Shanghai teacher improves education in Tibet

The news was updated on July 19, 2019.

Before 2016, Fu Xin had never thought of working in the Tibet autonomous region.

The area in southwestern China is not only far away from his hometown of Shanghai, but the situation was further compounded by Fu’s family situation. His mother was recovering from lung cancer surgery, his mother-in-law breast cancer treatment, and his young daughter needed the care and love of both her parents.

Fu, then aged 36, was a deputy principal of the high school attached to Shanghai Normal University. There seemed little could lure him away. But Fu said when he was dispatched by the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission to Tibet in 2016 to aid local education, there was little to hold him back.

“I wanted to help children in the less-developed Tibet region to access the same quality education resources as those living in other areas of the country,” Fu said. “It’s my duty as an educator.

“I am so grateful that my family is supportive, especially my wife, who told me to take it easy as she would take good care of the whole family.”

For three years, Fu worked as deputy director of the Shigatse City Education Bureau and principal of the Shanghai Experimental School there.

Every year since he arrived, he has led a group of 40 teachers from Shanghai who come to support Tibet’s education. They stay year-round and only return home for family visits during the Spring Festival, which normally falls in February.

So far, their efforts have paid off.

The performance of students at schools the team has helped has improved markedly. For two consecutive years, all senior high students have been accepted to first-and second-tier universities, compared with a level of around 80 percent three years ago.

The number of students passing the junior high school entrance exam has nearly doubled.

According to Fu, the education environment in Tibet has been improving in recent decades due to government efforts.

“Basic education facilities have been established, including canteens, dorms, labs and classrooms,” he said. “But the toughest part to tackle was the lack of education resources, school culture and modern teaching methods for a holistic education.

“That’s why we are here to bring both knowledge and new insights to the teachers and children, and to broaden their minds through courses and training.”

As an example, he said the team offers lectures on artificial intelligence to equip students with rapidly developing knowledge.

Fu has also organized after-school class every Saturday for over 100 students who are struggling academically. They are from a home funded by a local charity and are enrolled in primary school at the Shanghai Experimental School.

Considering that these children receive no care from family, team members often visit the house to hold activities like birthday parties and to conduct exercises. Fu also adopted a 2-month-old boy from the house in 2016.

Children at the welfare house regard Fu and the other 39 Shanghai teachers as their Shanghai fathers. In 2017, they expressed their appreciation for the team members in a poem entitled Love of Angel.

“You bring us a sunny sky, and our lives have become bright and colorful,” the poem said.

Led by Fu, a teacher training center and an online platform for educational resource sharing have been built in Shigatse, where local teachers can share insights with their Shanghai peers and hold teaching activities online.

This year, an alliance was formed among eight high schools in Shanghai and 10 in Tibet to exchange quality education resources.

“We are really thankful for Fu and his team who have helped build a more skilled and qualified teaching and management faculty, and who have helped improve student achievement,” said Liu Qiang, vice-principal of Shanghai Experimental School in Shigatse.

Though his stay in Tibet will end in August, Fu said he will keep spreading Shanghai education experiences to Tibet and focusing on the development of education in more areas inhabited by ethnic minority groups in China.

“Whether I will work in Shigatse or not, I will always care about the education there,” he said.

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