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China's Illiterates: 50% in the West, Female 70%

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 02/03/04; March 4, 2002.]

Xinhuanet, 2 Feb 2002.
[Xinhua is the official news agency of the PRC]

People's Daily. 4 March 2002.
(People's Daily is an official publication of the People's Republic of China)

One out of less than 10 illiterates in the world is Chinese. About 90 percent illiterate Chinese live in rural areas, 50 percent in the west regions and 70 percent female, the statistics published by the Ministry of Education have aroused strong concern from CPPCC members at the just opened NPC and CPPCC sessions.

After years of efforts China's illiteracy eliminating work has made much progress, with the illiteracy rate for adults dropped from 22.23 percent ten years ago to 8.72 percent. But the total number of illiterate people stands as much as 85.07 million, of which 20 million are at an age between 15 and 50. Presently there are 800 million illiterate people in the world, most living in the countries as India, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil, Nigeria, and Egypt. The number in China is only next to that of India.

The provinces and autonomous regions of Tibet, Qinghai, Guizhou, Gansu, Yunnan, Ningxia, Xinjiang and Shannxi are home to 50 percent of China's illiterates, although their whole population only takes 15 percent of the national total. In poverty-stricken rural areas, a vicious circle has formed between illiteracy and poverty. Besides, there are still illiterate people in the eastern developed areas, much less in number, including 600,000 in capital Beijing.

In rural areas, the dropout of girls remains a serious problem since women are responsible for raising children and an illiterate mother does no good to her child's education.

China sees a number of 500,000 people joining in the rank of illiteracy each year, for primary school education has still not been extended to 200 counties and the problem of dropouts remains. The migrant population is on increase which results in new illiterate people when old ones have not been eliminated yet. The elimination work, carried out more as a campaign than a long-term task, has made some people return to the illiterate state shortly after being taught how to read.

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