China takes science literacy to countryside, reaps benefits
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A targetted action plan for developing scientific literacy among different demographic and social groups in China has borne fruit in the past six years. Presenting the data at the International Conference for Science Communication in Nancy city of France last week, representatives from the China Research Institute for Popularisation of Science(CRISP), a national body that has been implementing the programme since 2006 across the hinterlands, said over 8,000 organised institutes for farmers' education are expected to be completed by the end of this year.
Explaining the conception, Ren Fujun, director of CRISP, said, "We had a large population of farmers with low education levels and economic development in the countryside was low, resulting in a corresponding low per capita income. We realised that for economic restructuring, and to make development more equitable, we need to inculcate a scientific temper among our large farming population, and improve their modes of food production and living standards.
"Termed 'Program for benefiting farmers and rejuvenating countryside through Science and Technology Communication', it is implemented under the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST). Surveys carried out to understand scientific literacy levels in the countryside periodically have shown that after the introduction of this dedicated programme, farmers' literacy levels improved from 0.72 per cent in 2005 to 1.51 per cent in 2010 and is expected to double by the end of 2012.
The overall science literacy among the entire Chinese population jumped from 1.60 per cent in 2005 to 3.27 per cent in 2010.
Besides teaching farmers how to introduce science into their daily lives, the programme also aims at increasing the overall employability in the countryside. "The idea was to help the surplus labour in the rural areas also gain employability in the non agricultural spheres in urban areas. We have given special attention to minority and women farmers," Fujun said.
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