Background & Needs
Education reform is certainly arguably the most pressing social problem facing China today. The Chinese language Ministry of Education has promulgated national education reform policies, but all of these-new curricula, technologies, and concepts for example student-centered, integrated learning-rely on teachers’ execution for quality and sustainability. Thus, it is essential to help teachers to clarify and develop their own educational values, and the personal attitudes and abilities needed to put their values directly into practice. Most current forms of teacher learning China do not effectively address this step, focusing on promoting new educational strategies (the “what”) but overlooking the need for teachers to genuinely understand the “why” behind the techniques, and “how” to implement them effectively in their own classrooms. An integrated approach to instructor training and development is needed that combines both personal and professional growth so that the reform goals from the national Ministry of Education can be implemented with high quality for countryside children. For six years, RCEF has worked on the frontlines of this interesting field and will continue to deepen the expertise with our Rural Education Innovators Program.
RCEF’s mission is to promote education that prepares college students to improve their own lives and their own communities.
China’s current education system is built around one goal and something standard for success-college entrance. The particular few rural students who are successful leave their villages, find a good job in the city, and are not actively encouraged to use their newly found resources to contribute to the development of their own hometowns or society at large. Those people who are left behind-the vast majority-have only been educated for the purpose of preparing for examinations. If they are unable to enter university, a lot of what they learned will be of small practical use to them. Their schooling has not fostered the knowledge and abilities they need to solve real world problems. RCEF questions the assumption that building up this type of education prepares students to enhance their own lives and communities. Best case scenario, it may help a small group of countryside students rise to the top, while their colleagues and future generations of countryside children are left behind. We believe that various education is needed, rather than more sources for the same education.
To help us envision the kind of education that aligns with our mission, we thought of rural Chinese language who have made significant contributions to their communities, identified common characteristics which were instrumental to their effectiveness, and adopted these as our main targets. Those goals are: developing an awareness of community issues, developing a sense of appreciation and empathy for communities, building confidence, building conversation and collaboration skills, and constructing critical thinking skills. Here, “communities” refer to different groups that college students belong to: their classes, schools, towns, and the larger society.
In addition to supporting students to make a distinction in their communities, we believe that these learning goals will inherently advantage students’ individual development and well-being. These goals reflect cognitive, interpersonal and emotional development as well as abilities acquisition to support well-rounded growth. They may be important characteristics that support all of us in building healthy and encouraging relationships with others, solving everyday problems, and working effectively inside a range of professions.
The particular educational goals above are in-line with the New Curriculum Reform associated with China’s Ministry of Education plus there are many different ways that these knowledge, abilities and values can be fostered. Within our own teaching activities, RCEF provides chosen in recent years to focus on using a strategy called Service Learning, an academic approach which “integrates meaningful local community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach social responsibility, and strengthen communities”. In a typical service-learning project, students recognize problems that they are concerned about in the community, research the problems and potential solutions, produce and implement a plan for handling the problem, and reflect on their studying and action throughout the process.
However , in addition , RCEF is available to, and indeed has already supported, Fellows and other organizations which use other methodologies plus curriculum framework, as long as they assist students pursue one or more of the RCEF learning goal. For example , we have backed Fellows who develop and educate Reading and English language in a variety of student-centered ways.
Pertaining to concrete teaching examples of RCEF’s beliefs in action, please see the article “Reimagining Education in Rural China”, Options Journal, Volume 2, Issue 5, September 2011.
RCEF Rural Education Innovators Program
The RCEF Rural Education Innovators Program supports front-line rural educators in China simply by creating an individualized and continuing adult education system of personal plus professional development that supports them in their experimentation with innovative teaching methods and curriculum that function rural children’s development and growth.
Currently in Cina, there is a small but growing vanguard of reform-minded rural educators making breakthroughs in the delivery of quality rural education. These reformers fit in with three main groups: 1) countryside school teachers; 2) NGO workers dependent year-round in rural communities; plus 3) short-term volunteers. RCEF’s own co-founders and staff have directly served as a part of all three groupings. Based on our own working experiences, we have analyzed the following needs of teachers in these positions:
►Need designed for Professional Understanding of Education: Many education and learning workers are extremely passionate about improving education and learning but lack an accurate foundational understanding of education theory, child development theory, and pedagogy to help them analyze their students’ needs and set up to date, realistic teaching goals.
►Need for Appropriate Coaches: Most training models are brought by trainers who have not spent much time teaching rural children themselves—for example, university academics and metropolitan, or even foreign, schoolteachers. There exists a practical gap between the training methods and coaches and the real conditions of the teachers and children whom they target.
►Need designed for Follow-up: Trainings are usually “one-size matches all” with little to no follow-up afterwards to help educators resolve problems that come up in their unique classrooms.
► Need for Personal Development: Significant personal fortitude and skill is required to persevere in education reform despite generally low levels of assistance from parents, supervisors and co-workers who often oppose reforms. Current trainings focus mostly on specialized skills while overlooking the need to effectively and sensitively help educators develop personal self-confidence, resilience and optimistic methods of coping with inevitable challenges plus set-backs.
► Need for Peer Support Networks: Educators often learn best from peers grappling with similar challenges. They benefit from knowing that they are not alone in their difficult work. However , rural educators need organizers with all the network and resources to bring them together and facilitate knowledge-sharing plus mutual support amongst like-minded professionals.
► Need for Financial Stability: Educators serving countryside children often have to leave the profession due to low and volatile pay. They may find their function extremely meaningful, but it is tough for them to make a living and satisfy their own families’ needs long-term, causing numerous to leave their posts reluctantly and before they have matured to their potential as teachers and frontrunners in advancing sustainable education reform.
Based on the years of experience on the frontlines associated with both rural teaching and instructor coaching, RCEF is highly motivated plus well-positioned to develop services to meet the above mentioned needs.
RCEF solicits applications for Rural Education Innovators from individual educators through our network of contacts in rural schools and NGOs. In 2012-2014, we supported selected 15 Innovators working in 6 schools or NGOs designing support packages along with varying combinations of these support plus resources:
♦Financial Support: Monthly Stipends and/or Annual Performance Bonus deals give Innovators the ability and security to focus full-time on teaching plus professional development. Fellows can also make an application for grants to fund teaching components and supplies.
♦Professional Training: Teaching coaches and consultants assist Innovators to develop their Individualized Professional Development Plans and follow-up along with coaching throughout the year in the form of site appointments and email and phone meetings to observe and give feedback on their teaching and studies on educational theory and methodology.
♦Broader Studying & Networking Opportunities: We assist Innovators identify and attend outside trainings, conferences and study travels to gain new ideas and perspectives, meet like-minded practitioners, and share tips, support and best practices to advantage and inspire other educators.
RCEF also partners with NGOs plus rural schools to promote the building up and deepening of their educational programs. Our motivational principles for cooperation are as follows:
•We believe one of the main reasons and benefits from collaboration is the shared growth for both organizations contained in engagement in deep discussion plus exchange of diverse opinions plus perspectives in the course of authentically implementing the collaborative project.
•Currently, each countryside education support organization in China is insufficient on its own and needs to discover effective partnerships to harness sources, experience and expertise
• In trying to become a more professional rural mentor support organization through our own programs，develop deeper and more effective methods that may gradually provide complementary and shared support with and for other companies.
Currently, RCEF is supporting Rural Education Innovators in Shanxi, Guangdong, and Sichuan Provinces in Cina.