Experts from Asia and the Pacific witnessed a live, interactive class yesterday through a satellite network in Beijing.
The experts are in the capital to attend a consultation on "Rural Women and Distance Learning: Regional Strategies."
The network, built by the China Agricultural Broadcasting and Television School, includes 52 receiving stations nationwide and provides four hours of interactive agriculture training for farmers each day.
The school provides training through radio and TV programs, videotapes and multimedia for 1.2 million rural learners, said Wu Guoqiang, who works with the school.
In the past 20 years since its establishment, the school has successfully carried out training programs designed for rural women and girls.
Now the new technology will make further contributions to women's education programs and will raise women's social status and living quality, said Vice-Minister of Agriculture Zhang Baowen at the opening ceremony of the consultation.
Zhang said that China has always regarded gender equity as a national policy, and the Law of Education states that women have the right to be educated.
"The tremendous potential of distance learning programs that serve rural learners, especially women and girls living in rural communities, is yet to be realized," said Gamal Mohmed Ahmed, representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
A World Bank study found that if women receive the same amount of education as men, farm yields will rise between seven and 22 percent.
To realize this potential, Ahmed suggests that resources vested in both agricultural educational systems and open universities should converge, and their respective expertise be brought together to develop programs to serve rural students.
Participant countries, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Thailand, Mongolia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, are also encouraged by the consultation sponsor FAO to join hands in developing innovative programs and collaborations between countries.
From today to October 26, experts will exchange information and experiences on the distance learning programs that reach rural women and identify strategies to strengthen institutional partnerships.
(China Daily October 24, 2001)