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Kate Valentine

Period 3
Literacy in China
Imagine being a middle-aged parent and having a child who can read better than
you, or not being able to read at all. This is the situation for many adults in china. From
2000 to 2005, the percentage of illiterate adults in China went up by 33%. It went from
87 million to 116 million people. That means that 29 million more people cant read.
Adults feel that if they cant read by the time they are grown up, theres no point. They
feel that if they got that far without reading, they can do it their whole life. Adults say
they tried to learn, but couldnt remember what they were taught and gave up.
Despite a 50-year campaign to stop illiteracy, the problem is still there, and even
more so. This goes against an announcement by the Chinese government in 2002 that
illiteracy had been nearly eradicated. A law stating that every child has the right to nine
years of schooling was passed. But in rural areas, schooling is expensive and hard to get.
In fourth grade, all students take an exam that defines their literacy knowing. But
even if a person passes it, people usually dont try to get more education. Many forget the
skills they learned and become farmers or get other jobs that dont require literacy. China
has standards for literacy, which apparently arent doing their job: farmers must learn
1,500 Chinese characters, urban people should learn 2,000 and college graduates are
tested on 7,000 or more.
In Tibet, the illiteracy rate dropped from 95% to 42% from about 1950 to 2000.
10 million uneducated adults were educated from 2001 to 2005. However, experts argue
against these statistics, believing they are unreliable. Officials feel pressured to enlarge
the enrollment rates in schools, and most who actually are enrolled dont bother to show

up. The methods of gathering statistics are also sketchy. For example, in a town called
Liupu the leaders go around to roughly 300 families inquiring about education. Nearly
30% of the adults in their village are illiterate. Thats just reality. A lot of them cant
read or write, says Zhao Huapu, who was interviewed by the Washington Post. Some
have their children teaching them, but most do nothing about it. They feel its pointless.
But imagine walking down a street and not knowing what the signs say; or going
to a restaurant and trying and failing to read the menu; or trying to figure out what the
newspaper says and ending up feeling completely disconnected because you cant read
the newspaper and find out what is going on.
None of this may seem like a problem if you have a job In a field not requiring
literacy, but living in the country is very disconnected and the only way to know what is
going on is to read the newspaper. You could watch the news, but it may not have a good
reception, or it might be untrustworthy. Its not that hard to get an education. If you learn
just 3,000 Chinese characters, you will be able to read the whole newspaper.
Its not just learning the characters, though. You also need to remember them.
Listening to standards and laws and going to school will make you a reader very soon.
Though the illiterate population has dropped, there are still many people out there who
are without education. Taking action if you can read and asking for help if you cant is
only the first step. A man interviewed by the Washington Post, Hu Xingdou, said, Its
like planting trees to make a forest. Many people plant trees, but few take care of them,
and finally the trees die before becoming a forest."