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Speech by the Chinese Delegate at Roundtable 2: "Education and Literacy" of the Preparatory Meeting for the 2005 High-Level Segment
(16 March 2005, New York)

2005/03/16


Mr. Chairman,

According to the pledges made by countries in Millennium Development Goal No. 2, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling, so as to achieve universal primary education. Countries and relevant international organizations have done a great deal of work in this regard. I wish to take this opportunity to share with you the efforts made by China for this goal and the current situation in China.

China is the most populous developing country in the world. The Chinese Government is deeply aware that national and social development depends on people with knowledge. Education is the pivotal link, and primary education is the foundation. The Chinese Government always attaches great importance to universal primary education.

When the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, only 20% of children could receive primary education, and the illiteracy rate was as high as 80%. Through years of tireless efforts, China has achieved historic progress for universal primary education. In 2002, the number of primary schools reached 450,690 with 121.5671 million pupils. With 98.58% of net enrolment ratio, 97.02% of primary school graduates enrolled in middle schools. The number of full-time primary school teachers was 5.7789 million.

In the course of achieving our goals, we have accumulated some experiences, and we think the most important ones are as follows:

It is essential to provide legal guarantee and formulate national policy. By promulgating voluntary education law, the Chinese Government has provided legal guarantee for the rights of all children to receive education. We have also set forth fundamental state strategy of "revitalizing the nation through science and technology" and given education top priority in national development program.

It is also important to offer financial support. In 2002, national education expenditure was 548.003 billion yuan, among which national budgetary education allocation was 349.140 billion yuan, accounting for 3.41% of GDP and reaching a record high since this ratio was first set in 1989. The goal of the Chinese Government in educational financial input is to reach the level of 4% of GDP in a relatively short period of time.

Like other UN Member States, the Chinese Government has made the commitment of ensuring a full course of primary schooling for all children, boys and girls alike. Currently, children who have failed to receive primary schooling are mostly living in poor areas with harsh conditions. It remains an arduous task to ensure a full course of primary schooling for those children.

To fulfill the commitment, the Chinese Government has been making vigorous efforts. Since autumn of 2004, the Central Government has expanded the area of free textbooks to all the 24 million primary and middle school pupils from poor families in central and western parts of China. By 2007, China plans to offer, phase by phase, free classes and textbooks and discounted accommodation for all primary and middle school pupils from poor families. The Central Government has also allocated a special fund of 3 billion yuan for "rural boarding school construction project".

In a word, the MDG can only be realized by genuinely solving the specific difficulties faced by children in poor areas in financial resources and school conditions. The Chinese Government and people will continue to work for this goal. We are willing to reinforce our cooperation with other countries and international organizations, so as to fulfill our commitments by 2015 through mutual support and concerted efforts.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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