UNESCO launched the Confucius Prize for Literacy, the first international award named after a Chinese, in Beijing yesterday afternoon.
The annual prize sets to reward outstanding individuals, governments and NGOs working to promote literacy for rural adults and out-of-school young people, particularly women and girls.
"The new important prize for education is a good example of China's commitment to Education for All (EFA) at home and abroad," said UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura at the launch ceremony.
"It offers concrete support to UNESCO's Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE)," he said. "It's undoubtedly a contribution to our EFA program."
The prize also demonstrates the country's long and established tradition of supporting lifelong learning, said Matsuura, in Beijing to attend UNESCO's Fifth High-Level Group Meeting on Education for All on November 28-30.
Vice Minister Zhang Xinsheng said the prize was also conducive to increasing China's international influence and promoting its traditional culture.
The thinking of Confucius (551-479 BC), an educator and philosopher and one of the most famous world historical and cultural figures, still has great influence on education in China and the world today, said Zhang.
Deputy Party Secretary Zhao Shuguo of Jining City presented a gold statue of Confucius to Matsuura at the ceremony.
The prize, funded by central government, Shandong provincial government and Jining municipal government, will be presented to two winners in Paris on September 8, International Literacy Day, with a different theme each year.
It was first proposed to Jining municipal government in 2001 by Zhang Renping, a CCTV program Rural World planner after he shot a program in Shandong. A formal application was filed by the Chinese National Commission for UNESCO in December 2004. At the 172nd meeting of UNESCO in September this year the prize was formally approved.
(China.org.cn by staff reporter Guo Xiaohong, December 1, 2005)