This article from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Bangkok describes an advancement in the development of distance education in China. On March 2 2009, China Education Television Station (CETV) launched "the country's first satellite television channel for schools and other learners". Classroom on the Air provides services for primary and secondary schools, as well as vocational education and teacher education. Its aim is to foster equity and quality of education, especially in China's central and western rural areas.
As explained here, the channel's origin dates back to 2003, when the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus inspired the creation of Classroom on the Air as a temporary educational service for those children unable to attend school. It broadcast content for 13 hours a day, with programmes covering different school subjects, psychological counselling, cultural and artistic appreciation, popular science, etc. The channel was restarted in May 2008, after an earthquake hit China's Sichuan province. In the tent schools built in the wake of many schools' collapse, Classroom on the Air again broadcast for 13 hours a day, covering 556 schools and reaching 530,000 schoolchildren. In December 2008, the satellite channel was granted authorisation to broadcast as an official satellite TV channel.
Classroom on the Air promotes the sharing of high quality teaching and learning resources between urban regions and rural regions, with a major part of its content in the form of recorded lessons taught by selected teachers in the cities. The programmes are divided into several modules. About 40% of the programmes are designed for schoolchildren, and they include 4 hours of morning, noon, and afternoon sessions, as well as 6.5 hours of selected lessons and teaching assistive programmes. During the late afternoon and early evening, approximately 4 hours of teacher training programmes are provided for instructors; this constitutes about 30% of the programming. About 15% of programmes - 2.5 hours every day, usually during the late evening hours - focus on vocational education. On weekends and national holidays, special programmes, such as emergency education programmes for public safety and news, and online interaction opportunities are provided for teachers and farmers.
Approximately 40% of schools in the country have satellite TV reception facilities, which means that about 100 million school children can watch Classroom on the Air; China's Ministry of Education plans to ensure that all schools will have access by 2011.
UNESCO Bangkok's News on ICT in Education, March 23 2009.