RCEF Rural Education Innovators Program
The RCEF Rural Education Innovators Program supports front-line rural educators in China by creating an individualized and ongoing adult education system of personal and professional development that supports them in their experimentation with innovative teaching methods and curriculum that serve rural children’s development and growth.
Currently in China, there is a small but growing vanguard of reform-minded rural educators making breakthroughs in the delivery of quality rural education. These reformers belong to three main groups: 1) rural school teachers; 2) NGO workers based year-round in rural communities; and 3) short-term volunteers. RCEF’s own co-founders and staff have directly served as a part of all three groups. Based on our own working experiences, we have analyzed the following needs of educators in these positions:
- Need for Professional Understanding of Education: Many education workers are extremely passionate about improving education but lack an accurate foundational understanding of education theory, child development theory, and pedagogy to help them analyze their students’ needs and set informed, realistic teaching goals.
- Need for Appropriate Trainers: Most training models are led by trainers who have not spent much time teaching rural children themselves—for example, university academics and urban, or even foreign, schoolteachers. There exists a practical gap between the training methods and trainers and the real conditions of the teachers and children whom they target.
- Need for Follow-up: Trainings are usually “one-size fits all” with little to no follow-up afterwards to help educators solve problems that come up in their unique classrooms.
- Need for Personal Growth: Significant personal fortitude and skill is required to persevere in education reform despite generally low levels of support from parents, supervisors and colleagues who often oppose reforms. Existing trainings focus mostly on technical skills while overlooking the need to effectively and sensitively help educators build personal self-confidence, resilience and positive methods of coping with inevitable challenges and set-backs.
- Need for Peer Support Networks: Educators often learn best from peers grappling with similar challenges. They benefit from knowing that they are not alone in their difficult work. However, rural educators need organizers with the network and resources to bring them together and facilitate knowledge-sharing and mutual support amongst like-minded practitioners.
- Need for Financial Stability: Educators serving rural children often have to leave the profession due to low and unstable pay. They may find their work extremely meaningful, but it is difficult for them to make a living and satisfy their families’ needs long-term, causing many to leave their posts reluctantly and before they have matured into their potential as teachers and leaders in advancing sustainable education reform.
Based on our years of experience on the frontlines of both rural teaching and teacher coaching, RCEF is highly motivated and well-positioned to develop services to meet the above needs.
RCEF solicits applications for Rural Education Innovators from individual educators through our network of contacts in rural schools and NGOs. In 2012-2014, we supported selected 15 Innovators working in 6 schools or NGOs designing support packages with varying combinations of these support and resources:
- Financial Support: Monthly Stipends and/or Annual Performance Bonuses give Innovators the ability and security to focus full-time on teaching and professional development. Fellows can also apply for grants to fund teaching materials and supplies.
- Professional Coaching: Teaching coaches and consultants help Innovators to develop their Individualized Professional Development Plans and follow-up with coaching throughout the year in the form of site visits and email and phone meetings to observe and give feedback on their teaching and studies on educational theory and methodology.
- Broader Learning & Networking Opportunities: We help Innovators identify and attend outside trainings, conferences and study tours to gain new ideas and perspectives, meet like-minded practitioners, and share ideas, support and best practices to benefit and inspire other educators.
RCEF also partners with NGOs and rural schools to promote the strengthening and deepening of their educational programs. Our motivational principles for collaboration are as follows:
- We believe one of the main purposes and benefits from collaboration is the mutual growth for both organizations that comes from engagement in deep discussion and exchange of diverse opinions and perspectives in the course of authentically implementing the collaborative project.
- Currently, each rural education support organization in China is insufficient on its own and needs to explore effective partnerships to harness resources, experience and expertise.
- In striving to become a more professional rural educator support organization through our own programs，develop deeper and more effective methods that can gradually provide complementary and mutual support with and for other organizations.
Currently, RCEF is supporting Rural Education Innovators in Shanxi, Guangdong, and Sichuan Provinces in China.
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