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Speech by Mr. Wang Guoqiang, Head of the Chinese Delegation, Vice Minister of the State Population and Family Planning Commission of China at the 36th Session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development under Item 4

2003/04/01


Mr. Chairman,

Relating to the topic of the Commission's focus on this session, "population, education and development", on behalf of the Chinese delegation, I would like to share our national experience on these aspects, with the emphasis on the endeavors China has made to improve the educational attainment for all.

A developing country with a large population, China experiences an uneven development among different areas and still has a wide gap in terms of educational attainment compared with developed countries. Since the family planning program began to be implemented in China in the 1970s, the Chinese Government has been taking 'stabilize the population and improve the quality of population in terms of education and health' as its fundamental national policy. The Chinese government puts education on high priority, considering education to be a basic project for realizing the goal of modernization and national revival. The Chinese Government has carried out the national strategic plan of development through science and education. Since the 1990s, the Chinese Government has set priority to education in the development strategy, and adopted a series of vital measures to actively promote the development of educational undertakings. Laws and regulations have been issued and put into effect, such as the Law of Protection of Juveniles of the People's Republic of China, the Teachers Law of the People's Republic of China, the Education Law of the People's Republic of China and the Education Reform and Development Compendium of China. While making great efforts to carry out these laws and regulations, the Chinese Government has increased the financial input in education, with the proportion of education funding growing continuously for 6 years – accounting for from 2.41% of GDP in 1995 to 3.19% in 2001. This has vigorously promoted the universalization of the nine-year compulsory education and the eradication of illiteracy program. Data regarding educational levels from the 5th National Population Census of China in 2000 indicate that:

- The overall educational level of the Chinese people has been raised remarkably. The number of people with various educational attainments per 100,000 persons is an important indicator to reflect the entire educational status of a nation. Compared with 1990, great changes have been made, including the number of people with a college educational level has risen from 1,422 persons to 3,611 persons per 100,000, with a 154% increase; that with a senior high school and technical secondary school educational level from 8,039 persons to 11,146 persons, with a 39% increase; and that with junior high school educational level rose from 23,344 persons to 33,961 persons, with a 45% increase. On the contrary, the number of people with an elementary school educational level has declined from 37,057 persons to 35,701 persons, with a 4% decrease. All over China, the number of illiterates above the age of 15 years is 85,070,000, indicating a 6.72% crude illiteracy rate, which has dropped 9.16 percentage points compared with 15.88% in 1990. Seventy percent of the illiterates are women, among whom about half are from West China.

- The proportion of women who have received education at various levels has been continuously increased and the overall educational level of women has been improved. Compared with 1990, the illiteracy rate of women between 18 and 64 years of age has declined from 30.1% to 11.1% in 2000. The average number of years of education women received has increased more largely than that for men and the gender disparity in education are also narrowing down. In 2000, the average number of years of education per women attained was 6.1 years, with an increase of 1.4 years compared with the year of 1990 and the gap in educational attainment between men and women also reduced from 1.9 years to 1.5 years. In year of 2000, the elementary school enrolment ratio of Chinese girls rose to 99.1%. Even in the economically under-developed West China areas, the elementary school enrolment ratio of girls has reached over 95%. The ratio of college attendance has risen from 35.4% in 1995 to 41% in 2000.

- As for the age structure, the population aged 0-14 years accounts for 22.89% of the total population, with a decline of 4.8 percentage points compared with 1990. However, this percentage is still high, which indicates that although the total amount of schooling population for the compulsory education period in China will decline, the task for the universalization of compulsory education within the next 10 years will remain arduous. At the same time, the elderly above 65 years old is 6.96% of the total population, with an increase of 1.39 percentage points compared with 1990. China has already become an aging society, as industrialization has not been completely realized in many areas of China. This situation will certainly increase the pressure of the government's investment in public utilities, and indirectly influence the investment level in public education.

- The increase of the number of the people who have received senior high school education is still rather slow. There is still a large gap in this aspect compared with the moderately developed countries in the world. According to statistics from the Ministry of Education of China, the number of years of education received by the labor force population between 25 to 64 years of age in China is 7.97 years in average, whereas this number in the developed countries is above 12 years. The gross enrolment ratio of higher education in China is also much lower than the developed countries.

These results indicate that, although the educational level in China has been improved greatly, there is still a large gap compared with the developed countries. This mainly revealed in insufficient investment and inadequate resources in education, especially lack of training for high-tech talents, high-level management personnel and various kinds of personnel with entrepreneur aptitude .

Mr. Chairman,

The ICPD Programme of Action (POA) clearly pointed out that "Education is a key factor in sustainable development. The reduction of fertility, morbidity and mortality rates, the empowerment of women, the improvement in the quality of the working population and the promotion of genuine democracy are largely assisted by progress in education. The increase in the education of women and girls contributes to greater empowerment of women, to a postponement of the age of marriage and to a reduction in the size of families." The practice of China's family planning program also proves that education is a vital factor to the transition of fertility rate. With its influence on fertility and mortality rates, education determines the transition of population reproduction pattern and directly has the impact on the process of modernization of the quality of human resources. In his report, the Secretary-General also mentioned that the educational level of women of childbearing age has even closer relationship with their fertility rate. Demographers in China began to study the relationship between women's educational level and fertility rate as early as in the 1980s. Their findings show that the total fertility rate (TFR) for women of childbearing age with a college education is 1.11, whereas the TFR for illiterate women is 2.95. It can be seen from this that the difference between women's status in economic activities and their educational levels has led to the difference between their reproductive concepts and reproductive behaviors. Their findings also show that there is a negative correlation between women's educational levels and mortality rate. Parents' educational levels, especially mothers' educational levels have significant impact on infant mortality rate (IMR). Under general conditions, the higher the maternal educational level , the better the mother will nurse an infant in accordance with scientific methods so as to prevent her infants and children from illness and consequently reduce infant mortality.

While paying attention to increasing women's educational level, we must also pay special attention to adolescent reproductive health education. The adolescents at the age of 10 to 24 years account for 26% of the total population in China. Along with the influence of the development of social economy and culture, the sexual concepts and sexual behavior of the adolescents have changed greatly; the problems and needs regarding their reproductive health become increasingly obvious; and the proportion of sexual behaviors before marriage among adolescents is rising. The Chinese Government has already included adolescent reproductive health education into the package of regular education and defined the responsibilities for relative government departments. About 50% of high schools in the rural areas and 90% of high schools and universities in the cities have offered courses on adolescent reproductive health and AIDS prevention. In the medium- and long-term national AIDS control program, adolescent sex and reproductive health has been regarded as one of the important working objectives.

Mr. Chairman,

Since 1990, the fertility level in China has been stably declining with its TFR dropping from 2.29 in 1990 to 1.80 in 2001, reaching below the replacement level. The decline of fertility level has a close relationship with the rapid socioeconomic development and the improvement of overall educational level in China in recent years. However, the present low fertility level in China is realized under the circumstances that the productive forces are not very developed and the social security system is not yet perfect. There are still disparities and instability in fertility level between different regions and areas. Especially in the impoverished areas of West China, the backward mode of production and low educational level for women has significant influence on women's fertility level. Generally speaking, although fertility level for the Chinese women is already close to that in the developed countries , there is still a long way to go for China to increase the entire national educational level of the Chinese people.

Along with the development of economic globalization and the entrance of China to the World Trade Organization, China will participate in international competition and technical cooperation in a larger range and a wider sphere and at a higher level. Facing various opportunities and challenges in the 21st century, the Chinese Government is fully aware of the fact that an increase in the entire national educational level of the Chinese people is the prerequisite for China to participate in international competition and to meet the challenges of economic globalization. In the next 20 years, the Chinese Government will devote itself to the overall construction of a moderately developed society, continuously implement the strategy of developing the country through science and education and giving priority to the development of education, energetically exploit education and human resources, turn the burden of a big country with large population into the advantage of human resources, obviously heighten the national ideological and ethical standards and cultural and scientific qualities, and bring forth a relatively modern national education system. People will have the opportunity to receive quality education, senior higher school education will become widespread, and illiteracy will be eliminated. A society of education by all the people and lifelong education will come into being; and the all-round development of a person will be advanced. To realize this target, we must reform the existing educational system, and redesign the pattern in personnel training and the medium- and long-term plan for the development of education. The strategy to develop the country with science and education and the strategy to give priority to the development of education in China should not only base itself upon the cultivation of the national quality and the popularity of education, but also give more stress for China to train and absorb high-tech personnel of high quality in future international competitions and to set up an enterprising system for the continuous training of human resources. In the process of realizing the above-mentioned processes of education technical modernization and education information modernization, it must be ensured that women share the equal information and high-quality educational resources with men. Women's educational level and years of education should be enhanced. Investment in education in the impoverished regions should be increased so as to create favorable conditions for women in these regions to receive education.

The Chinese Government is willing to conduct international exchanges and cooperation with all the countries in the world in population and education and in enhancing the national quality of life of the people. We are ready to learn from and draw on the successful experience of all the countries in the world and the international community in this aspect and make due contributions to the implementation of the ICPD POA, in order to achieve the stability of the world population and the world peace.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman!

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