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Chinese children bid farewell to gender discrimination in child-friendly schools

CHINA, 27 September 2006 – Dad is reading a newspaper and Mum is doing housework – images such as these are no way to illustrate the family relationship in “child-friendly school” textbooks.

“Schools using textbooks with pictures like that are not gender responsive and will not be termed child-friendly schools,” said Anjana Mangalagiri, an official with the UNICEF Office for China.

China, with support from the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), plans to spread “child-friendly school” teaching methods to 1,000 primary schools in 10 western provinces and regions over the next five years. The “child-friendly school”, a learning quality philosophy promoted by UNICEF, is spreading to 155 countries and regions worldwide.

According to Mangalagiri, child-friendly schools should have five key dimensions. They should include all children, be academically effective and relevant for children, be healthy, safe and protective, be gender responsive, and also be involved with students, families and communities.

Mangalagiri said even if more and more girls are being sent to school, their teachers and parents have still not realized the real value of giving education to girls.

“In many developing countries, including China, girls were traditionally taught to play with dolls and boys to play with cars, which goes against the child-friendly school gender discrimination standard,” she said.

In a child-friendly school, textbooks and learning materials should portray girls and boys equally as “heroes”. Teachers should give girls and boys equal responsibilities, such as being head of class or head of group. School should enforce polices against bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment.

“The education methods of child-friendly schools are a form of quality education in China, designed to empower children and allow them to develop in a well-rounded and holistic manner,” said Zheng Zengyi, a senior official with the Chinese Ministry of Education (MOE).

MOE and UNICEF have jointly test launched the “child-friendly school” program in 100 primary schools in west China. MOE is now working on a national standard for child-friendly school.

“If the program is successful in such a big country as China, it will spread around the world,” said Mangalagiri.

She revealed that China will include emergency-response and psychological protection in its national standard in child-friendly schools.

Primary education is key to China's nine-year compulsory education. In 1949 when the People's Republic of China was founded, primary education enrollment rates were only 20 percent. Sustained efforts by successive Chinese governments have raised the primary school enrollment rate to 99 percent. However, fully implementing nine-year compulsory education in China's vast rural areas is still a herculean task.

According to the amended Compulsory Education Law, which went into effect in China on September 1, the Chinese government will increase its investment in compulsory education and endeavor to achieve balanced development of rich and poor education areas.

Starting this spring, certain types of school fees in west China's rural areas were abandoned.

Educational Minister Zhou Ji said central and local governments would spend 218.2 billion yuan (US$27.3 billion) on the nine-year compulsory education program in rural areas by 2010.

Source:, compiled by


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