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China Aims to Upgrade the Country’s Overall Digital Competitiveness via Education

Investing in education is a long-term goal, but in a digital world, it can reap generous rewards. Realising all the benefits, the State Council, China’s Cabinet, recently issued a new long-term national action plan for improving the public’s scientific literacy over the next 15 years. The goals are to make 15 per cent of the country’s population scientifically literate by 2025, and 25% by 2035.

The bold plan was released in a document, aptly titled National Action Plan for Scientific Literacy 2021-2035. It denotes just how much work there is to be done to achieve the country’s target goals. To date, about 10.56% of China’s total population was scientifically literate. All that increase in literacy has been attributed to a series of science outreach programmes that have been enacted since 2006, when the last national plan took effect, according to the non-profit China Association for Science and Technology (CAST).

Scientific literacy refers to the understanding of scientific concepts and processes, as well as the ability to apply them in analysing and solving real-life, practical issues. As a result, scientific literacy is an important part of a population’s overall ability. The improvement in scientific literacy is the foundation to success in ICT. Thus, it is not only an intrinsic demand in the construction of an innovation-driven country, but is also a foundation project to create an innovative environment and cultivate innovative talent.

Such thinking has been reflected by the country’s top ICT experts. For one, Chen Rui, Deputy Director of the Centre for Science and Technology Communication of CAST affirmed this saying science, technology and innovation have become key competitive concerns in international affairs. The world can benefit from the learnings of the Chinese scientific community in tackling many common challenges. However, China cannot contribute without effective scientific communication and a scientifically literate population, he explained.

Zhang Jinhui, General Manager of government-run Zhongguancun Software Park in Beijing, is in agreement. To facilitate technology in education, he said they recently established a science communication centre dedicated to educating the public about the cutting-edge work done by high-tech companies in the park.

Effective scientific communication requires a joint effort by scientists, companies, media and the public, he said. Further, he added that with that in mind, people should adopt new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Cloud computing.

Meng Qinghai, Vice President of the CAST, divulged that China has had remarkable progress in improving scientific literacy. However, the proportion of the nation’s scientifically literate population is still relatively low, with an imbalance between different demographics, age groups and economic statuses.

Over 24% of Shanghai’s residents and 24% of Beijing’s residents were scientifically literate in a survey and were the top two regions in the nation in that regard. However, only seven provinces had a scientifically literate population higher than the national average of 10.56%.

China has been reaping the results of its massive advance in its digital transformation journey. Just recently, its pilot digital yuan has been used in key industries such as construction facilitating faster payments. Additionally, China’s strong space programme has been used to expand the borders of science in various areas as reported on OpenGov Asia.

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