Investing in education is a long-term goal, but in a digital world it can be richly rewarded. Realizing all the benefits, the State Council, China’s Cabinet, recently released a new national long-term action plan to improve public science literacy over the next 15 years. The goals are for 15% of the country’s population to be scientifically literate by 2025 and 25% by 2035.
The bold plan was released in a document, aptly titled National Science Literacy Action Plan 2021-2035. It indicates how much work remains to be done to achieve the country’s target goals. To date, about 10.56% of the total population of China possessed scientific knowledge. All of this increase in literacy has been attributed to a series of popular science programs that have been enacted since 2006, when the last national plan came into effect, according to the nonprofit China Association for Science and Technology. (CAST).
Science literacy refers to the understanding of scientific concepts and processes, and the ability to apply them to analyze and solve real, practical problems. Therefore, science literacy is an important part of a population’s overall capacity. Improving scientific culture is the basis for success in ICT. Thus, it is not only an intrinsic demand in building an innovation-driven country, but it is also a founding project to create an innovative environment and cultivate innovative talents.
Such thinking has been mirrored by top ICT experts in the country. On the one hand, Chen Rui, deputy director of the Science and Technology Communication Center of CAST, said science, technology and innovation have become key competitive concerns in international business. The world can benefit from the lessons of the Chinese scientific community to address many common challenges. However, China cannot contribute without effective science communication and a scientifically educated population, he explained.
Zhang Jinhui, general manager of the government-run Zhongguancun Software Park in Beijing, agrees. To facilitate technology in education, he said they recently created a Science Communication Center dedicated to educating the public about the cutting-edge work being done by high-tech companies in the park.
Effective science communication requires a joint effort by scientists, businesses, the media and the public, he said. Furthermore, he added that with this in mind, people should embrace new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, big data and cloud computing.
Meng Qinghai, vice president of CAST, revealed that China has made remarkable progress in improving science literacy. However, the proportion of the country’s scientific population is still relatively low, with an imbalance between different demographic groups, age groups and economic status.
More than 24% of Shanghai residents and 24% of Beijing residents had science literacy in a survey and were the top two regions in the country in this regard. However, only seven provinces had a scientifically literate population above the national average of 10.56%.
China has reaped the rewards of its massive leap forward in its digital transformation journey. Most recently, its pilot digital yuan has been used in key sectors such as construction, facilitating faster payments. Moreover, China’s strong space program has been used to expand the frontiers of science in various fields, as reported on OpenGov Asia.