2001 CHN: Second Chance Education for Out-of-School Adolescents in China: Project Impact Assessment Report
Author: Guan, Y.
There are a large number of young adolescents in remote and rural areas in China who do not complete their school education, mainly due to unbalanced economic development and the disparities in the natural and geographical conditions of the provinces. The "Second Chance Education" project for Out-Of-School Adolescents in Poor Areas in China began in February 1999. It was planned that the project would be carried out in two phases: the first phase in 1999-2000 as a pilot project, and the second phase during 2001-2003. China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) implemented the project with financial and technical assistance from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
Purpose / Objective
The assessment was to find best practices and innovations in the first phase, to draw lessons for the national level policies on non-formal education (NFE), to provide options for the future development of the Second Chance Education project and to identify areas where improvement may be necessary to enhance impact.
The techniques of information collection included focus group discussions (FGD), in-depth interviews and visits to families at villages. Two project counties out of 15 counties in two provinces out of 5 project provinces were selected as samples. In each province, samples were selected independently, including 28 adolescents in Inner Mongolia and 17 in Hunan Province. Children in project villages were selected randomly. The assessment was based on open-ended questions administered through focus group discussions with stakeholders, adolescent girls, community, and parents of adolescent girls and CAST project staff. Interviews were held with a smaller number of individual girls to obtain greater insight into their personal experiences and the manner in which the project had changed their lives. Qualitative data was supplemented with quantitative data on the number of days attended by children.
Key Findings and Conclusions
Most out-of-school adolescents in ethic minority counties had more than one sibling, counter to family planning policy. As the families could afford the education cost of only one child, other siblings had to drop out of school.
By December 2000, 2,250 children were trained in all 15 project counties and 450-750 (30-50 in each county) of them were trained as peer educators. Several workshops were held for the training of peer educators and peer assistants. The new concept of peer education has been accepted by both trainers and adolescents. Most of the participants dropped out of school because of poverty. They were eager to acquire income generating skills to improve their family's economic conditions.
As a whole, the project design was flexible enough to accommodate changing situations, children's ages and their educational levels. The training provided by the project included: functional literacy and numeracy; livelihood skills training, popularizing scientific knowledge and information on Facts for Life such as HIV/AIDS prevention, reduction of iodine deficiency disorders (IDD) and so on. Project staff at county level have developed training materials according to local conditions and requirements in project areas, taking consideration of different factors such as economic development status, climate and soil conditions and the knowledge and educational level of adolescents. Flexibility was taken into account design of training topics and methods in meeting the local needs.
The implementation of the project was quite effective. Project management was clearly set out in the Framework of Monitoring System for Cooperation Project between CAST and UNICEF. There were project leading groups at province, county and township levels. The members of leading groups came from local governments, CAST and other NGOs. The leader of the group was usually the governor or the vice-governor responsible for science, technology and education development of the project provinces, counties or townships respectively. An effective monitoring and reporting system was built in. Project offices of CAST are located at province, county and township levels. With the project leading group, the local government lent support to the project office in the implementation. Good relationship with local governments and their support to the project made it possible for staff of CAST project offices at county level to successfully carry out project activities in respective project sites. County governments have had difficulties in making advance payments for all the costs related to project activities. This often caused the delay or postponement of project activities. The project became part of the on-going non-formal education project assisted by UNICEF. This enabled the project staff to manage the project in an efficient way.
The project provided a second chance for out-of-school adolescents in remote poor areas to continue learning activities that will be useful as life skills. The communities, families and adolescents were all appreciative of the project. The adolescents tried to attend every class of the training, with the support of parents and community. Through training, the adolescents not only learned skills and knowledge, but also became more self-confident, especially the girls.
The project also generated hope for the whole community. Using the skills learned, some adolescents improved their family economy and provided a good example for other adolescents. Through training and experience exchange between peers, more and more adolescents took part in learning activities. This means the whole community took a step towards improving the quality of their lives.
Training on literacy and livelihood skills needs to be provided according to ages of adolescent children. It will be beneficial to provide income-generation training to adolescents aged over 15 years, who have already finished junior high school while providing training on literacy and numeracy to children below 15 years. It is necessary to modify the training design in line with changing demands in the market economy by widening the scope of training topics, not only on livelihood skills for agricultural production and animal husbandry but also skills on operation and repair of farming tools, typing, haircutting and handicrafts.
After acquiring certain livelihood skills, adolescents may need financial support to start up their own income-generating activities. It is suggested that the Second Chance Education Project could incorporate a micro-credit program, which would be of great benefit to adolescents and their families to assist them in utilizing the skills they have learned from the project.
It is imperative to include health education on the advantages of family planning to those adolescents around 18 years old who would become parents after several years
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