Internet brings English classes to rural schools in Guangxi

At the beginning of this month, third-graders at Minzu Shiyan Primary School had their first English class. But their teacher, Lai Lusi, was not standing in the classroom.

Teaching the class from another school 5 kilometers away, she was seen by her students on a screen thanks to an internet-based long-distance education system launched by the government of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

The primary school, in Guangxi’s Sanjiang Dong autonomous county, lacked an English teacher and so was unable to offer English classes.

“There is a distinct gap between urban and rural areas in terms of education. Qualified English teachers are especially hard to find in rural areas, where ethnic groups tends to settle,” Lai said.

Benefiting from the Double Thousand Project initiated by the provincial government in 2014, long-distance education is now widely used in rural areas where the shortage of teachers remains the biggest challenge.

With an emphasis on providing compulsory education in areas where ethnic groups gather, the project plans to spend 100 billion yuan on building 1,000 new schools and expanding existing ones by 2018.

In the past four years, construction of 1,109 elementary and secondary schools has started, and more than 8,000 schools were revamped thanks to an investment of 105.6 billion yuan ($15.4 billion), according to the regional government.

Because the dropout rate has remained high, the regional government also organized teams to find students who dropped out and persuade them to come back to school to ensure that all students in rural areas complete their basic education.

Wei Juan was finally found working in an electronics processing workshop in Foshan, Guangdong province, by such a team from her hometown in Dahua Yao autonomous county.

The 15-year-old girl took odd jobs in Guangdong after leaving school at 13 years old.

“This is the ninth time we have tried to bring her back to school, and our target is to leave no one behind,” said Lan An, a member of the team.

After persistent persuasion, Wei went back to her hometown and enrolled in a vocational school.

Tang Xiangjin, head of the region’s education department, said: “Promoting education is an effective way to avoid the intergenerational transmission of poverty and is very critical for a family to improve its living standard, so we will put all our efforts into allowing every child to make a difference through education.”

In the next three years, the regional government will invest 73 billion yuan to accelerate educational equality, he added.