Top education officials from nine countries that account for half the world's population gather this week in Beijing to discuss ways to improve schools through distance-learning methods.
The focus on distance-learning is key because nations now hope to provide continuous education prospects for people in far-flung areas using new technologies, said John Sagar Daniel, assistant director-general for education of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The meeting is the fourth such meeting held by UNESCO. Participants sending officials include China, India, Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan.
These nations account for 70 percent of the world's illiterate population, officials said.
Distance-learning provides classes and study materials via television, videotape, correspondence and the Internet.
The three-day meeting ends tomorrow.
China has listed distance-learning as an important part of its education development blueprint for the 10th Five-Year Plan period （2001-05）, said Li Lianning, director of the Department for Basic Education under the Ministry of Education.
The poor and inhospitable conditions and teacher shortages in China's central and western areas make distance-learning methods a desirable means of bringing education to the masses, Li said. The ministry and Hong Kong-based Li Ka-shing Foundation have launched a project to offer more Internet, television and broadcasting access facilities in these areas.
In 1993, the UNESCO listed the above nine populous countries as priorities for education and decided to hold biannual education ministerial meetings.
(China Daily 08/23/2001)