They don't do things by half in China. Details of the latest National Human Rights Action Plan for 2009-2010, revealed earlier this year, committed the national government to spend some Y300 billion (about pound;200 million) of lottery earnings to support the building and operation of sufficient after-school activities and ensure each district can cater for them.
Of course, this isn't the most ambitious goal of the programme. The national aim is to achieve 99 per cent enrolment in elementary education and 95 per cent in the junior high school sector; with a retention rate of 95 per cent across the whole of the period pupils are in these schools.
At present, compulsory education starts at age seven in China, but the plan also aims to ensure children in medium-size and large cities and economically developed areas will receive three years of pre-school education, presumably starting at four.
The number of rural children receiving one year of pre-school education is also set to increase markedly. So, even in China there are distinct education benefits to living in an urban area.
China, like many other countries, has thousands of parents who put their children under extreme pressure to cram in maths, English or the other skills required to increase their chances of being admitted to a top secondary school, according to reports in the China Daily. It seems that parental expectations are as high in communist countries as they are in capitalist ones, just as governments throughout the world spend more on education in urban areas than they do in the countryside. Plus ca change. as our French friends might say.
John Howson is a director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.