Be Better and PLAN China
Posted in Blogs on January 3, 2017
Posted in Blogs on January 3, 2017
At the end of December, I visited two Aflatoun projects in the Chinese Guangnan County, where we work together with PLAN China and Be Better China to provide children with Financial Education and Life Skills (FELS). Together, these two organisations reach all grade 1 students at the 27 middle schools in Guangnan County, that is 11,706 students in the second semester of 2016. Most of those middle schools are attended by pupils who live far away and are coming from poor families where both parents have migrated to big cities for work. That’s why these schools provide free boarding and meals three times a day for all students who live more than five kilometres away from the school.
Together with Bingmei Li, PLAN China Project manager, I visited Zhetu middle school, located two hours by car from Guangnan County. At this school I met Ms. Lili, the teacher who is responsible for teaching FELS to all classes of grade 1 (there are 10 classes and one class consists of 58 students). FELS is delivered each week for a 40 minutes session for the full two semesters (one year). Ms. Lili is a very dedicated and motivated teacher and has discovered the difference between the traditional teaching method and the active learning method. After she received several active learning methods from a Be Better master trainer and applied it in class, she found that students became more active and more confident. Many pupils cannot wait to have the FELS class with Ms. Lili because she always uses creative methods such as a game, a song and drama. FELS class has quickly become a favourite subject for all grade 1 students and Ms. Lili has become the most popular teacher for them all.
The project I visited in Guangnan County, Yunnan province is called Girls’ education project, which is funded by Credit Suisse and managed by PLAN UK and Aflatoun International for curriculum development and technical assistance. This Girls’ education project in China is one out of three other projects in Rwanda, India and Brazil, which started in 2014 and will end in mid 2017.
Be Better projects in Shanghai
Besides visiting Yunnan province, I also went to see Be Better projects in Shanghai. From Kunming the capital city of Yunnan province, I flew three hours to Shanghai, where I spent two days. I made a visit to one primary school and one Aflatoun Experimental Learning Centre. I also met the Be Better team in the Shanghai office.
At the primary school I met Ms. Praise the school teacher of Aflatoun class. In this school, Aflatoun class was delivered once a week for 40 minutes. Ms. Praise is a Be Better full time staff and she delivered the Aflatoun class to five surrounding primary schools. There are two types of primary school she attending, private school and government school. The one that I visited was a private primary school.
Be Better successfully developed an innovative learning package for primary schools called Aflatoun in a box. This package very much helps the teachers in delivering the classes and makes the learning process for the students much more fun since there are a lot of games and tools inside. Currently, the Aflatoun box has been widely used by thousands of primary schools in 23 provinces in China and has benefited almost 500,000 students last year.
On the second day of my visit in Shanghai, I went to Aflatoun Experimental Learning Centre located within a big mall in Shanghai. Within the Centre there is an Aflatoun bank, an Aflatoun supermarket, an Aflatoun cinema (that could be used also as playing area), and an Aflatoun library. What’s really impressive is that this is one out of 10 other centres they are managing. When I visited the centre, there were around 50 children attending, who live locally. A movie was played, which was selected by all children, after which they discussed the content and what lesson they learned from the movie.
I also met the Be Better team at their two offices in Shanghai. I was warmly welcomed by the team and had a very productive and fruitful discussion. After the meeting, I came to the conclusion that Allan Wang is one of the best social entrepreneurs I have ever known, who based on his hard work, innovative ideas and consistency, has been able to lead his organisation to be one of the best financial education projects in China and successfully managing 1.5 million euro budget this year.
Be Better is growing fast and is currently active in 23 provinces, employing 70 full time staff. In the next five years, Be Better aims to target 10 million children with the Aflatoun programme and together with Beijing Normal University, PLAN China and Aflatoun International will work on national curriculum integration of Social and Financial Education in China.