The government needs to show more concern about the cultural development of people in rural areas. Based on the education principle, there are different methods that may improve the cultural standard of rural people.
With the rapid development of technology, mobile phones are already popular in rural areas, and some schools and households even have access to the Internet. The government can take advantage of this and send a scientific message to farmers every day. The farmers also can search for knowledge they want on the Internet. Cadres or Party members from the local government can spend some time every year to spread culture and knowledge to rural areas.
One thing the government is already doing to educate the rural population is a reading program, which has set up 92,000 libraries in rural areas as of June last year. The central government also has allocated an additional 1.4 billion yuan to build more. But that is only a drop in the ocean when distributed to millions of Chinese farmers.
Although China has developed quickly over the last 30 years, the number of books per person in rural areas is very low. Excluding textbooks for children, rural people get 0.1 book a year – or one book for every 10 people. In the west, some families haven't gotten a single book in the last decade.
Through the reading program, rural people can improve their cultural competence and contribute to China's sustainable development. The project also shows the concern our central government has for the grassroots.
But this program should continue improving its efficiency as much as possible. Although a large number of books were sent to rural areas, we still don't know what the people there are interested in or what their needs are. Initial curiosity will fade if the libraries can't meet the needs and requirements of farmers. To solve this problem, the government can let them choose or buy their own books.
Beyond giving out books, people in rural areas need instructors who can teach them how to read and choose books. College students who are returning home for the holidays, local teachers or young people can become the instructors or volunteers to help farmers with little knowledge.
(This post was first published in Chinese on Jan. 5, 2009, and translated by Ma Yujia.)