Meet Ms. Luo – Transforming Children’s Lives
Traditional Chinese culture attaches great importance to education as a means of enhancing a person’s worth and career. Chinese children are well known for their academic prowess and commitment to their studies.
However, the western educational philosophy of being ‘rounded and grounded’ – by promoting a healthy balance between school and participating in the wider sphere of the community and environment – has been lacking in many Chinese classrooms. ‘Soft skills’ – which are not taught in the curriculum – such as emotional intelligence, empathy, teamwork, compassion and communication are highly valued by future employers and contribute towards a cohesive society.
ACTAsia’s Caring for Life education for children (CFL) is a vital and award-winning education programme that is reaching out to youngsters in China to help them understand the wider world outside of the classroom. CFL is a unique six-year curriculum for all primary school years and encompasses social welfare and citizenship, animal welfare, and environmental issues and recognises the interdependence of all living things.
By comprehending the wider world and the impact of caring for the environment, animals and the importance of social welfare, the CFL programme is educating a new generation of compassionate and empathetic children who will go on to implement these much heralded ‘soft skills’ in all aspects of their life and in wider society in the future.
Ms Luo is a teacher at Zhuhai Tangguoan Memorial Primary school and she has been teaching the CFL curriculum for 10 years. ACTAsia caught up with her to find out more about the incredibly positive impact of the CFL programme.
What prompted you to embrace CFL and start using it in your school?
“Firstly, because I had sufficient experience and felt that the CFL curriculum was a good addition to the national curriculum and complemented the school-based curriculum, fully reflecting the integration of moral education into classroom teaching and permeating daily life. Moreover, there are not many schools in China that are doing this aspect of life education, and I viewed it as a breakthrough.“
What is your experience of CFL? Is this a new way of thinking for you or were you already interested in the topics taught in CFL?
“Caring For Life Education advocates cooperative group learning and stimulating students’ deliberative thinking, which is a much-needed addition to the regular curriculum and an important channel for developing students’ learning skills. At the beginning, I found it very difficult to implement the lessons in the lower classrooms, but I felt that if I kept doing the right things – even if they were difficult, that I would definitely make a qualitative difference.”
As a teacher, how has the CFL programme changed you?
“It has changed my relationship with my students. In CFL, we have learnt to be empathetic and to think differently. I have also had many different experiences because of CFL, for example: forming a parent volunteer lecturer group, sharing with teachers from all over the country, having the opportunity to take my own children to experience a farm and giving charity lessons to students in rural schools. These unprecedented experiences have given me a deep sense of what education really means. I enjoyed gaining a lot of new information and practicing implementing it on more platforms as a result of my involvement.“
Have you seen any positive behavioural changes in the children?
“The children speak up in the CFL classroom, every response from the children is respected, every idea is accepted by teachers and students and they are more willing to express their whimsical ideas. For example: “Is it really like that?’ or ‘Are there any other ideas?” are some of the questions we ask to create a strong learning atmosphere in the classroom. When conflicts arise, it is often easier to help children regain their composure and face the problems that occur more rationally by having students swap roles and therefore feel and think from the other person’s point of view.”
How have the children responded to the CFL programme? Have children been motivated to act in a caring way as a result of the CFL classes?
“Every child is fond of animals, but they don’t know much about them, especially nowadays when living conditions are limited and children have little contact with animals. On one occasion, I was in awe of how many of the students from the CFL course took a positive approach to rescuing an injured bird on campus and even took the initiative to learn how to do so. One day, a child observed a dead swallow in the grass in the school grounds and associated it with a swallow’s nest in front of the school meeting room. She was worried that the chicks would starve to death because they were not being cared for by the mother swallow. The child broke some bread and soaked it in water and fed it carefully to the chicks and ensured that the chicks were warm. The other day she was excited to tell me that a swallow had flown past her window and she thought it was the same swallow she had saved earlier.”
Do you have any ideas for the future of CFL?
“I have watched the CFL programme grow from nothing, from a pilot in one city to the whole country and now to the world, and the fact that it has had such an impact speaks volumes about the significance of this incredible education programme. I believe that its future development is something to look forward to. I would like to continue to bring this meaningful programme to more children. In addition, I think that CFL should not only be carried out in schools but also in the community. Perhaps using farms as a base for study and maybe families can form study groups to carry out a range of social practice activities.”
Ms Luo is truly transforming children’s lives in China and across the globe. Her incredible dedication in teaching the CFL programme and her tremendous success in touching the hearts and minds of so many children is an inspiration to us all. Through the CFL programme, Ms Luo, and fellow CFL teachers, are heralding a new generation of caring and compassionate children who will go on to implement their valuable learning and highly valued soft skills in the wider world.
ACTAsia would love to train more teachers like Ms Luo so that we can extend the roll out of our award-winning education programme in more schools. Such incredible progress in educating more teachers to introduce the CFL programme could not be achieved without the amazing generosity of our supporters who not only support us financially but who also support us in our drive to get ACTAsia’s tremendous work recognised and implemented. We hope that this recognition will offer even greater exposure for ACTAsia on a global platform extending our work and reach.