“Teach For China has been a turning point in both my professional and academic path,” Fu Yixiao, Teach For China alumna, expresses. Early on, her educational trajectory differed from those of her hometown friends in Hunan, China. She initially thought of becoming an artist and fortunately, her parents were able to support her endeavours. She attended a top secondary school where her art teacher trained and encouraged her entry into one of the best universities in the region which specialized in Social Sciences and Fine Arts: “the difference between my education and those of my childhood friends made me aware of the education inequity in the country.” While at university, Yixiao studied Oil Painting and became a volunteer for an organisation that supports schools for children of nonlocal workers in Beijing, delivering online assistance to their art teachers. This experience ignited Yixiao’s interest in art education and upon completing her bachelor’s degree, she enrolled with Teach For China, an organization that provides rigorous and comprehensive teacher training for outstanding university graduates and places them for two years in rural schools in China.
During her two years at Teach For China, Yixiao was the art teacher of 6 classes and about 300 students at the Taiping Middle School. With an intense daily academic schedule, students would get an hour of art class per week. Yixiao, however, made sure her studio door was always open and took pride in the rich and varied curriculum on offer. “Projects were based on values and concepts like self-awareness, emotions, the idea of origin, and community.”
©Teach For China
As an art teacher, she was also responsible for a wide range of student-oriented art programs and extracurricular activities, including traditional Chinese art experiential workshops, art markets, fine arts studio open houses, an “Art and Science” project, exhibitions of student artwork, and a summer art camp: “There are too many wonderful projects to pick a favourite. I would say that the biggest challenge was the limited time I had with my students, so I tried to make my activities as valuable and informative as possible. Another challenge, despite Teach For China’s support, is that rural schools have very limited funds – let alone for art education. For example, students are only given pencil and paper, so they need to buy their own art material.” Yixiao overcame this issue by creating a WeChat-based online “market” where students could exchange their prints for art material.
Now, a student at UCL’s Art Education, Culture and Practice MA, she looks back at her time as a teacher: “My experience at Teach For China showed me the power of education and my potential to make an impact.” After completing her dissertation later this year, she wants to return to her hometown to practice art education in the community. At some point, she also plans to apply for a Ph.D. in art education and hopes she can eventually run her own organisation in China: “The charitable support from organisations like the Huo Family Foundation has made it possible for me to explore the potentials of education in rural communities. This support brings hope to schools and students that lack fundamental resources. I hope to return the favour someday and sponsor three students’ Fine Arts studies.”
Since 2018, the Huo Family Foundation has contributed over $5,000,000 to Teach For China’s general fund.