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Remote learning program wins prize

By ZHAO XINYING | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-07-15 09:28
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A program to help less-educated farmers become college graduates through distance-learning is changing China's rural development, and is winning recognition from the international community.

The One College Student Per Village program, launched by the Open University of China in 2004, beat nearly 100 other programs from around the world, and was recognized as one of the winners of the 2020 UNESCO King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize for the Use of ICT in Education.

Announcing the winners in Paris in early April, UNESCO said the program is "an example of how Artificial Intelligence and associated technologies can create quality education opportunities for learners from remote areas, and improve social and economic development in rural communities".

"The program focuses on farmers and poverty alleviation in China," said Jing Degang, Party chief and president of the Open University of China. "By developing online learning platforms and intelligent learning devices, it brings high-quality education resources to rural areas and helps nurture talent needed for rural development."

So far, the program has recruited more than 830,000 students nationwide. About 530,000 have graduated, and many have become leaders and workers playing key roles in lifting their hometowns out of poverty, Jing added.

Long Siqing, Party chief of Guchong village in Huaihua city, Hunan province, is one such graduate. With a certificate in rural administration from the Open University, Long has used what she learned at the university to help lead villagers out of poverty through orange cultivation, which now bring 80 million yuan ($12.5 million) in revenue a year.

"Thanks to my experience at the university, which broadened my knowledge and vision, I now understand how to expand sales channels and make our oranges better received by consumers," Long said.

Jing added that the program has not only supported poverty alleviation from an educational perspective, but has also helped improve education equity.

Akhram Ahmet was one of the Open University's outstanding graduates last year. A resident of Turpan in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, he studied from his home city by taking online courses in a cloud classroom.

With a rich variety of learning resources and materials, Akhram said he was able to enter the cloud classroom and study anywhere, at any time. He was also able to interact with teachers and classmates online, and have his questions answered.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn without having to quit my job or spend too much money. As long as I have access to the internet, I can take any professional course that interests me in the online classroom," he said.

"Open education makes lifelong learning possible."

Zou Shuo contributed to this story.

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