Ru­ral youths learn English via in­ter­net

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHANG LI in Nan­ning zhangli@chi­nadaily.com.cn

At the be­gin­ning of this month, third-graders at Minzu Shiyan Pri­mary School had their first English class. But their teacher, Lai Lusi, was not stand­ing in the class­room.

Teach­ing the class from an­other school 5 kilo­me­ters away, she was seen by her stu­dents on a screen thanks to an in­ter­net-based long-dis­tance ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem launched by the gov­ern­ment of the Guangxi Zhuang au­tonomous re­gion.

The pri­mary school, in Guangxi’s San­jiang Dong au­tonomous county, lacked an English teacher and so was un­able to of­fer English classes.

“There is a dis­tinct gap be­tween ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas in terms of ed­u­ca­tion. Qual­i­fied English teach­ers are es­pe­cially hard to find in ru­ral ar­eas, where eth­nic groups tends to set­tle,” Lai said.

Ben­e­fit­ing from the Dou­ble Thousand Pro­ject ini­ti­ated by the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment in 2014, long-dis­tance ed­u­ca­tion is now widely used in ru­ral ar­eas where the short­age of teach­ers re­mains the big­gest chal­lenge.

With an em­pha­sis on pro­vid­ing com­pul­sory ed­u­ca­tion in ar­eas where eth­nic groups gather, the pro­ject plans to spend 100 bil­lion yuan on build­ing 1,000 new schools and ex­pand­ing ex­ist­ing ones by 2018.

In the past four years, con­struc­tion of 1,109 ele­men­tary and sec­ondary schools has started, and more than 8,000 schools were re­vamped thanks to an in­vest­ment of 105.6 bil­lion yuan ($15.4 bil­lion), ac­cord­ing to the re­gional gov­ern­ment.

Be­cause the dropout rate has re­mained high, the re­gional gov­ern­ment also or­ga­nized teams to find stu­dents who dropped out and per­suade them to come back to school to en­sure that all stu­dents in ru­ral ar­eas com­plete their ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion.

Wei Juan was fi­nally found work­ing in an elec­tron­ics pro­cess­ing work­shop in Foshan, Guang­dong prov­ince, by such a team from her home­town in Dahua Yao au­tonomous county.

The 15-year-old girl took odd jobs in Guang­dong af­ter leav­ing school at 13 years old.

“This is the ninth time we have tried to bring her back to school, and our tar­get is to leave no one be­hind,” said Lan An, a mem­ber of the team.

Af­ter per­sis­tent per­sua­sion, Wei went back to her home­town and en­rolled in a vo­ca­tional school.

Tang Xiangjin, head of the re­gion’s ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment, said: “Pro­mot­ing ed­u­ca­tion is an ef­fec­tive way to avoid the in­ter­gen­er­a­tional trans­mis­sion of poverty and is very crit­i­cal for a fam­ily to im­prove its liv­ing stan­dard, so we will put all our ef­forts into al­low­ing ev­ery child to make a dif­fer­ence through ed­u­ca­tion.”

In the next three years, the re­gional gov­ern­ment will in­vest 73 bil­lion yuan to ac­cel­er­ate ed­u­ca­tional equal­ity, he added.

LIN BIN / XIN­HUA

Stu­dents from Xinzhou No 3 Pri­mary School per­form Waltz of the Aba­cus in Longlin au­tonomous county in the Guangxi Zhuang au­tonomous re­gion in June, dur­ing an ac­tiv­ity with the theme of in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itage.

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