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Education reforms 'set good example' for emerging nations

Updated: 2014-03-27 08:49
By Cecily Liu ( China Daily)

China is a role model for developing countries on how to use education as a tool for social inclusion, economic development and poverty reduction, a senior UN official told China Daily in an exclusive interview.

China has made "huge progress" in improving access to education and literacy rates, said Irina Bokova, director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

President Xi Jinping is slated to visit UNESCO's headquarters in Paris on Thursday as a part of his ongoing European tour, which includes the Netherlands, France, Germany and Belgium.

Bokova praised the Chinese government on how it has improved education provision in rural areas and invested in vocational training to help graduates match their skills with the job market.

"I know the Chinese government is very much focused on rural areas, which is not just a problem of China's, but also for many countries in the world," Bokova said.

She said China is in a good position to help tackle global education provision challenges through the work of the International Research and Training Centre for Rural Education, a research center funded by both UNESCO and the Chinese government.

Wang Li, deputy director of INRULED, said China began reforming its rural education system in 1984. In 2006, the system experienced a milestone when the Chinese government made primary school and the first three years of secondary school education free for all rural children while supporting their living costs.

Wang said more than 99 percent of all children in rural areas are currently covered by the education provision system. Still, he said, the biggest challenge going forward is the provision of good quality education in rural areas because teachers tend to move to urban schools.

He added that many of China's experiences in rural education can be an inspiration to other emerging countries, such as in Africa, in how they devise curriculums and efficient teaching methods.

Bokova said she is confident about China's rural education reforms.

"I'm sure if the right targets are there, it will be successful. It's a huge challenge, in terms of training teachers, devising curriculum and giving access."

She said the Chinese government's "political priority" in improving education and its ability to draw up a national plan on education have been driving forces behind China's success in increasing access to education for all children.

"Education planning is a challenge for many developing countries, and I think China has set a good example," she said.

Bokova said she is also impressed by the Chinese government's investment in vocational training. UNESCO, in recognition for China's achievement in making headway in vocational training, held its third International Congress on Technical and Vocational Education and Training in Shanghai in 2012.

"I think vocational training is always a challenge but China has made a very interesting example of having a very focused approach to that. It's not by chance we had this forum in China," she said.

Bokova said UNESCO will continue to work closely with China on education reforms. She said Xi's upcoming visit to UNESCO sends a strong message of commitment for cooperation between UNESCO and China. She said that she is looking forward to hearing Xi's speech at UNESCO, which she said will share "on the one hand China's experience and on the other China's vision for sustainable peace development in the world".

"I think (the visit) is a support for the soft power of UNESCO within the United Nations system. We need soft power for the learning of science and heritage and cultural dialogue," she said.