Rural China Education Foundation

Our mission is to promote education in rural China that empowers students to improve their lives and their communities. We believe rural students should develop skills and confidence from their education that will help them deal with real world problems, deepen their understanding of social issues, and prepare them to improve their environments. Our strategy is to accumulate and share practice-based expertise on curriculum and teaching methods that meets these goals.
Aug 24, 2010

U.S. and Chinese Teachers Share Teaching Methods

American teachers do self-introductions.
American teachers do self-introductions.

This summer, eight American teachers from Windrush School in El Cerrito, California traveled to RCEF's program site, Xiaochao Primary School. The summer vacation had just begun in China but around 30 local teachers returned to school to dialogue with the American educators about reading and service learning. In China, service learning is a method used in "Integrated Practice Class," a mandatory subject for grades 3-6. RCEF program teachers showed pictures and videos of the service learning projects they led this year. and the Windrush teachers shared their school's service learning philosophy and examples of projects that their students had completed.

Windrush School's educational philosophy and curriculum priorities share similarities with RCEF. We both promote student-centered education and facilitate children to participate in practical activities that develop a diverse range of values and abilities, including empathy, a sense of responsibility, and desire to serve others. Windrush School's goal in service learning is to help students gain knowledge and skills through public service activities that develop their hearts and minds. They foster a deeper understanding of society and the duties of acitizen. This is not only good for students' academics but it also helps to grow civil society.

After the presentations and exchange, the American teachers said they were impressed by RCEF teachers' methods. In particular, they said they wanted to learn from our collective lesson planning and teacher group reflection model. At the same time, we must learn from the sustainability and concrete results of the Windrush service learning approach and its integration with other curriculum subjects. In the future, I hope that we can build up a sister school relationship with Windrush through online learning, exchange, and sharing experiences. This will help us prepare our students for a lifetime of improving their communities.

A rural Chinese teacher presents on her teaching.
A rural Chinese teacher presents on her teaching.
Jun 9, 2010

School Profile: Xiaochao Primary School

This school year, RCEF began working with a second rural primary school in Yongji, Shanxi Province. Xiaochao Primary School is a public school that serves around 153 students in six grades. Many of them are "left behind children" whose parents have migrated to cities to work. Most of Xiaochao's teachers live in the surrounding villages and have taught at the school for a decade or more, earning many county and provincial level teaching awards.

While its test scores consistently rank at the top of the township, Xiaochao wants to add more enriching activities to its curriculum and bolster students' well-rounded development. This semester, RCEF helped Xiaochao to set up a school library and to design Reading and Integrated Practice classes. RCEF also organized conferences and trainings for teachers from Xiaochao and our other program sites to learn new teaching methods and share their own experiences.

Links:

Mar 15, 2010

Winter Teachers Conference

Teachers share on the last day.
Teachers share on the last day.

The school yard of Guan Ai Primary School, RCEF’s main program site, is lined with tall Chinese parasol trees. Shortly after the Chinese New Year, rural teachers from six schools in three provinces gathered at wooden picnic tables underneath their branches for a three-day conference. Though the focus was on RCEF’s student-centered teaching methods and curriculum, all of the teachers were encouraged to contribute their unique viewpoints, questions, and examples from diverse personal experience. As birds chattered above their heads on the first morning of the meeting, the 40 participants discussed rules and expectations for the event that would foster an open, safe atmosphere for sharing and learning. They voted on a “class name” for the group—“Beneath the Parasol Trees”—and got acquainted with each other’s backgrounds and personalities through games and small group discussions. Teachers from one private and one public rural school in Yongji attended as well as from rural schools in Gansu and Guizhou that are supported by the NGOs Western Sunshine Action and Xiaoping Foundation respectively. For most of the three days, participants split up into two groups to learn about RCEF’s experiences in developing teaching methods for two curriculum subjects: Integrated Practice Class and Reading. In Integrated Practice Class, participants learned about RCEF’s method of facilitating students to do community investigations by actually carrying out the steps of an sample project, ranging from walking around the village to collect possible investigation topics, to narrowing down the choices to one topic, to designing and executing a plan for interviewing and investigation. Through a facilitated process modeling how RCEF teaches students, the participants eventually narrowed down their topics to investigating how villagers of three different generations celebrated the Chinese New Year holiday. After designing an interview plan, just as the students do, the teachers went out to interview older villagers, an experience that many found eye-opening and enjoyable. Even those local teachers who had grown up in nearby villages learned new things! At each step in the process, Guan Ai teachers or RCEF staff shared in detail how they taught the step, what difficulties they faced with students, and how they dealt with these practical challenges. Participants brought up concerns and challenges they would face in their own classrooms implementing such a class and the whole group offered ideas and advice. In the evaluation form, one public school teacher wrote, “This is truly a meaningful activity for students. It’s not just for appearances.” Another teacher from Gansu remarked, “Before this meeting, I had only theory about this class in my head. Now I have a better idea of actual teaching methods.” The other half of the group focused on how to promote extracurricular reading in primary school. They gathered in the colorful RCEF library at Guan Ai School to hear how students were trained to manage the library. Many teachers were struck to see the free, open way that Guan Ai students act in the library—sitting on the floor, leaning against the bookcases, even lying on the floor, immersed in books! Guan Ai teachers who facilitate silent sustained reading as well as storytelling and book discussion activities in their classes shared the process they went through from having almost no concept of non-textbook reading to now utilizing extracurricular books on a daily basis, and seeing marked improvements in their students’ creativity, oral language and independent thinking skills. This approach to reading was new to many participants. One teacher wrote, “Before I came to this meeting, I would simply give students some content to read. They didn’t have any initiative and finished the task mechanically. However, now I want to let them choose books that they like and slowly build up their habit of reading.” On the last day, the two groups came together for a seminar on cooperative, small group learning. Though many teachers were already familiar with the benefits of the concept and had been using small groups in their classrooms to different degrees, this was an opportunity for them to discuss the practical challenges that came up and share effective strategies. Guan Ai teachers shared how they organized this kind of learning, ranging from ways of forming groups to fostering group leaders, to what kind of problems to watch out for if using a points system to incentivize groups. Overall, the participants enjoyed the open sharing available in this conference, saying it was quite “down-to-earth” and that they “could really learn things here.” In the evaluation form, one public school teacher wrote, “I’ve been to a lot of teacher exchange meetings in the past but mostly just listened to some reports or read some materials or observed a model class. The difference here was that at every stage, we talked about our own experiences with other teachers. This is really meaningful to me and I liked it very much.” Another wrote, “I like this kind of meeting more than other ones I’ve been to because the teachers have a lot of time to interact and participate.” However, the short duration of the meeting (three days) left some teachers unsatisfied and several said they hoped to see live classes with students in action. Another suggestion was to raise the efficiency of the discussions and facilitation. This teacher’s sentiment echoed many of her peers: “I want to learn even more methods I can try out myself so I’m looking forward to the next meeting.”

Teachers carry out a project in the village.
Teachers carry out a project in the village.
Reading lesson demonstration
Reading lesson demonstration