By 2008 the poverty level in China dropped drastically to 13% from a staggering 84% in 1981. This means that not only did they pull roughly 500 million people out of poverty, but they also reached the Millennium Development Goal of reducing national poverty by half, several years early.
Despite these amazing advancements and becoming the second largest economy in the world, there are still instances of poverty and inequality throughout the nation. Much of this can be seen in the schools. In order to deal with the issues and ensure that all students are receiving good educations, China has implemented so-called mentor schools to assist.
The schools within the heart of Shanghai have the benefit of good funding and updated teacher training, while those that linger on the outskirts are suffering from complacency and out of date teaching methods. As a result, the students attending school in more rural areas are less likely to continue to high school and to receive an exemplary education. Thus, the mentor school concept came to be. It is not unheard of for one student to mentor another. But what about an entire school tutoring another school?
Education officials in Shanghai have had great success in these pairings since 2005 and expect more to come. A rural school is chosen for the program and paired with an urban sister school that is excelling. The rural school receives weekly visits from the other administrators and $160,000 for two years. In the 2009-2011 set of pairings there were 43 rural schools polled about their experiences with the mentor program.
They showed an increase in teacher ratings, as well as an increase in the number of students staying in school. One middle school demonstrated a 10% increase in the amount of students moving on to high school.
In 2007 Zhang Zhi, principal of Yangpu elementary, an award winning school in Shanghai, was paired with the less successful Qingcun elementary in the southern part of the city. They found numerous problems with administration and responsibilities that were dragging the school performance down.
Zhang immediately devised a clear plan to improve the school, changed the infrastructure, and put together his own mentoring program where one of his teachers worked with a Qingcun teacher during an intense three day seminar. The changes resulted in the retention of students and teachers, as well as awards for both the school and its educators.
It is clear that China has a lot to teach the world, not only about poverty reduction, but about improving education for all children. More money is certainly useful in all schools, especially those in countries still wracked with poverty and inequality, but simply taking the time to work with educators and administrators is invaluable.
Education scholar Yong Zhao stated, “Think what might happen in Los Angeles if some of the suburban schools partnered with poorer schools in the city center, it’s a great idea.”
– Chelsea Evans