30 September 2015
Mu Li Study - School Change (as an integral part of Sustainable Development Action Program)
Where is Mu Li?
Mu Li is one of the 4 villages which form Mu Li Xiang. Mu Li Xiang is part of Ji Xin Zhen, which is under the governance of Feng Huang Shen. Feng Huang Gu Cheng is a grade one historical site, one of the major tourist hot spot of western Hunan (Xiang Xi).
Why did I go there?
One of my friends has founded an organic farm in MU Li village, raising pigs and chickens applying eco-farming technology originated from South Korea. The farm can become a model of sustainable development farming in an area inhabited by mainly Miao ethnic tribes.
The farm owner, Frankie, is a Hong Kong lady who used to be a designer before coming to China for exploration 8 years ago. She has familiarised herself with the production process, and is now aiming at marketing the produces, before adding an extension - food processing factory to its farm house. Her target is to produce between 50 to 100 pigs a year on her farm, but will form cooperatives with local farmers who will adopt the farming technology. By doing this, the farm will become an R&D centre and Mu Li farmers will go eco-farming, preserving the environment and at the same time attracting young people who have outflowed to the city to return to their homeland for the high return from organic farm produce.
What were the needs and strategies to help the farm, the school and the village?
Having learned about Frankie’s dream, I started to explore the possibility of making known the farm and the ideas to the villagers through the Mu Li Xiang Comprehensive School, which provides boarding places to students from the other 3 villages in the vicinity. With students educated the concepts of sustainable development, eco-farming, there is a chance that the young people will choose to stay in the land. The school and children’s attitude and knowledge can be a positive influence to the parents. Therefore, collaboration between the farm and the school is a strategic action which will help connect the farm with local residents, and enhance the impact of sustainable development and eco-farming on the school curriculum. The latter of which is, as far as I learned from attending seminars for educators in Dongguan, is one of the major directions and themes of the upcoming national education reforms.
Led by Mag, a major staff of the farm, who is also an alumnae of the primary school, I met the senior teachers and Principal Long, who was newly transferred to the school this academic year on. A tour round the campus impressed me as well managed, with a clean environment, and significant changes were happening to the school facilities. There was a computer room with more than 40 computers installed last year, a multi-media teaching room, a school library, and to my surprise, a colourful reading room with book shelves against the walls. The toilets were common ones in rural areas - dry and no door but hygiene was acceptable. It was quite clear that the education department did not have the awareness that the basic classroom teaching equipment: a set of video projector and visualiser in each classroom and special room are even more effective in improving the teaching efficiency of every lesson by every teacher. I proposed to Principal Long that the school should have at least 11 sets of projectors and visualizers, 9 for the classrooms, 1 for the computer room and 1 for the reading room. This idea was fully confirmed by my visit to the 4 schools in Bao Jing, one of the ‘poor’ counties in Hunan. Even in the very remote Da To Middle School, there I saw interactive whiteboard and projector in the regular classroom. In Fu Xing K-9 School, they even had LED panels in the classrooms! The Feng Huang or Huai Hua education bureau should provide these resources to the schools.
What is the immediate improvement action plan?
‘Think big and start small’ and ‘Build on strengths’
To tap on my strength in English teaching enhancement, I propose to Principal Long, Ms Li, the English teacher that we should start with English enhancement. Before each classroom is equipped with multi-media facilities, Ms Li can move her English teaching lessons to the multi-media room so that students can listen and watch authentic English in the DVDs accompanying the textbooks. This is of crucial importance because students must listen to good English, and they should have equal opportunity to be exposed to the resources the state provides for all students over the country.
Next, the newly equipped reading room, which is a donation of ‘Reading Dream’, a Hong Kong charity which provides teacher training to the school teachers, is an excellent resource. To save Ms Li time in finding pictures for making flash cards to enhance understanding of contents of textbooks, she can use the large number of high quality picture books in the reading room. She can choose the relevant picture books, e.g. ‘season’, ‘animals’, which already have the Chinese captions and lines, put them on the visualizer, project them on screen, and students can use the English vocabulary they learn to make descriptions. If there is a projector and visualiser in the reading room, and a full set of English readers, both print and copies on an iPad or laptop, and English learning tool books, the room will become an excellent R&D centre for bilingual reading.
With this in mind, I got connected with Reading Dream.