Wellesley graduates promote education in rural China
Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 17:02
In 2012, three Wellesley College students were selected as fellows for Teach For China—more than from any other single college, despite Wellesley’s small size. Teach For China (TFC) is an international nonprofit that operates in rural China, where fellows spend two years teaching English to Chinese youths who would probably otherwise never be educated. Wellesley College is playing an increasingly more significant role in the organization.
Today in China, more than 50 percent of the population lives in rural areas. Only about 1.7 percent of rural students will ever go to college, compared to 80 percent of students living in urban areas. This education inequity is enormous, and TFC is working to overcome it by providing effective and passionate teachers.
“As a TFC fellow, I am responsible for investing my students in their learning and, more broadly, in their goals for themselves,” said Mary Huang ’11, a current TFC fellow who graduated from Wellesley with a double major in East Asian studies and economics. Huang teaches English and good study habits, as well as encouraging high achievement and—in Huang’s words—exposing students to possibilities they’d never ordinarily consider.
“What our fellows are doing is helping students realize their dreams and create an action plan to achieve them,” said Tran Rita, the TFC manager of U.S. Recruiting and University Relations. “Fellows really care about their students, and are selected specifically for this trait.” Rita relayed the story of a fellow who once walked over an hour through rural China to speak to a student’s parents about the importance of education.
TFC is only two years old and so, in the absence of quantitative data to prove that the organization is truly improving education equity in China, Tran focuses on the individual results TFC has achieved. The main vision of TFC, she said, is to provide every child with the same opportunities as his or her peers. But TFC fellows don’t get so lost in the forest that they lose sight of the trees; they are trained to approach the problem of education inequity from every perspective and construct creative approaches to specifically identified problems within the classroom.
As Rita indicated, TFC requires a certain type of person in order to effect change in China. The organization recruits students who have a passion for teaching and truly want to improve the futures of rural Chinese children through education.
Rita describes the application process as “very selective, but not competitive,” in that TFC searches out the very best students irrespective of whether those students attend the same institution. About 10 percent of new fellows each year do not know Chinese and have never been to China; the most important thing, according to Rita, is having an open heart and a desire to teach.
Kalina Deng ’14 is a Regional Campaign Manager for TFC, meaning she is responsible for managing recruitment on several campuses in the northeast, particularly Boston.
“The work Teach For China does rings a personal chord in me,” Deng said. Since her extended family comes from and still lives in rural areas of China much like those where TFC operates, Deng has a special passion for ensuring the organization’s success. Even as a junior, she’s certain that TFC will be on her mind next year as she begins the process of post-graduation job applications.
The individuals involved in TFC stress its importance to the students of rural China. “I have seen a lot of progress in my students and feel I have made a difference,” Huang said; however, “there is a lot more work to be done.”
The final deadline for TFC applications if Feb. 24. For more information on Teach For China or the fellowship application process, contact Tran Rita at firstname.lastname@example.org.