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Survival Training Becomes Major Subject in New Semester

About 7.5 million Chinese households tuned into a program on emergency survival presented by basketball star Yao Ming and other members of China's Olympic team on Monday, China Central Television said on Tuesday.

"The First Class", aired nationwide by CCTV from 7:0 PM to 9:00 PM, was scheduled to coincide with the start of the academic fall semester and would be played as part of the national curriculum, according to the CCTV.

It was considered a ratings success for an educational program broadcast during prime time and it would be aired three more times during peak viewing hours at the weekend in response to public feedback.

Jointly produced with the Ministry of Education, "The First Class" featured was divided into four units. Yao Ming and 17 national basketball players presented one lesson, helping an elderly paralyzed man and four children escape flooding by climbing onto a five-meter high vine frame.

At the end of the unit, Yao told the audience that teamwork had helped them succeed. "Teamwork guaranteed our escape," said the 2.26-meter star.

In another unit, China's eight Olympic weight-lifting champions helped 24 students from Sangzao Middle School, in Anxian County, Sichuan, in a building evacuation during a simulated earthquake.

During the May 12 earthquake, all of the school's 2,300 students and teachers evacuated the buildings to an open area within 96 seconds, a result of evacuation drills conducted since 2005.

Program supervisor Xu Wenguang said "The First Class" was planned as the first in a series of "life education" programs, which would include themes such as character building.

"I want to make it a long-term program, a brand name of our channel," said Xu.

The program was also intended to support emergency survival training in schools, which has been stepped up since the devastating May 12 earthquake.

All 3.4 million students in the Sichuan quake zone returned to school on Monday, a provincial education official said, adding that all would enjoy free education.

About 33 percent of students returned to their former schools, which were unaffected in the earthquake, 38 percent returned to buildings that had been reinforced, while 28.4 percent were studying in prefabricated classrooms, said Tu Wentao, head of the provincial education department.

Almost 20,000 students in the worst-hit areas would have to leave their home towns to seek schooling. About 11,000 would study in 16 other cities in the province. The rest would begin classes in 25 other provinces, including Guangdong and Shanghai, he said.

"We will not tolerate a single student dropping out of school because of the disaster and poverty."

Shanghai middle school students found "Sichuan earthquake" content in their Chinese text books this semester, in the category of "dealing with disaster", teaching students how to stand up to difficulties and setbacks in their lives.

This semester also marked the start of nine-year free compulsory education for China's 28.21 million urban primary and middle school students.

The students still must pay for textbooks and uniforms. About 150 million rural students already benefit from the policy.

(Xinhua News Agency September 2, 2008)

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