College students. English language is now a required subject in all elementary and middle schools in China. Improving English education depends on the training of qualified English teachers. One important way to meet this need is to improve the quality of teacher training colleges. Many teacher training colleges have only recenlty been upgraded from the status of three-year training program to a four-year college level. As a result, there are a great many students flooding into the colleges, but the newly upgraded colleges have a shortage of qualified teachers to teach them. Since these colleges are mostly located in remote areas and can not afford to pay high salaries to recruit enought qualified teachers, neither can they hire their own qualified foreign teachers to raise the language standards for both their students and faculty.
Elementary and Middle School teachers. Compared to cities, rural areas are under-developed, and schools in these areas lack resources for faculty development. Most elementary and middle school teachers of English in the countryside have never studied under a foreign teacher, and many of them are not trained to teach English at all. Availability, not qualification, usually decides to fills the position of an English teacher, and in these cases the 'teacher' may not know much more about the subject than the students. Moreover, rural teachers are seldom equipped to teach a 'communicative' curriculum like the ones now used and required by most Chinese textbooks. They have neither the teaching skills, nor the cultural background knowledge to make a foreign language class interesting and effective. This situation keeps English levels in the countryside low and means rural students are in disadvantaged positions for college enrollment and job hunting. With little access to the higher education, the general level of education is low in rural areas. English teachers in the countryside would benefit from opportunities to gain listening and listening practice with native or near-native speakers, and the cultural knowledge gained from this sort of interaction would make their classes more interesting and effective.
Middle School Students. While gradually more and more middle schools have Chinese English teachers, few of them have foreign teachers to teach oral English. Amity started its Young Adult Program in 2005 and invites young volunteers, aged 18 to 30, to teach oral English in middle schools in the less developed areas. These young volunteer teachers get opportunities to study Mandarin Chinese and learn about the Chinese culture as well.
Goals & Objectives
To help train more qualified English teachers for the rural areas. To improve the English level and teaching level of the Chinese teachers who teach English in rural elementary and middle schools. To improve the middle school students' oral English level and promote cultural exchange between young people.
Upon arrival in China, newly invited long-term teachers take part in an intensive summer training program to help acclimate and familiarize them with the Chinese educational system. Every two years, there is a mid-winter conference for long-term teachers where workshops are given by established teachers and critical issues and teaching methodologies may be discussed. All long-term teachers are part of their colleges' English language department and carry a full teaching load which includes speaking, listening, reading, writing and English language literature. Foreign teachers are often expected to take part in departmental meetings.
The summer volunteer teachers come to Nanjing for a three-day orientation before they go to different teaching sites in teams. The teaching courses will last for three weeks, and will be followed by a debriefing. Average group size is four volunteers, and each volunteer can expect 25 teacher-students on average in the classroom for which they are mainly responsible. Training focuses on listening and speaking and is based on content about culture, customs, etc. Team teaching ensures that the volunteers can draw on each other for motivation and ideas. Amity also provides teaching resources/text books for the summer volunteers teachers.
The young volunteers take part in similar summer training programs and the same winter conference as the long-term teachers do. They teach English for 14 hours a week, and receive 2-4 hour weekly Mandarin Chinese tutoring. There are opportunities of local visits to learn about the local culture.