China

Creating child-friendly schools in rural China

UNICEF Image: China: Child-friendly schools
© UNICEF China/2006/Li Mingfang
Students work on a math problem in a clean and bright environment at Doujiang Township Primary School, Guangxi Province, China.

By Charles Rycroft

GUILIN, China, 22 December 2006 – School has become more 'child-friendly' in South China's Guangxi Province. Students' voices and opinions are being taken seriously, thanks to a UNICEF-supported initiative for child-centred learning.

Teachers at 105 pilot schools in some of China's poorest provinces have all been trained in child-friendly schooling concepts such as academic effectiveness, safety and protection, gender equality and community involvement. Between 2001 and 2005, the initiative reached 30,000 students.

"In UNICEF-sponsored child-friendly learning environments, child-centred learning and activity-based teaching help children fully develop their potential," said Project Officer for UNICEF China Anjana Mangalagiri.

New, child-friendly rules

Perhaps the biggest gains have been made by the students themselves, who are now speaking their minds without the traditional fear of punishment. In one classroom, students even drafted the 'Ten Commandments of Being a Good Teacher'. The commandments, which include rules on favoritism, discipline and praise, have replaced the old regulations that once lived on the school walls.

UNICEF Image: China: Child-friendly schools
© UNICEF China/2006/Li Mingfang
Equal learning, equal play. Including all children in school activities is an important feature of the child-friendly school.

Students in child-friendly programmes have told school authorities that proper supervision is missing during breaks and as a result, bullying tends to happen. Children also want to be consulted about where to go for the annual school outing and believe that teachers should not lose their tempers. The ability to make suggestions to their teachers helps keep the learning environment safe and enjoyable.

Of the 3 million Chinese children who participated in a recent nationwide survey on sleeping patterns, 70 per cent reported getting less than seven hours of sleep each night due to homework demands and the need to be at school by 8:30 each morning. Now, in Guangxi, school doesn’t begin until 9:30, so students are getting the extra sleep they need.

Attracting media attention

The child-friendly phenomenon on display at the pilot schools in Guangxi Province has attracted media attention across the country, including headlines in China’s major newspapers. Recently, China Central Television sent crews to document the child-friendly schools and later broadcast the reports to their vast audience.

"Child-friendly schools are something all reporters find it easy to relate to,” said UNICEF Communication Assistant Liu Li. “They can all cast their minds back to the harsh realities of their own school days."

 


 

 

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