China has made great achievements in raising literacy and has set an example for other developing countries, said UNESCO director-general Koichiro Matsuura Tuesday in Beijing.
Opening UNESCO Regional Conference in Support of Global Literacy in Beijing, Koichiro said China had drawn a clear map to promote nine-year compulsory education and was dedicated to creating a cultural and educational environment for literacy.
In 1949 when the New China was founded, the primary school enrollment rate was only 20 percent, and the illiteracy rate was as high as 80 percent. By the end of 2005, 99 percent of school-age children had access to primary education and the illiteracy rate among young adults was down to four percent.
However, he said, despite the progress in certain countries and regions, 774 million adults in the world still could not read and write. Two thirds of illiterate adults were women. More than 72 million children were not in school.
"This conference is very important," Koichiro said. "We will find more effective methods that could pinpoint the needs of various countries."
The conference, with the theme of Building Partnership and Promoting Innovative Approaches, is designed to help countries in East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific meet literacy challenges.
Koichiro said the literacy rate is as high as 91.7 percent in the region, but varied widely within and between countries, while a serious gender gap persisted, with 70.4 percent of the illiterate population being women. While clear progress has been made over the past years, in particular in China, the total number of illiterates in the region remained significant.
"Therefore, much work needs to be done and the government should take up the responsibility," he said. "The international community, especially developed countries, should give more aid to developing countries in urgent need of technology, knowledge and fund."
Koichiro hoped the conference could give a major boost to putting literacy on the agenda of national policy-makers and international agencies.