By: Ben Piscopo
Summer 2011 will be a summer to remember for online learning in the Pearl River Delta (Southern China). With assistance and technical support from the official news media of Zhuhai, ZHnews.net, and the teaching resources of Buduanwang and EFET, the first web-based cultural English summer camp will be held.
With in-person meetings for the initial days of the camp, the online learning camp will give families in Zhuhai a chance to experience the benefits of web-based tutoring, even with foreign English teachers. What’s more, students whose families live far from university campuses will be able to experience what it’s like to study with a “home tutor”, or 家教, without the burden of travelling or other costs.
With Internet penetration increasing throughout suburban and rural areas, and the Chinese government’s support of wiring schools across the country[*], there is strong momentum for this method of learning. The State Council’s decision on Improving Education in Rural China, was initiated in 2003 and established goals for helping rural education catch up with the rich coastal cities. The locations most requiring the benefits of online learning are rural primary schools, which often do not have the teaching resources to prepare local students to compete with city kids, yet these areas are becoming increasingly wired to the Internet. Much of the infrastructure required to kick-start such goals has already been developed in the past decade.
“In Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region alone, since the implementation of the ‘All Schools Connected Project,’ over 3,000 schools have built a distance education network system, benefiting 100,000 students in the remote areas.” (Sourced from Ke Zhang’s paper “China’s Online Education: Rhetoric and Realities“) Another example of the countryside growing through online and distance education comes from the Modern Distance Education (MDE) project which had a planned investment of 360 million RMB yuan (about U.S. $45 million) in 2002. Sponsorship has been invited from higher educational institutions in China as well as international organizations.
With assistance from projects fueled by government funding and donations from corporations, rural schools like Guangdong, Nanshan Primary School have accepted volunteer teaching via Buduanwang since 2009. Their rural school programs include 6 other primary schools in Guangdong, Guangxi, and Gansu provinces. Research has not been concluded on the impact of these remedial programs for rural primary students, but hopes are high that these students will be more competitive in the longer term.
Ben Piscopo is a volunteer for Buduanwang, a “social-enterprise” organization which holds online lessons with rural primaries schools. He is also the Director of Studies for EFET, a community of professional, online English teachers. Contact is welcome by email: firstname.lastname@example.org