Education Equality and Civic Engagement: A half-day conference on the development of education NGOs in China
A talk by Zheng Hong, Principal of the Dandelion School in Beijing & a talk by Liang Xiaoyan, Secretary-General of the Beijing Western Sunshine Foundation for Rural Development.
Wednesday, March 11, 20992:00 PM - 5:00 PM
417 Kerckhoff Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095
Promoting Hope and Confidence among Children of Migrant Workers: The Case of Dandelion School in Beijing
This talk explores the role of a nonprofit school in providing quality education to children from low-income migrant families in Beijing. Millions of peasants have flooded into China's major cities seeking a better life--about 20 million of these are the children of migrants. These children are often unable to receive a quality education due to a myriad of social and economic constrains. Dandelion School, which has been in operation for almost five years, is the first and only non-profit middle school established specifically for migrant children in Beijing . It provides a case study of how ordinary people can actively participate in public life in China's more open political atmosphere today.
Located in a neighborhood known for its high crime rate, the Dandelion School bought an abandoned factory and community to life as teachers, staff, volunteers, and donors converted 3.2 acres of land into a thriving school. Ninety-eight percent of the students of Dendelion had failed a standardized test when they first entered the school. Three years of being in a positive and supportive environment has made it possible for these students to pass these tests. More importantly, at Dandelion, students discover a new sense of hope and confidence; they graduate as healthy and capable new citizens. The initial success of Dandelion has demonstrated the possibilities of NGOs in China today stimulating social change.
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Zheng Hong was born and raised in Beijing in the 1950s. During the Cultural Revolution she spent six years in the countryside, first as a farmer then a technician. She attended the Geo-science University of China and received her masters and doctorate in science in the 1980s. She then taught in universities in Beijing and Australia until the early 90s. While working for Bright China Management Institute she started to learn and engage in NPO work. After spending two years in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and received a MPA, she returned to Beijing, joined the Dandelion Project, and, in 2005, launched the Dandelion School for migrant children.
Turning the Slogan of Education Equality into Social Action: Western Sunshine Action and the Growth of Education NGOs in China
Despite the difficult legal and institutional environment in China, a number of education NGOs have arisen and played an increasingly important role in promoting new public education policies, providing alternative education resources, assisting students of low-income families, and improving local education in poor and underdeveloped regions. United by the shared ideal of education equality, these NGOs work in a variety of ways, mobilize a large number of volunteers to participate, and thus help to develop public participation and civic engagement. Western Sunshine Action is a typical example. It started as a small volunteer group of college students investigating conditions of education in rural Northwest China, and, in a period of seven years, has grown into a large education NGO with professionals from various fields and a sizable team of committed volunteers, specializing in teacher training, curriculum development, kindergarten, and arts education in poor rural regions. The growth of Western Sunshine Action and other education NGOs reveals the dynamics of civic engagement and the special developmental path of civil society in China.
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Liang Xiaoyan is the secretary-general of the Beijing Western Sunshine Foundation for Rural Development. She previously taught history at a university in Beijing in the 1980s and worked in the media throughout the 1990s, Ms. Liang is one of the pioneers of Chinese NGOs. She was one of the four founding members of Friends of Nature, the first environmental NGO in China, and has played leadership role in several environmental and education NGOs since the late 1990s. She organized the first annual conference of education NGOs in China in 2009 and wrote the chapter on education NGOs for the 2009 Bluebook of Chinese Education.