China promises universal science literacy
In a report released in Beijing last week, the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) committed itself to helping all members of the country’s 1.3 billion population achieve a level of scientific understanding.
The aim is to ensure that every member of the public has a basic knowledge of science, a scientific world-view, and the ability to apply scientific methodology to problems.
Despite China's recent rapid economic development, the public’s general knowledge of science remains relatively low. A survey carried out by CAST late last year showed that only 14 people per thousand had a basic knowledge of science.
According to Lei Yihong, director of CAST’s Science Popularisation Institute in Beijing, researchers found the equivalent level of scientific awareness among 6.9 per cent of the population in the United States in 1990, and 4.4 per cent in countries of the European Union.
CAST says that it is now developing criteria for measuring the successful achievement of different levels of scientific literacy, include a rudimentary, middle, specialised and advanced levels.
At the same time, it is working on eight separate action plans for raising the general level of scientific literacy, focusing on different social groups and fields of activity. The former include civil servants, young people, business workers, city residents, those living in rural areas (including farmers), and mass communicators. There will also be separate actions plans for science education and science communication.
"In the future, the competitiveness of a nation will depend largely on the ability of its population to use scientific knowledge, and on the level of their scientific thinking," said Lei. "Improving the public’s general awareness of science is therefore important for China’s long-term development."