Passionate Dream Chaser — Teacher Strives to Improve China's Rural Education

ByZhang Jiamin February 15, 2023


Lan Zhen, secretary of the Party Committee of Zhangzhou Experimental Primary School (in Zhangzhou, a city in Southeast China's Fujian Province), recently told media she was honored to have been elected a delegate to the 20th CPC (Communist Party of China) National Congress (held in October 2022). During the past several months, she has given speeches, in local universities, colleges and primary and middle schools, to promote the spirit of the congress. She has stressed educators should focus on training builders of and successors to the socialist cause, who are fully developed, in terms of moral grounding, intellectual and physical ability, aesthetic sensibility and work skills. Lan has also encouraged all teachers and students to integrate their individual ideals in the realization of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. She has also called on teachers to make greater efforts to help rural children receive better education. 

Dedication to Improving Rural Education

Lan was born in a She (an ethnic group in China)-inhabited village in Zhangzhou. When she was a little girl, Lan noticed many of the villagers showed great respect to her mother, who was a teacher at one of the primary schools (before she retired dozens of years ago). From then on, Lan was determined to follow in her mother's footsteps.

In 1988, Lan began teaching Chinese at the Primary School Affiliated with Longxi Normal College (in Longxi, a county in Zhangzhou). In 1990, Lan received first prize in a contest — Chinese composition guidance lesson by primary school teachers — hosted by the provincial TV station. She was the youngest contestant to win the top prize for the contest. Soon after, she won first prize during a provincial Chinese-lesson contest for primary school teachers.

Lan's heart has been filled with delight as she has witnessed the dramatic changes in China's rural education system. However, she realized greater efforts were still needed to improve education in many rural areas of the country. She felt obliged to do something to help rural children receive a better education.


Cultivating Rural Teachers 

In 2013, Lan established a studio (in Zhangzhou) dedicated to helping rural teachers improve their teaching skills. Zhangzhou Education Bureau designated the studio as an experimental base for implementing the Rural Teachers' Training Plan. 

Under the plan, many rural teachers (in Fujian) during the past few years have received teaching-skill training. Organizers have also arranged for the trainees to attend lessons provided by teachers from various primary schools in Xiamen (a city in Fujian). "The lessons were really eye openers for the trainees, as the lessons helped the trainees realize they should make greater efforts to improve their teaching skills," recalls Lan. 

In 2017, Zhangzhou Education Bureau designated Zhangzhou Experimental Primary School as the only rural teachers' training base in the city. In 2018, Fujian's Education Department named the studio "Fujian Lanzhen's Famous Teachers' Studio."

During the past 10 years, the studio's members have offered to teach children in remote areas (in different regions of Fujian Province). The members have also provided training to many primary school teachers.

Nearly 900 rural teachers, who have received training at the studio, have become key teachers in their respective schools. Lan hopes more excellent rural teachers will be cultivated under the Rural Teachers' Training Plan. She also hopes various organizations, and people from all segments of society, across the country, will attach greater importance to improving education in rural China.


Good Teacher, in New Era 

During the past three decades, Lan has devoted all of her efforts to spreading wisdom to children, and to boosting their positive energy. While she has helped implement teaching reforms (in her primary school), she has found her calling –– improving education in rural China. 

Lan during the past several years has led members of her studio in visiting many primary schools, in various districts and counties in Zhangzhou, so they could see firsthand the needs of the schools' teachers, and the various difficulties they have faced, as they have taught children. 

Since she was elected deputy to the 11th NPC (National People's Congress), in 2008, Lan has made dozens of proposals to promote China's educational development during the annual NPC sessions. For example, she has called for greater efforts to be made to promote the balanced development of compulsory education (across the country), and to strengthen family education, so minors can grow healthily. Lan has also put forward many proposals (on promoting education in rural China), including calls to revitalize rural education and to cultivate qualified rural teachers. In her eyes, every proposal is like a child, in which she has put a lot of effort into "cultivating." 


Lan is pleased to see great improvements have been made in education in rural China. "We should try our best to ignite rural teachers' love for their profession. We should also cope with the challenges of improving China's rural education system," says Lan. 

As she has taught children in remote areas (in different regions of Fujian Province), Lan has discovered, although rural children received many books (from contributors), many rural children did not understand how to read the books, and few teachers were able to adequately help guide children as they were reading the books. During the past several years, Lan has explored ways to help rural teachers improve their ability to offer guidance to their students, especially when the children were reading as an extracurricular activity.

Lan also held symposiums, in the remote areas, to popularize information about the Party's educational and national policies. "Since I was elected deputy to the 11th NPC, I have become a ‘spokeswoman' for rural teachers. Based on rural teachers' needs and wishes, I have offered suggestions on how to improve rural education during the annual NPC sessions. I have also tried my best to help rural teachers improve their ability to better educate their students," says Lan. "I hope the Chinese Government will promulgate more preferential policies to attract more excellent talents to join rural teachers in providing quality education to rural children." 


Lan, with 35 years of teaching experience, has witnessed China's vigorous educational development. When she was elected a delegate to the 20th CPC National Congress last year, Lan said, "As a teacher, I'm duty bound to promote the nation's education development. I'll make greater efforts to help children realize their dreams."

Given her decades-long dedication to education, Lan has received many accolades, including being named a National March 8th Red-Banner Holder, a National Outstanding Party Member, and a national model teacher. 

"I have received so much honor. That shows the Party and the Chinese Government have attached great importance to promoting national education development. The honor has urged me to do more things to improve rural education," says Lan.

During the past few years, Lan has fulfilled her duty of voicing the people's heartfelt wishes (for improving national education). "Keeping in mind Chinese President Xi Jinping's instructions (on promoting national education development), we should strive to cultivate talents, who will become a new generation of young people capable of shouldering the mission of national rejuvenation." says Lan. 


Photos Supplied by Interviewee

(Women of China English Monthly January 2023 issue)


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