Chinese secondary schools will soon offer a new course on world heritage sites and their protection to remind children of the legacy of the whole humanity as well as the collective wisdom it embodies.
The course will first become available at two or three schools in the nation's capital Beijing, before being included as a mandatory course for high school students nationwide, according to a world heritage education program jointly launched by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and China's Ministry of Education.
"World heritage education should be an essential part of our school education because the future of the exhaustible legacy lies in the hands of the children," said Yuan Aijun, principal of Beijing-based Experimental High School attached to Beijing Normal University.
The school has been chosen as one of the first to include a weekly world heritage class into its curriculum. Students will be able to enjoy the magnificence of world heritage sites through pictures, slide shows and documentaries.
"The class aims to tell the children what world heritage is, and why and how it should be protected," said Yuan.
Meanwhile, Yuan said her school would try to highlight the same ideas in other classes, too, and to list world heritage as a major theme on campus.
"In fact, there's abundant information about world heritage in our Chinese, English, history and geography textbooks. The teachers just need to associate it with the students' own lives so that each one knows that it really matters to preserve well the legacy left by our forefathers, and that each one of us can and has to do something about it."
Altogether 177 nations, including China, have signed into the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage and on the list are 754 places all over the world, of which 29 sites are in China -- the third largest in number following Spain and Italy.
"The world heritage education program in China will help the minors realize the role of this priceless legacy in the development of civilization, so that they'll take an active role in varied public welfare activities aimed at heritage protection," said Du Yue, deputy secretary-general of the China National Commission for UNESCO.
This practice, designed to inject a strong sense of responsibility into the youngster's mind, is essential in protecting and carrying forward the world's cultural legacy, according to Du.
In Suzhou city, eastern Jiangsu Province, many schools have started to promote cultural heritage education for their students through bulletins, seminars or sightseeing tours to heritage sites.
Suzhou is the host city for the 28th Conference of World Heritage Committee from June 28 to July 7.
The Suzhou Foreign Languages School, a senior high school featuring foreign languages studies, is giving lectures to brief its students on world heritage sites and their protection.
"Through these lectures, we aim to encourage our students to cherish the legacy and safeguard it through teamwork," said Ye Wei, a school teacher.
According to Ye, world heritage study has helped her students gain insight from the "global, cultural and historical" standpoint.
"World heritage is the essence of civilization," said Tong Ying, a senior high student who has attended world heritage classes at school. "Its true value lies in its own vitality, as well as people's pleasure in enjoying its beauty."
Suzhou has the third largest number of state- and provincial-level cultural heritage sites of all the Chinese cities. Its ancient gardens entered UNESCO's World Heritage list in 1997. In 2001, Kunqu opera, a local art form, was inscribed in UNESCO's list of "oral masterpiece and intangible heritage of humanity".
(Xinhua News Agency June 12, 2004)