received a full 15 years of free education, according to People's Daily on Monday.
Xinjiang has also set aside 2.58 billion yuan (0 million) to finance the region's 15-year free education program, and students from low-income families in rural areas will be included in the financial aid program, said the report.
Fruitful in the long run
Xinjiang is not the first region to provide free education. In 2015, Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region began to provide free 15-year education from primary to high school, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Students in Qinghai Province's six Tibetan and Mongolian autonomous prefectures, together with those from poverty-stricken families in the provincial capital, were provided with the same 15-year free education in the spring of 2016.
La says the programs show China has become more capable of taking care of people from less developed areas.
Echoing La, Xiong said the move shows that China attaches growing importance to education, which will prove fruitful in the long run.