Out­stand­ing peo­ple en­gage more fully


An­drea Pasinetti, 31, founder and CEO of Teach for China

Icame to China in 2007 to learn Chi­nese at Ts­inghua Univer­sity (af­ter study­ing at Prince­ton Univer­sity). A year later, a Prince­tion a alumni who is Chi­nese in­vited me to visit Shuangjiang, a beau­ti­ful but poverty-stricken county in Yun­nan prov­ince, where he had funded a pri­mary school. He told me that it was the best way to get a com­pre­hen­sive im­age of China.

When I ar­rived at the school, or rather a “teach­ing site” at the top of a moun­tain, the head­mas­ter told me that very few of his stu­dents made it to se­nior high school, but not be­cause they didn’t want to or were not ca­pa­ble.

They had very good fa­cil­i­ties, but there was a se­vere short­age of good teach­ers.

When I was about to leave, the head­mas­ter asked if I could per­suade some of my class­mates at Ts­inghua to teach there dur­ing va­ca­tions. In some way, I could feel that the head­mas­ter be­lieved top univer­sity stu­dents could in­still pas­sion into the chil­dren there.

And that’s what I did, though with­out much hope be­cause I know it’s not easy to gain a place at Ts­inghua, so I thought peo­ple would want to find well-paid jobs af­ter grad­u­a­tion.

I asked some friends, and was sur­prised that quite a few of them shared the same pas­sion. And the more out­stand­ing they were, the more will­ing they were to en­gage with the ini­tia­tive.

In ad­di­tion to Ts­inghua, I tried my luck in other pres­ti­gious schools, such as Fu­dan Univer­sity in Shang­hai and Sun Yat-sen Univer­sity in Guang­dong prov­ince.

They also ex­pressed an in­ter­est, and in just six months I got 20 ex­cel­lent col­lege stu­dents who were will­ing to con­trib­ute their knowl­edge and en­ergy. In 2008, I founded Teach for China.

The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has been pro­mot­ing equal­ity of ed­u­ca­tion. In the past nine years, the in­fra­struc­ture in ru­ral China has im­proved sig­nif­i­cantly and teach­ers’ salaries have also risen.

How­ever, com­pared with the pre­vi­ous lack of teach­ing fa­cil­i­ties, the short­age of ca­pa­ble teach­ers will take longer to solve. Teach for China is now ex­plor­ing new ways of solv­ing this prob­lem. An­drea Pasinetti spoke with Li Lei.


An­drea Pasinetti dur­ing a dis­cus­sion in Beijing.

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