Transforming China’s Rural Schools
China Schools Foundation’s (CSF) vision is to transform rural China’s far-flung primary schools into progressive laboratories of learning. While this same vision is held at the highest policy-making levels in China, in reality, the effort is hindered by unfavorable school conditions, and a lack of programs to promote creative and independent thinking.
The need to create productive futures for children in rural China beginning with their early education has an importance of profound social, economic and political dimensions.
CSF believes that dramatic results can be achieved at modest costs in village and township schools throughout the countryside with a well-coordinated, ‘whole school’ program.
After teacher salaries, the largest percentage of education budgets is allocated to new school construction. By collaborating with Education Bureaus to repair and renovate existing schools at a fraction of the cost of demolishing them and building new ones, CSF is modeling a different approach: freeing up government funds for resources and programs that have a more direct impact on improved student learning. So far, six schools in Yunnan and Shaanxi have been restored.
In Yunnan Province, CSF partnered with the Kunming Education Bureau to renovate an old school slated for closure in Yunnan. The cost of renovation, including classroom materials, bricks to books at ¥125,000 (US $18,300) was only 25% of the amount budgeted for the replacement school.
Renovating old country schools frees up money for professional development of teachers. Good teaching is the key to nurturing independent, creative learners. Traditional teaching favors teacher-centered, rote learning approaches where memorization trumps understanding. Changing this environment is challenging: Attracting better teachers to rural schools is difficult, theory-based learning has little long term impact and IT-based learning requires a heavy investment in computers. CSF proposes a different approach.
Using Model Lessons As The Vehicle For Professional Development
CSF’s approach is to develop country school teachers by creating and distributing ‘model lessons’. These videotaped lessons integrate new, hands-on teaching materials and the most progressive teaching methodologies. The key driver is to promote ‘learning by doing’ – one of the fundamental approaches of progressive education. These model lessons, delivered by master Chinese teachers, are filmed in rural classrooms and enhanced with captioned practice pointers. In the second phase of this professional development program, CSF will mentor teacher reflection and independent development of best practices.
For more information on China Schools Foundation, visit their website at chinaschoolsfoundation.org