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China sacks education minister amid scandal

Press Trust Of India
Nov 02, 2009 at 08:19am IST

Beijing: China's legislature has removed the country's unpopular education minister amid a corruption scandal in a city he used to oversee and widespread public dissatisfaction with the education system.

The executive committee of the national legislature dismissed Zhou Ji on Saturday at the end of a routine meeting and promoted a deputy education minister to replace him. In announcing the change late on Saturday, the official Xinhua News Agency gave no reason but said Zhou "will get a new appointment."

At 63, the American-educated Zhou was two years short of retirement and thus an unlikely candidate for a job change.

ON THE ANVIL: China is to strengthen quality of teaching in countryside, eliminating fees and making classes accessible.

The surprise move was the latest shift to roil a public education system that Chinese traditionally idealise as a fair pathway to advancement but that has been filled with problems from chronic underfunding at primary and secondary levels to poor quality higher education.

Though many of the ills predate Zhou's rise to education minister six years ago, he has come to be associated with them.

When the legislature, the National People's Congress, met last year to vote in a new Cabinet for a five-year term, Zhou received the highest number of negative votes of any minister.

Zhou's removal comes just weeks after two senior administrators were arrested for bribery at Wuhan University.

While Zhou has not been publicly linked with the scandal, he spent much of his career in Wuhan city working in the education system and served as mayor for two years before being elevated to education minister.

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