Education inequalities spur student project
While on exchange in Shanghai last year, Stephanie Rudyk (Artsci’13) and Sarah Cheng (Artsci’13) were taken aback by the education system in China, particularly the inequalities in the quality of education among locals, migrant children and expatriates from the west.
The two Queen’s students visited several different schools during their Global Development Studies (DEVs) exchange and noticed the gap in resources for migrant children, whose families had moved to the outskirts of the city from rural areas.
Those children attend specific migrant schools, which often only reach Grade 6, and face many more barriers and difficulties to further their education than the local city students. Meanwhile, expat children from around the world study at international schools that are well-funded and have high-quality, international curriculums.
“We saw this picture of these two different groups sharing the same space geographically but having very different lives. We thought, is there a way that we can connect the two?” says Ms. Cheng, who graduated this year with a major in psychology and a DEVs minor.
Passionate and excited about the possibility of doing something to help, the pair pitched a project to the Pathy Family Foundation (PFF) Community Leadership Program and received a fellowship to develop a mentorship program to help migrant children succeed.
Their project, Students Responding to Students (SRS), will link migrant children with high school students in international schools through a buddy system that focuses not only on academic development, but also character- and confidence-building activities such as sports, arts and crafts. It will run as an after-school program and aim to foster leadership, empowerment and cross-cultural understanding among the students.
“We hope to create something that is sustainable, community-oriented and engaging for everyone involved,” says Ms. Rudyk, who graduated with a major in political studies and a DEVs minor. “SRS is really about bringing the community together to learn from one another, share cross-cultural experiences, and reduce the educational inequality faced by migrant children.”
Ms. Rudyk and Ms. Cheng will base SRS out of Kites Community Centre in Xujing, a neighbourhood on the western outskirts of Shanghai. The Shanghai Singapore International School will be a source of high school students for mentorship positions.
The pair leaves in August to spend eight months in Shanghai.
The PFF Community Leadership Program, established in 2011, is funded by the Pathy Family Foundation and administered by the Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC). It offers Queen’s undergraduate or master’s students up to $30,000 for eight- to 12-month fellowships promoting social change in international locations. The pilot program runs until 2014.