The Child-Friendly Schools program has helped create a better environment for rural children in China, a UNICEF special advocate for education said on Monday.
Wang Yuan, one of Time magazine's global top 30 influential teenagers, told reporters in Beijing that more support should be given to improve the quality of rural education and ensure all students have the opportunity to fulfill their potential.
"It doesn't matter where a child lives, whether he or she is a boy or a girl, disabled or facing other challenges. Everyone has the right to a high-quality education," he said.
In September, the 17-year-old singer and actor made his first visit to two schools involved in the program in Sanjiang county, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
While there, he gave a music lesson, visited the school vegetable garden, led children in hand-washing, learned how to make dumplings, and joined a basketball training session.
"Many rural schools have rundown classrooms and outdated facilities. To my surprise, the two schools I visited were modernized with great teaching and a beautiful environment," he said.
"The Child-Friendly Schools program has really helped. It's a pioneering concept where the interests of children are placed at the center of everything, and where there is a special emphasis on psychological well-being."
Jointly launched by the Ministry of Education and UNICEF in 2001, the program has led to the development of a child-friendly schools model for China, which focuses on improving the quality of education by making it an engaging and stimulating experience for children age 6 to 12.
Participating schools follow a model that emphasizes social and emotional learning to encourage good mental health, along with sport and physical education to promote healthy development and teamwork.
The approach also includes improved health management capacity to encourage students to follow good personal hygiene practices, and professional development of teachers to improve teaching quality.
"A child-friendly school helps children achieve improved learning outcomes, transition successfully to secondary school, and learn important life skills that will enable them to make a positive contribution to society," said Rana Flowers, UNICEF representative to China.
"UNICEF is working toward every child having access to a child-friendly school. China has recognized the model, so we hope to see this approach replicated across the country."