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Macao Tong Chai Charity Association’s Study Trip to U.S. (Part One)


From September.23th?to October.6th,?2015, Ms.?Sandy?Chan (Chen Hansi), Director of Beijing,?Macao?Tong Chai Charity Association(Tong Chai), and?Ms. Li Li,OperationsSupervisor of Tong Chai, along with other nine partners?from Leping Social Entrepreneur Foundation?(Leiping)and Thousand Trees Equal Education Partners?(Thousand Trees) have paid a?visit?to?more than 20 educational?organizations and departments in western California, U.S.?to learn about the?latest?development in areas such as early?childhood?education, online education,and?education for?low-income family?children,?and?share?China’s experience?in these fields?with these?U.S .organizations.?The entire trip was arranged by Leiping.



Tong Chai?began to?fund education projects in Mainland China?in?2013,?As of?September 2015, 53 projects from 18 provinces have been funded,?with?over 40,000 children, parents and teachers?benefited from these projects.?To?realize its?mission of quality and equal education for every Chinese children,?in recent years,Tong Chai?has??targeted?vulnerable children,?and cooperated with a variety of partners to pursue quality?education for?rural children?with less opportunities to receive better education and develop soundly.

The Beijing Office of Tong Chai is responsible for?grant-making?work in Mainland China. Ithas?a young work team with a need to?do well by learning to do as a team, so that grant given could?come into?full play. Before 2013,?Tong Chai?only chose projects from the list ofpartner?foundations in Mainland China. After 2013, it depended?on?its own?program?officers to?actively?search?and?conduct on-the-spot inspections in an effort to dig out the projects that could effectively fix social problems.?During this period of time, the team has deepened understanding?of?its target groups and challenges they faced, and enhanced their?capabilitiesto?figure out?effective solutions.?Along with more than two-years?work, the Tong Chai‘s public?welfare?education resource network?has?gradually?taken shape,?and its team is now more competent in addressing real education problems and understanding the projects.What is next for the team is: How to provide necessary resources and?technical?assistance?forpotential?partners, and help them to?achieve large-scale social impact,?and?how to mobilizekey stakeholders to work collectively?on social issues?to produce?collective impact(collective impact is referred to as large-scale social impact that is produced by collective efforts of social sectors like NGOs, governments and enterprises working together toward the same goal, with an aim to systemically solve grave and complicated social problems). This?U.S.?trip has?no doubt?widened our?horizon,?and?also increased theTong Chai‘s international network resources, which?would?definitely?help improve?our work and add extra values and services for our partners?during our grant-making process, besides the grant.

Here, based on our short notes, we will share what we have seen and heard?during?our half-month trip to?U.S. .This article will include three chapters. Chapter One will?briefly introduce Thousand Trees and New Teacher?Center, U.S.(NTC). Chapter Two will describe theefforts?made by?governments, foundations and NGOs in?the field of?early childhooddevelopment and preschool education. Chapter Three will focus on the NGO and schoolsrole in the development of education for?disadvantaged children and individualized educationin the field of basic education

Chapter?One:??Leping?Thousand Trees?and NTC?Discuss Further Cooperation

One of the main purposes of this trip is to deepen understanding between Leping-Thousand Trees?and?NTC,a?well-known education organization?in U.S.,?and?try to build?a bilateral strategic cooperation?between them.?To be more clear, NTCs China partner is?Thousand Trees,?a?social enterprise?in?the field of?preschool education?that has gained some?scale?andimpact in China,?and is?invested by Leping. Currently, the?details of cooperation is still under discussion between two parties,?Below is a?brief introduction?to both?organizations.

  • Thousand Trees?

Co-founded by Leping and Little Oak Kindergarten in October, 2011, Thousand Trees is a social enterprise?that attracts social resources, provides?quality preschool education?for children from middle-to-low income families?in a social innovative way to?promote?educationequality.

Tong Chai?has started?to?fund projects?developed and implemented by?Thousand Trees since 2013. At that time,?the real situation in China’s rural kindergartens located in county seats and below the level of county was:(1) the shortage of kindergarten teachers. Most teachers in kindergartens were the ones that were transferred from elementary schools to kindergartens to teach; (2) large class size,and (3) the elementary school-oriented teaching was widespread in kindergartens, which is contrary to the law of child development. With these real problems in mind,Thousand Trees gradually developed?a series of highly operable, low-cost but quality-guaranteed?kindergarten activity guidebooks?for teachers?in use?and?provided?training for?local kindergartens.?From 2013 to 2015, Thousand Trees, based on a set of its kindergarten activities,?developed a?three-level training system thatfunctioned as:(1) at level one, the project?core?trainers train?the?county-level teachingresearchers and trainers; (2) at level two, the?county-level teaching?researchers and trainers train?the core?kindergarten teachers, and?(3) at level three,?the core kindergarten teacherstrain their?fellow teachers?to conduct school-based teaching research.?Thousand Trees?has helped?improve?many project kindergartens’ teaching modules and child development conditions,?and support the growth of a batch of county-level?preschool education?teachersby working closely with local education?bureaus.?By the end of 2014, Thousand Trees has served over 140 kindergartens?with?26,781 children?benefited from its work.

When year2015?came, the?number?of local-level?kindergartens?has increased sharply, because Chinese government has paid much?attention?to the preschool education and invested more in this regard for years, But?the kindergarten teacher preparation programs could not catch up with the demand?of?preschool education, while?more?and more?childrenin kindergartens?are in?a urgent?need of quality?preschool education.?Faced with?this enormous need, Thousand Trees?has planned to scale up and provide?quality preschool education?for?1.2 million children?in?7.000 rural kindergartens?in the coming three?years. Also in 2015, Thousand Trees?has?served the number of children,teachers and kindergartens several times more?than?that in?2014, reaching 1,300 kindergartens, 6,000 teachers and 110,000 children.?This is?both?a?rare opportunity?and?a huge challenge for Thousand Trees. One the one hand,?Thousand Trees?tries to work out a new module, in which it provides its technique?and experience?for professional teams at provincial-leveluniversities?that hold a close working relationship with?Thousand Trees, and then these teams provide the level one training instead; on?the other hand,Thousand Trees?alsoconsiders?how to use the internet to promote project efficiency and impact,?and?how to help teachers,who have received content-centered training,?develop more steadily and?in an all-round way. With all these efforts made, in the end,?children?in kindergartens?can acquire?an appropriate?and sustainable education.?From?2015,?Tong Chai has?provided?strategical funding for Thousand Trees,?in the hopes that?Thousand Trees?makes innovations in itsprojects and?mechanism.


  • New Teacher Center

The conditions of American society is?somewhat?different from China, but?it still has?its own challenges in?the field of?education. The?quality?gap?that demonstrates in education received by children from high-income and low-income group is a?conundrum?that American?not-for-profit education?organizations are making efforts?to fix. In?the United States, private?schools often provide?quality education?that?the well-off families could afford,?while?children from low-income families are mainly educated in public schools.?Public education systems in the United States?run by?school districts, with the?main funding?of school districts?(approximately 90%)?appropriated?from state governments. It is known that the?public?fund?per?student?isdifferent?from state to?state. Besides the state fund,?school districts and schools in?thewealthy communities?usually?receive?community donations to?their?education foundations,thus?making a huge difference?of?school finance between?the?poor and wealthy school districts.?In terms of?teachers, school districts with?a heavy concentration of?low-incomestudents?are more likely to have?teachers feel frustrated and have?a high?teacher?turnover rate,?due to the difficulty to teach in these districts. Often, new teachers are assigned to teach these kinds of hard to staff??and more challenging schools. With?a vicious cycle?like this,?children from low-income families?are hard?to?develop?better.

NTC,?founded in 1998,?is?dedicated to helping new teachers?to?build practical workingcapacities?and confidence,?thus?helping students?to achieve?success. From 2013 to 2014, NTC has supported approximately 26,000 new teachers?with?1.9 million students?benefited from its efforts. The?key?working method of NTCs?is working with school districts to select and train experienced teachers into mentors,?and then?support mentors to offer training and guidance for new teachers,?while in the meantime?providing?various methods and tools. Besides?working in?the United States, NTC also,?in partnership with?Singaporean government,?developed projects?in?the form of online training and?online?community in Singapore.


Our visit was carefully arranged by NTC. We spent?three?days?in sharing?with fellows from NTC, including getting to know NTC’s detailed project module, such as how to inspire project leaders,?and?how to assist mentors and new teachers?development. We experienced online courses and design,?and?observed?mentor training?workshops,?andmentors?visits to?new teachers.?The?organization’s growth and development of NTC?is also a part of our exchange. If?we can claim that?the following?one-after-another?brief?visits allows?us?to see different views from different windows, this three-days in-depth?visit andsharing?was?more?like an in-depth?travel. We were given opportunities not only to get to know?a project’s success from all angles,?but also?had a deep understanding?of?America’s education realities and NTC’s solutions?in terms of?working culture, social?environment and organization genes.

NTC’s?20-years?practice-based?research?and?development leaves me with a deep impression, for example, NTC developed different standards and?assessment?tools for different developmental?stages?of its?key stakeholders?such as school districts, mentors, new teachers and even principals. These standards and tools?help NTC?to?communicate with their partners?about their current conditions in a positive?way, and?set up?projectsobjectives. NTC does?not see themselves as judges,?and will not want to?start?a project from finding fault with its partners.?Instead,?it?helps partners to?realize their?bigger development potential,?and thus motivate?everyone?to?learn. This?is one of NTC’s “secret recipes”?that NTC is very proud of.?There are things that Tong Chai can learn from, for example,?most NGOs in China, with strong social responsibilities and passion, engage in their?project work in rural and local areas?in China, but without the?support?of?research andreflection to achieve the sustainable improvement of their project modules and outcomes.How to?guide?experts and researchers to?work for solutions to real?social issues,?and?how to let?the front-line work?get?support from research work?are real challenges ahead of us.Bringing them together to form a?collective force might?be?a more?effective solution?tosocial issues.


Related resources: NTC recommended a book on how to?facilitate?adults?to learn?online. The design and development of NTC’s online training and?online?community is?derived fromthis book,?<Facilitating Online Learning :Effective Strategies for Moderators>, available on Amazon.