The education gap between urban and rural students in China has become a pressing issue. China has seen an unprecedented growth economically and socially in the past decade. This has resulted in the acceleration of domestic migration and the emergence of new social boundaries and practices.
China’s urbanization rate has risen from 17.9% to 58.5%, and 640 million people have migrated from rural areas to cities in search of better economic opportunity. With increased internal migration, the education of migrant children has been negatively affected. Migrant parents are forced to leave their children behind as they search for greater opportunities in the city - thus coining the term, 'left-behind' children. Whereas the state has provided financial aid for urban students and support for their education, migrant and rural children have mostly been left to the resources of local villages. Even then, a large portion of teachers at these villages are not fit for the job, severely mistreated by headmasters and poorly paid, barely reaching the minimum subsistence level.
This project aims to design a revised curriculum, communicate with administrative sectors governing rural schools, generate funding and offer psychological support to address the plight of 'left-behind' children.
A Redesigned Curriculum
The Ministry of Education of China has made the provision of education to migrant children mandatory. However, the current curriculum is specifically designed for urban students. Migrant children, who have lived with different life experiences in comparison to urban students, face difficulty in understanding the examples in teaching materials.
We believe that redesigning the current curriculum better addresses the situation of migrant children. In response to COVID-19, we have adapted to online learning and have created tutorial videos. We will continue developing this curriculum. (See the "Lesson Plans" page in the Resource Center.)
Development of a PEN PAL Network
There are an estimated 41 million children (18 or younger) who have been left behind by their parents in rural China. A multitude of studies have revealed that parental migration has long-term negative impacts on their children. This includes emotional and behavioral problems that manifest as a result of long-term separation. In accordance with the attachment theory, children who develop insecure attachment relationships (a result of a disruption in parent-adolescent communication) may show emotional symptoms and hyperactivity when in stressful situations.
To combat this, we have created a PEN PAL network where migrant students can communicate with others around the globe and create friendships. Every Tuesday, migrant students write and send letters to their international counterparts. On the first day of each month, PEN PALs will contact each other through video call. We hope this network creates safe, inclusive and meaningful interactions between students. If you are interested in being PEN PALs with a student, go to our page, "PEN PAL Network."
Insufficient teaching resources, such as qualified teachers, textbooks and school facilities is another issue that threatens quality primary school education of migrant children. First, many teachers who work at rural schools come from various parts of the country and do not have official documents as residents of a city. Additionally, these teachers are unqualified; only 21.81% of teachers in rural areas have a 4-year teaching degree. This inconsistency is majorly caused by the wages teachers are paid.
Many only barely meet the minimum subsistence level of maintaining their lives, a result of dictation from principals and headmasters of rural schools, creating low motivation, poor quality of teaching and a constant replacement of teachers.
As such, we have created a volunteer network of trained teachers and tutors that are stationed at various rural schools they are available to teach in. All volunteers go under an application, interview and training session. If you are interested in applying, or have any further questions, please go to our page titled "Volunteer Application and Network."
We believe we can support the education of 'left-behind' children, step by step.