Early-Career Teachers in Chinese Christian Schools

By Clement, Mary C. | Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, Summer 2016 | Go to article overview

Early-Career Teachers in Chinese Christian Schools


Clement, Mary C., Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin


My love of travel and my passion for quality teacher education led me to spend time in May 2015 in private Christian schools in China. Although tourist travel to China has become extremely popular, few Americans get to visit Christian schools in China or learn about the work of training teachers for those schools. In this article, I outline what I learned in my experience with these schools and at a teacher-training institute in China. Due to the sensitive nature of being a Christian in China and of teaching in a Christian school there, no specific cities, schools, or teachers are identified.

Background

Prior to 1949, missionary schools, both at the K-12 and higher-education levels, had a marked presence in China. With the 1949 political change in China, these schools were forced to close, and their reestablishment began slowly after 1979. Levin (1987) wrote of what one oral historian of the time called "a renewed emphasis on educational standards, a new interest in the experience of Christian education" (para. 6).

In just the last 10 years, small, private Christian schools, predominantly for preschool through Grade 9 students, have experienced marked growth. Often started in apartments or homes, these schools offer a curriculum that includes English language and Bible studies. Private Christian schools for Chinese children are generally recognized by the Chinese government, just as Christian churches are now recognized there. After elementary school, students may seek enrollment in the public school system or a secular private school; many plan to go to high school and college abroad. Of course, as Christian schools are established, teachers for these schools are needed, making Chinese Christian-teacher training a developing field.

Teachers for Christian schools in China may have completed teacher training in a public university or a normal college, not unlike the normal schools of the past in the United States. Because "educational reform in higher education in China is ongoing" ( Jinming, Jin, & Yan, 2005, p. 17), online training is also growing for teacher-education candidates (Yan, 2009). However, many teachers who begin work in a Christian school have not received public higher education in teacher training. More commonly, an earlycareer Christian teacher may have a degree in another field and then seek teacher training after making the decision to become a teacher. This is similar to the career changer who becomes a teacher in the United States.

Many teachers in Chinese Christian schools are parents who seek this private education for their own children. They may complete a 1-year intensive teacher-training program at a private institute or may begin teaching after a summer of training. Some may begin teaching without the formal training and learn on the job as they begin teaching in private schools. Finding out about the teacher-training opportunities usually happens through friends in the church network.

Teacher Training

In my visit to a private Christian teacher-training institute, I saw much of the curriculum to be identical to that studied by the students at my college in Georgia. The students obviously learn methods of teaching, educational psychology, classroom management, and how to work with special needs students. The "hot topics" might include brain-based learning, differentiation of instruction, understanding by design, and teacher leadership. However, the training in Biblical studies and Christian approaches to teaching and learning set this training apart from training for public school teachers. (For more about the Christian approach, see, for example, Van Brummelen, 2009).

When I interviewed Chinese teachers who were in their last week of a year-long program, I asked why they were becoming teachers. Their answers indicated that teaching had become a true calling for them. Their Christian beliefs led them to "follow their passion" to help children learn and to lead children to know the Christian faith. …

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