Success story – Mrs Fang

Championing rural education in China 

Coming from a large family with limited income in rural China and with little access to education, Mrs Fang has long understood the need to help girls in poor rural areas. Her education journey has not been an easy one but it is truly inspirational. Mrs Fang had to drop out of school numerous times due to lack of money but she kept returning to her studies and went on to gain a university degree and become an outstanding teacher.

Moving on from her rural roots, Mrs Fang is now a teacher at Zhangzhou Experimental Primary School and is very much involved with ACTAsia’s Caring for Life education programme. Mrs Fang actively supports poorer children or local orphans to remain in education – which is fortunately now free in China – and the dropout rate is now much lower thanks to the ‘leave no-one behind policy’. 

Emotional engagement with ACTAsias work

Mrs Fang first heard of ACTAsia when she attended an offline teacher training workshop in 2013. Her son, who was in the first grade at the time, attended one of ACTAsia’s Caring for Life (CFL) summer camps that year and absolutely loved it.  However, following his return, Mrs Fang heard him crying in bed that night so she asked him what was wrong.  He told her that he wanted to go back to the CFL summer camp and that he wanted to go every year. Fast forward nearly a decade and her son is now firmly in his teenage years but Mrs Fang feels that the lessons and life skills that he learnt from CFL – at summer camps and at school – means that he is a very kind and compassionate person.

What is ACTAsia’s Caring for Life education programme that Mrs Fang teaches? 

ACTAsia’s award-winning Caring for Life education for children (CFL) 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 animals, people and the environment, 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.

Why is teaching so important to Mrs Fang?

Mrs Fang believes that education is about helping children to adapt as part of their social development and she is a strong believer in teaching kindness and compassion. Having taken many courses in philosophy and psychology she appreciates differences in teaching styles and encourages her students to be healthy, kind and compassionate. Mrs Fang feels that the CFL lessons have also changed her. She now pays more attention to the environment, her surroundings and the needs of others. She encourages students to help, respect, cherish life and be kind to one another. She has also developed strong critical thinking skills by seeing things from a different angle. 

What impact are CFL lessons having on young people – can it be quantified?

Measuring soft skills is not easily quantifiable but Mrs Fang can see the positive impact that the lessons are having by witnessing changes to the student’s daily behaviour. She sees growing kindness and civilized and responsible behaviour amongst her students. In order to measure the success of the CFL education Mrs Fang commissioned a two-year study comparing two classes – one who undertook CFL education and the other that didn’t – and they observed and recorded student behaviour and how it changed over the time frame. Prosocial and compassionate behaviour was very much evident in those students who had received the CFL education during the study. They were much calmer and didn’t show signs of aggression but instead demonstrated greater respect for one another.  As a result of this study, more classes are now adopting CFL education.

Integrating CFL lesson into all areas of school life

Mrs Fang likes to live by the mantra of one of professor Mo Chen: ‘There are two things that are very meaningful in life. First is to live well and the second is to help others to live well.’  Mrs Fang helps her students to live well by integrating CFL education into other subjects. For example, in her physics class the students were discussing materials which are good heat conductors are those which are not.  Mrs Fang used fur as an example as a material which does not conduct heat well and went on to explain why students should not buy fur, how fur has come onto the market and how it is produced.  She elaborated on this subject by showing a video on her WeChat account of how fur is produced and continued to encourage children to tell their parents not to buy fur.

Mrs Fang further integrated the CFL teachings on Earth Day this year when her students were tasked with evaluating their plastic usage. She showed the incredible Microplastic Madness film which has been praised worldwide and the students recorded a drop in their plastic usage and a sense of shared responsibility following the screening. She was also invited to another school to speak about Earth Day. Incredibly Mrs Fang’s microplastics lesson was viewed by 800 people.

What next for Mrs Fang and the CFL programme?

CFL education has become part of Mrs Fang’s daily life and she knows that every subject can be taught from a CFL education ideology. In the holidays Mrs Fang often uses her time to volunteer at senior citizens’ homes and her compassion leads her to buy books, food or clothing for poor or orphaned students. As she quite rightly states: ‘CFL has taught me to practice compassion in all parts of my life and I strongly believe that it is a foundation by which we should all live our lives.’