The Rural China Education Foundation (RCEF) strives to empower rural teachers to develop community-based education that prepares children for life and for contribution to community development. We envision renewing the meaning, contents and methods of rural education so that instead of serving as an escape route away from rural problems, they work for the betterment of rural society and create citizens with a sense of agency and social responsibility for improving rural China from within. We test out our philosophy in summer camps for rural children run by short-term volunteers and now, we will expand to send a corps of long-term Teaching Fellows (TFs) to support rural educators and community members in developing quality, community-relevant education throughout the year. Well-documented action research from these experimental sites supplemented by our short-term volunteer programs will form the foundation for a proven and sustainable set of curriculum ideas and a cohort of rural practitioners who are implementing these methods across rural China. Their results can then be disseminated to reach more children and turn education into a true force in rural development.
RCEF philosophy must be tested by long-term action research on the ground to figure out how it can actually be implemented. Educators and villagers must be empowered to re-think the needs of their students and the community and to participate in adapting education to serve those needs. Students must personally apply learning to achieve positive change before they can think of themselves as long-term change agents in life and community development. Individuals who share our vision and want to work in rural education need to be connected with each other and given training, mentorship, suitable experimental sites, and funding. Thus, we will send a cohort of carefully selected TFs to live and develop curriculum full-time with rural people in their communities. They will get in-service support from RCEF staff and reinforcements from college student volunteering clubs and international volunteers who will go to the sites on school breaks to run enriching camps for the children. These allies will also raise public awareness and draw new ideas and resources to the cause. We will disseminate our experiences as catalysts for community-centered curriculum reform throughout rural China.