More Chinese nowadays have learned something about science and technology, thanks to national strategies to popularize science.
The population's basic scientific literacy rate has risen to 1.4 percent, an increase of 1.2 percent over the past five years, according to a nationwide survey conducted by the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST).
That is to say, 14 of every 1,000 Chinese people have a basic understanding of scientific terms and concepts and a basic comprehension of the scientific process and the impact of science and technology on society.
Zhang Yutai, CAST's vice-chairman, said that despite great progress made by China in the popularization of science, the level of basic scientific literacy is still very low compared with developed countries.
For instance, more than 10 percent of the US population were considered to possess basic scientific literacy in the late 1990's.
The survey also reflects that the gap between Chinese males and females and between urban and rural residents, as well as among different occupations, has remained quite large.
Those with basic scientific literacy accounted for 1.7 percent of the male population while that for females is only 0.98 percent. And 3.1 percent of Chinese urban residents met the criteria, eight times the number of rural residents.
The regional ratio ranged from 2.3 percent in more-developed eastern China to 0.65 percent in poorer western regions.
Among different occupations, students possess the highest level of scientific literacy, with a rate of 11.42 percent, and agricultural workers, such as farmers and fishermen, and the unemployed ranked at the bottom of the list, with a ratio of only 0.04 percent.
To advance the popularization of science, said Zhang, CAST will further its cooperation with the Ministry of Education to strengthen the teaching of popular science in regular education programs, which is the most important channel to acquire scientific knowledge.
Meanwhile, due to 82.8 percent of the population gaining access to scientific knowledge through TV, the highest channel among various types of mass communication, CAST is considering setting up a new channel for introducing popular science in conjunction with the China Central Television (CCTV).
CAST will continue to periodically carry out activities to spread popular science in communities, especially in the western and rural regions. CAST plans to run science training programs for Chinese officials, especially grass-roots leaders in rural areas, said Zhang.
(China Daily October 24, 2001)