In classrooms around the world, students collectively gather to learn with a belief that education is an integral stepping stone to a promising career in the future. This outlook towards education is usually a predominant mindset but in rural China, social entrepreneur Yang Xueqin noticed that many children’s desire to learn can quickly dissipate.
In many Asian countries, education is highly valued by society. As a result, some children find themselves studying purely due to external pressures that include family and community stigmas. They are unaware of the true value behind education and as a consequence, they often give up on pursuing dreams of a different future.
Yang Xueqin first noticed the issue of academic motivation in 2012 when she started her teaching career following her graduation from Nankai University. She became a teacher at Dachaoshan Middle School in Linyi County and her impressive teaching skills were immediately apparent. In the class she once taught, even the most troubled students were willing to listen quietly. When she was angry, the entire class would write apology letters in hope of her forgiveness. Her teaching methods were firm but were meant to support students.
In 2017, a class she once taught sent eight students to key universities in China. This was the most successful college entrance examination in the history of Shanxi Town.
Unfortunately, despite her teaching prowess, Yang realized that she still couldn’t stop her students in this small rural town from dropping out of school. At the end of her teaching career in 2014, Yang Xueqin's class had been reduced from 68 students to 30 over the course of two years. Most of the children who left the classroom chose to work, but others had simply resigned themselves to a life based mainly at home. It has also come to Yang’s attention that even if rural students go to college, they will often lose motivation for studying and spend much of their newfound free time playing games. Their prospects for employment following graduation are often disappointing.
Thus, with these problems in mind, Yang Xueqin decided to start her own public welfare project. Her organization was founded with the goal of helping students in remote areas fill in missing parts in their career plans and help them find the meaning of learning. She named the project Tour Dream, and with an English name, Tomoroe, which is a wordplay between "tomorrow" and "to more". In October of 2015, Tomoroe officially began its dream journey. In the first phase, 100,000 yuan was raised through crowdfunding and since then, Yang Xueqin has received support from several non-profit organizations including Hengnan Academy, China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, and Shanghai Hengnan Academy.
Striving towards a better tomorrow
Photo from Tomoroe
Tomoroe’s main mission is to help Chinese middle school students build clear plans for their future and goals of their own to actually strive for. Many Chinese students study purely for examination purposes or due to pressures from their parents. They have no idea what type of career they would actually like to pursue and this lack of interest leads to a lack of drive and motivation later on.
One of Tomoroe’s main initiatives is to contact professionals in various fields and have them engage with students about what work in their fields is actually like. Additionally, Tomoroe provides many web-based seminar programs to provide students guidance in a variety of academic and social endeavors. Oftentimes, these classes cover materials related to the student’s schoolwork to highlight the relevance and importance of education in the future. These classes are relatively small as Yang believes individual guidance and paying close attention to students is integral to fostering an engaging learning environment.
In the beginning, Yang introduced her program through small test runs in schools which were connected mainly through friends and some alumni. Her program is now rapidly expanding and garnering national attention. Currently, Tomoroe has partnerships with over 400 schools in 29 provinces. The organization has plans to expand to a thousand schools by the end of the year.
Photo from Tomoroe
More for Tomoroe
In the upcoming months, Tomoroe will be working on a variety of projects. In June, Tomoroe will be focusing on their Gaokao (the Chinese National College Entrance Examination) preparation class which aims to help students decide which career paths are right for them when registering for the gaokao forms. Students mostly fill in their desired career paths based on little information. Tomoroe aims to make students more informed on their various options.
In July and August, Tomoroe will work to gather professionals in a variety of fields and have them discuss with one another what they would like to present to students about their given career paths. Lastly, Tomoroe is also working on expanding their selection of career paths by looking into less traditional fields. This process is part of Tomoroe’s ongoing initiative to provide students a broader vision for all the potential paths ahead of them.
Photo from Tomoroe
Statistically, 90% of entrepreneurial projects are dumped in its first year but Yang Xueqin’s dream has survived. According to her, public welfare entrepreneurship is not the same as commercial entrepreneurship. Business creates wealth which is something many strive for but public welfare entrepreneurship does not share this same goal as they are instead inspired by social missions. Public welfare is more able to gain the support of social forces and it is precisely because of this support that the dream can survive in a highly competitive entrepreneurial environment.
In less than two years of public welfare entrepreneurship, Yang Xueqin has realized that a dream career is not only scarce for rural children but also for their entire generation. This is why she strives to help them build their love for learning so they could have better tomorrows.
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