Success story – Mrs Zhou

Being part of an ‘education reform’ in China

‘The ideology of teaching and learning is changing and it’s important for teachers to adapt and learn how to teach in this new environment’

With over thirty years’ experience as a teacher, Mrs Zhou has witnessed huge changes in China’s education system. Historically, China has strived for students to focus on passing exams and achieving high grades – even at primary school level.  However, over time, there has been – as Mrs Zhou calls it – ‘an education reformation’ in her experience.  Children are now encouraged to be proactive learners and are inspired to explore all aspects of their learning and ask questions.  As Mrs Zhou explains: ‘It means that more and more teachers are not simply evaluating students by their grades but by their behaviour, habits, attitudes and character’. 

How has ACTAsia’s Caring for Life education programme been part of this ‘reform’?

China’s ‘education reformation’ has, in part, been as a result of the introduction of ACTAsia’s Caring for Life (CFL) education programmes into Mrs Zhou’s school and nine Pioneer Schools across China.  

Mrs Zhou’s first meeting with Pei, proved hugely influential and allowed Mrs Zhou to clearly understand what CFL could offer the students. Seeing the opportunity for a collaboration with ACTAsia and the incredible benefits of the CFL programme, Mrs Zhou set about introducing this unique and award-winning programme to her school.  

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

ACTAsia’s Caring for Life education for children (CFL) is reaching out to youngsters across 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.

What impact has the Caring for Life (CFL) programme had on Mrs Zhou’s school and the students? 

Mrs Zhou comments that CFL has had a very positive influence on both teachers and students, particularly in terms of being more responsible citizens.  She went on to explain that CFL provides interactive and practical support and inspires both teachers and students by demonstrating new teaching methods which, in turn, improves outcomes for the students. Since Mrs Zhou started teaching over thirty years ago, she notes that the relationship between students and teachers is now on a more equal footing and they have a lot more respect for each other. Nowadays, teachers are not simply evaluating students on the grades they achieve – they are now evaluating student behaviour, habits, attitudes and characters and these are changes that are highly valued.  

Greater compassion and new life skills – how student behaviour is changing

Mrs Zhou has experienced some very positive changes in the students as a result of CFL education.  Mrs Zhou loves witnessing the enthusiasm generated by the CFL lessons as students actively engage in lively debates and activities. The students have developed a deeper curiosity for life and are demonstrating compassion towards not just animals but also the environment – whether it was rescuing an earthworm that had strayed into the school corridor or relocating bugs that have been trapped inside classrooms.  These little moments have shown Mrs Zhou that the students’ love for fellow creatures is developing, in addition to developing a greater sense of environmental responsibility

Helping a young girl to grow in confidence

Mrs Zhou talked about one particular case which touched her heart. CFL helped a very shy and sensitive girl who barely spoke in class. As part of the CFL lessons, the class took part in a social survey on the topic of microplastics and visited the local market to interview members of the public. This girl was very fearful in the beginning, and Mrs Zhou had to accompany her during the interviews, but boosted by her CFL lessons on the subject of interacting with others, the girl grew in confidence and was able to interview four different people by herself.  The result was a dramatic shift in her personality and the girl was so pleased with herself, happy and excited after this successful exercise. 

What next for education in China?

The ‘education reformation’ continues to change and shape the minds of the new generation. Indeed, two new policies were introduced last year. One was to decrease the homework workload – reducing it to a maximum of one hour per evening – in order to protect students’ sleep. The other was to create greater awareness about managing workloads and creating a greater focus on student’s character and behaviour. Mrs Zhou comments that these policies inevitably increase the workload for teachers but she sees the advantages of the progression, development and advancement of education in China.  As she explains: ‘The ideology of teaching is changing and it’s important for teachers to adapt and learn how to teach in this new environment.’ A truly inspiring reformation indeed.