Technology opens up new horizons for children in Peng'an, Sichuan
In China, education resources are not equally allocated between the east and west or between urban and rural areas due to geographical and economic conditions. ICT, however, can bridge the gap by helping children in rural areas enjoy high-quality education resources and empowering teachers to improve their digital skills. ICT has already narrowed the education gap and helped bridge the digital divide.
Peng'an County is located in the middle reach of Jialing River in northeastern Sichuan. Covering 1,334 square kilometers, it takes in 39 towns and 647 villages. As a developing county in western China, it is a big challenge for Peng'an to upgrade its basic education. Merely relying on curriculum transformations will not work. How about using ICT to level up education resources and enable equal access to education?
Providing equal, quality education to students in rural areas
To improve the quality of basic education and ensure equal access for all children in the county, the Peng'an County Education, Science, and Sports Bureau (PESSB) launched a digital education project in 2015. Huawei helped the PESSB build all-optical campus networks (Huawei Campus OptiX network), providing high-speed connections to more than 80 rural schools, with each classroom enjoying 100 Mbps speeds. The wide coverage of optical networks has enabled the PESSB to build platforms for resource-sharing, administration, and information-sharing for schools in 14 towns, 5 villages, and 2 subdistricts. Now, more than 70,000 teachers and students in Peng'an can equally access high-quality education resources in both rural and urban settings.
Rural schools are usually small and remote and receive fewer teaching resources. Music and art, for example, are frequently taught by teachers of other subjects, which short changes students in terms of quality and fails to engage them creatively. ICT via all-optical networks and cloud has changed that for Shizhu Primary School in the village by connecting it with Peng'an Experimental Primary School, which is 60 km away. Students at Shizhu Primary School can now have online music and art classes with dedicated teachers from Peng'an Experimental Primary School.
Live streaming means that teachers in remote areas can be guided by teachers in town schools. The Peng'an Center for Education Technology can record classes and store them on cloud. These can then be shared with teachers and students across the county, giving rural students access to the same resources as students in towns and cities.
Rural schools connected to fiber broadband
Teachers and students have benefited
Smart classrooms can unlock potential
Teaching models are changing from the traditional method of chalk, blackboards, and teaching plans to smart scenarios supported by broadband, video, and remote learning platforms. Schools in Peng'an have built 1,248 multi-media classrooms, 46 smart classrooms with notepads as teaching tools, 52 smart classrooms equipped with feedback tools, and 38 video classrooms. Smart classrooms enable teachers to manage teaching more flexibly. Teachers can develop teaching methods based on specific scenarios and students can receive better support tools, helping resolve bottlenecks in traditional teaching. For example, not all students have access to qualified teachers and sometimes teachers are unable to promptly receive feedback on teaching outcomes.
Smart, modern teaching methods enable students to learn based on their interests and access learning resources anytime and anywhere.
Li Hongyan is a Grade 2 Chinese language teacher at Peng'an Experimental Primary School. In class, she no longer needs to focus on writing on a blackboard – she can just turn on her computer and connect all students' pads to a same interface. With the help of this type of platform, teachers can send pre-class learning materials to students. In class, learning progress, such as test performance and homework, are reflected on a screen. Teachers can understand how students are progressing without having to physically check students' work individually. These technologies also make classes more engaging, interesting, and interactive.
Improving teaching quality and admin efficiency
Built on high-speed fiber networks, Peng'an has developed three digital service platforms: Resource-Sharing, Educational Admin, and Information-Sharing. The Resource-Sharing platform features a video app so that teachers in both urban and rural areas can enhance their skills with modules like Skill Transfer and Top Teachers' Online Classes. During the pandemic, the Subject Resources and Teaching Q&A Resources helped teachers prepare classes at home. Although classrooms were shut, students and teachers could continue learning and teaching.
The Educational Admin module includes systems like Automated Office and Digital Library. Headmasters and teachers from 80 schools in Peng'an can coordinate their work, read documents, and deploy resources on this platform, breaking the physical boundaries between schools.