The Chinese Government gives priority to education, showing its determination to build a better educational system to satisfy people's needs and make contributions to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals 4, said Xu Jieying, Education Counselor of the Consulate General of the Republic of China in New York, during a panel discussion on Education in China and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on April 20.
In September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDG 4 aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Panelists agreed that sustainable development of education is the basis for achieving other SDGs.
China has the world's largest educational system with 260 million students, more than 15 million teachers and 512,000 schools. However, the system still lags behind the demands of economic development and fails to meet pubic aspirations for education, Xu said.
China's economic development has caused extensive internal migration. Thus, promoting equal access to education for migrant workers' children has become an urgent task of the government. Xu explained that the government is trying to narrow the rural-urban gap and regional differences in education.
Liu Ji, a PhD from the Teachers College of Columbia University and a consultant at the World Bank, pointed out that skills are a key output of education and a crucial input for growth. However, he said, there is a large gap between the skills people currently have and the skills needed for quality jobs. The reason for this is an insufficient quantity of general education and the poor quality of generational education, Liu said, citing the senior secondary attainment rate that is under 40 percent in China.
China began implementing its Double First Class University Plan in 2017 to create world class universities and disciplines, which is also part of its efforts to meet the SDG 4, said Xu Xiaozhou, Dean of the Institute of Social Sciences at Zhejiang University.
He Shanyun, an associate professor at Zhejiang University, described Hangzhou's Learning City in east China's Zhejiang Province, a city-wide learning environment where each citizen engages in various kinds of learning activities provided by several agencies.
The Executive Director of the New York-based Zigen Fund, Li Huiyi, a PhD., introduced how the fund helps children in poverty-stricken areas attain access to basic education.
Jiang Dongmei, Honorary Dean of Hong Kong Youth Science Academy, an environmental expert and member of the Chinese delegation to UN climate change negotiations, showed a program the academy launched in China to encourage children to look at nature through their video cameras.
The report delivered by Xi Jinping at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China drew a roadmap for future educational development, said Xu.
All the current problems facing China's educational system mentioned at the panel discussion were addressed in the report (see box).
The panel was part of several activities held during the ninth UN Chinese Language Day at UN headquarters in New York City. This year's celebrations also included lectures on Chinese culture, film screenings and art exhibitions.
At the opening ceremony, Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said the Chinese language is one of the oldest in the world and one of the six official languages of the UN. With China's economic growth and increasing involvement in global affairs, its importance is only growing.
Wu Haitao, China's Deputy Ambassador to the UN said the Chinese language bears testimony to the evolvement of the UN, as well as the increasingly closer relationship between the organization and China.
Every year, the celebration is held roughly at the same time in April around Guyu, which literally means "rain of millet," referring to the sixth of the 24 solar terms created by ancient Chinese to carry out agricultural activities.
Chinese people celebrate Guyu in honor of Cang Jie, a mythical figure who is presumed to have invented Chinese characters about 5,000 years ago. Legend has it that when Cang created characters, the deities and ghosts cried and it rained millets.
Measures to strengthen education in the report to the 19th CPC National Congress
China has set out many goals for the coming period.
It will promote the coordinated development of compulsory education in urban and rural areas, while giving particular attention to rural areas.
It will improve preschool education, special needs education and online education; while making senior secondary education universally available and striving to see that every child has fair access to good education.
It will improve the system of vocational education and training and promote the integration between industry and education and the cooperation between enterprises and colleges.
It will move faster to build Chinese universities into world-class institutions and develop world-class disciplines as it works to bring out the full potential of higher education.
It will improve the system of financial aid to students, working to ensure that the vast majority of the new members of the urban and rural labor force receive senior secondary education, and that more and more of them receive higher education.
It will support the well-regulated development of private schools.
It will strengthen the professional ethics and competence of teachers and encourage public respect for educators as well as public support for education.
It will improve continuing education, step up efforts to build a learning society and promote the well-rounded development of all Chinese people.
(Reporting from New York)
Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo