Compulsory education, teachers' pay and addressing corruption should be top of the central government's agenda, according to a Hong Kong-based rights activist.
Geoffrey Crothall, spokesman for the NGO, China Labour Bulletin, which promotes workers' rights on the mainland, said: "The most important thing is that the government recognises child labour is a problem that has to be addressed. Improving the education system is a key way of doing that. The first thing it should do is ensure rural teachers are paid what they are entitled to under the law. In many cases, rural teachers are getting half or even one third of what they should, and many have to wait for several months before they are paid."
New measures were also needed to make children's entitlement to nine years of free education a reality after the 2003 "two waivers one subsidy" policy foundered on local corruption. The policy aimed to ensure rural children had access to free schooling by providing funding so that schools could waive their tuition fees and miscellaneous fees. It also subsidised the living expenses of poor children.
"The problem of education funds being siphoned off by corrupt officials is a widespread and very serious problem," he said.