14 May 2018

On Chinese Language Day: Education in China and the SDGs

Multilingualism is considered by the United Nations as a key to accomplish its aims and purposes and to improve communication and understanding among peoples.

14 May 2018 - A panel discussion on “Education in China and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals” took place at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 20 April 2018 with the participation of Chinese scholars as well as representatives of the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in New York.

Xu Xiaozhou, Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences at Zhejiang University, spoke about the achievements, challenges and prospects of Chinese education. He highlighted ongoing education reforms and development, along with the increasing number of academic institutions and  in student enrollment. Dean Xu also underscored the need for innovation to face the challenges posed by globalization and the role that higher education could play in fostering social progress and advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Xu Jieying, Education Counsellor of the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in New York, detailed facts and figures of the Chinese educational system, describing it as the largest in the world, with over 250 million students at all levels. Following achievements in reducing illiteracy and increasing enrollment rates over the past few years, efforts are currently being made to improve the system and thereby contribute to realizing SDG 4 on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all. Education, she pointed out, is key in the furthering tolerance and promoting peaceful societies. 

Visiting Scholar at Columbia University He Shanyun elaborated the notion of “learning cities”—a civic approach to encouraging the engagement of citizens in learning activities—that has been promoted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The panel discussion was held within the framework of Chinese Language Day, celebrated each 20 April to pay tribute to Cangjie, an important mythological figure in ancient China, considered to be the inventor of the Chinese characters. Aside from its status as one of the six official languages of the United Nations, Chinese is spoken as first language by some 1.2 billion people (more than 15% of the population of the world).