SEATTLE — One out of every four children in China’s cities is considered a migrant. A survey done by the United Nations Children Fund stated that 35.8 million children fall into this category. China’s economic boom has unintentionally produced a generation of children who are left behind. Rural workers in search of better-paying jobs migrate to cities and often leave their children with little adult supervision or access to education.
Workers who are continuously moving to different jobs in manufacturing, construction, hospitality, etc., place children into charity child care facilities that lack sufficient educational resources.
The average public school registration in China costs upwards of $4,800, equal to a year’s salary for a rural worker, and even when they do have the proper funds, government regulation and policies make it difficult to get rural children enrolled. Regulations placed on public school systems have created enormous hurdles for rural workers who migrate to urban cities. According to Guangzhou Daily, the town’s public school system cannot exceed 10 percent of non-local students registered.
3F is small startup project using a creative, low-cost approach to develop coding education in China’s impoverished areas, helping to erode poverty through an inclusive digital economy future. China is facing a digital gap between urban and rural schools. Even in urban areas, children have unequal opportunities to access digital education, particularly in coding and programming.
As big cities are overpopulated, the limited resource of public schools goes to local children first. Coding education at a young age is fundamental for the artificial intelligence era, as an increasing number of workers without digital capability quickly get replaced by smart machines.
Adam Li, the founder of 3F, started the project in 2016 to help deliver coding education in China to migrant children from rural areas. The program taught them how to leverage technical resources like programming, which opens the door for kids to create and deliver applications in the future, helping these communities find creative ways to join the digital economy.
Adam is a multi-talented individual currently enrolled in the Master of Social Enterprise Management program, a brand new MBA program at Guanghua School of Management, Peking University, which according to Time Magazine is one of the top 30 academic institutions in the world and the leading body for progressive thought in China. Adam possesses degrees in engineering and English literature and is exchanging at New York University’s Stern MBA program, NYU, a partner of Peking Universtiy.
Although Adam reached the upper echelon of academic and professional credentials, he is concerned with the lack of opportunity given to children in rural China. Inspired by his father, who was a teacher from rural China, and his professional experiences as a volunteer at a Junior Achievement program in China advising high-school students, Adam set out to pilot a program that could help both children and parents learn how to code.
Adam led a team to create a coding curriculum for children before attending the China, U.S., and India Rural Preschool Education Forum at the Stanford Center in Peking University. The forum led to an epiphany for the young founder in 2016 where he first listened to Weixia Hou, the Operations Director at Vibrant Communities, a local non-governmental organization which focuses on disadvantaged children’s development in China, describe the difficulties faced by children from rural China.
As routinely experienced by most developed nations, resources are abundantly allocated to urban sectors of the country, at times ignoring an entire segment of the populace. Interest in further developing coding education in China led to a partnership between Vibrant Communities and the Tsinghua University lab for lifelong learning.
In 2016, 3F and its partners launched a curriculum that was delivered to 12 migrant children after an anonymous information technology company provided 13 iPads. The curriculum included the parents, since they could also learn how to code and hopefully monetize their newly acquired skills in the future.
3F’s small pilot program delivered twenty hours of curriculum. One coding project of traffic lights by three boys was shared and recognized at the Scratch Junior Workshop during the 2016 Scratch Conference at MIT in Boston. Using technology and creativity, 3F took a simple idea and after a successful proof of concept encouraged companies to implement similar programs to help bridge the digital gap faced by migrant children in China.
Ingenuity and compassion for others led Adam to have an immense impact in his home country. Expanding coding education in China by using his passion for technology and people created a startup that will have a positive long-term effect on these often forgotten children.
– Hector Cruz