By LAURA L. WONG
On March 4, Lungching Chiao told an audience at the Library how they can improve education opportunities in some of the poorest regions of China.
The lecture was jointly sponsored by the Library's Asian American Association and the Chinese American Librarians Association.
Targeting those regions with the greatest needs, Adopt a Rural School Library is based on the premise that education is a powerful means for change. Ms. Chiao emphasized that the village school library is a resource that is fully accessible by the entire village community, in addition to the students and teachers. As of 1999, 1,500 such school libraries plus 21 rural public libraries have been established in China by this program.
Ms. Lungching Chiao has a worked in the education, psychology and library services fields. She has also served as program coordinator for New York City's Asian Bilingual Education Programs (1975 to 1980). Currently she is senior program manager for the U.S. Department of Education's Fulbright-Hays Programs.
ARSL is one of several programs sponsored by Education and Science Society (ESS), a nonprofit organization formed in 1980 by Chinese Americans, many of whom are educators and professionals. Ms. Chiao acknowledged that, while China has made considerable strides in strengthening the education system as a whole, basic education resources in some of the poorest and most remote regions of the country are still lacking. In most rural schools, for example, the only materials children see are textbooks, and many families cannot afford to send their children to secondary school. Village residents have little access to general or technical information that might improve their farming productivity or living environment.
Ms. Chiao then told how a village school can become a program participant and how donors outside China can help. In various provinces in China, local representatives that have been appointed by ESS identify eligible schools and screen applications. The lists of final candidate schools are then forwarded to the ESS committee in the United States, and once selected for the award, the school signs an agreement with ESS. Accountability, with ongoing reporting and communications between the adopted school and ESS, is important to the program's success. Proper management must be demonstrated, from selection and purchase of books and materials (using booklists drawn up by Chinese education officials), to circulation of materials among students and village residents alike. Also key to success is the involvement of educators at the local level.
In turn, ESS provides the donors -- from the United States and elsewhere -- with progress reports on their school and an ESS annual report. Interaction between the donor and the school is encouraged and administrative expenses are kept low, in part because program committee members are volunteers.
The ESS has also developed other programs that enhance education. Local teachers, administrators and researchers in China have been invited to join the "Workshops on Basic Education," a forum for the exchange of views, ideas and teaching methods with educators from abroad. These have been held in various sites in China since 1993, and an audience member who is a Library of Congress staffer described her participation in the 1998 workshop as both an eye-opening and inspiring experience.
Another ESS program provides scholarships to secondary-school children to subsidize their room and board, books and expenses. The "Read to Discover" program encourages teachers to help students grow beyond the basic curriculum by developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Ms. Wong is a reference librarian in the Asian Division.