Education is a treasure trove

Featuring cutting-edge equipment, new classrooms encourage creative thinking and an interest in the sciences among high-school students across CHINA.

Schoolgirls Liao Wenting and Ma Feiya (right front) use the 3D printer to make a pen holder. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Growing up in a remote town in Northwest China’s Gansu province, 12-year-old schoolgirl Liao Wenting was surprised to find that the head-mounted displays and robotics that she had seen in sci-fi films could be within arms’ reach.

Her school, the Wenxian No 2 High School, which is located at the foot of rolling hills in Bikou town of Wenxian county, has recently built a high-tech-empowered classroom.

The classroom, covering 137 square meters, features multimedia teaching systems, virtual reality headsets, 3D printing equipment and other high-tech gadgets. Students can also experience such technologies as augmented reality, laser cutting and educational robotics.

Its construction was completed in December 2022. Since then, the school has opened two elective courses in the classroom, graphical programming and 3D printing, each of which has attracted 120 and 20 students, respectively.

The facility, donated by the All-China Journalists Association and tech giant Tencent, is the first such high-tech-empowered classroom in Gansu.

Additionally, Tencent will offer free training services for the school’s information technology teachers and organize regular scientific and technological competitions to motivate youngsters and inspire continuous exploration in the field of technology.

Ran Lingli, an information technology teacher with the school, says that the high-tech-empowered classroom, which allows students to have a more hands-on experience with high-tech equipment, is more likely to stimulate their creativity.

“I used to ply them with instructions on how to use software like Word and Excel in my class.”

“However, in our newly built classroom, we encourage students to explore their creativity and turn their ideas into reality. With access to resources like the 3D printer, students can bring the objects in their minds to life,” says Ran.

Recently, Ma Feiya, a 12-year-old student at the school, had the opportunity to use the 3D printer to create a pencil case with intricate designs.

“It was an incredibly exciting experience to see my model come to life,” she exclaims. “I am eager to continue exploring the possibilities of this field in the classroom.”

For Xu Wei, president of the school, the improved hardware facilities in the classroom and the free online educational resources provided by Tencent are a timely boost for the school’s development.

The charity project “future classroom” seeks to upgrade the hardware facilities in rural schools across the country.[Photo provided to China Daily]

He has been working in the county’s education sector for the past 23 years and has successively been the president of three schools in Wenxian. He often visits schools in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai, and is very aware of the gap in education development between urban and rural areas.

“I believe that an improved science and technology education can facilitate further development of the school,” he says.

Those advanced facilities in the high-tech-empowered classroom can spark students’ interest in science and technology, and the available educational resources provided by Tencent will enable both students and teachers to keep improving themselves, he adds.

Both he and his father are alumni of Wenxian No 2 High School, which was founded in 1957, creating a special emotional bond between the Wenxian native and the school.

He is determined to narrow the gap.

“The classroom will also be open to students from nearby schools who are interested in science and technology,” he says.

Grand Vision

Zhang Yeliang, deputy county head of Wenxian, notes that the construction of the “future classroom “is a move toward addressing the unequal distribution of education resources between urban and rural areas.

Zhang used to work with the All-China Journalists Association which has been paired with Wenxian county since 1998 and has been active in the area’s poverty alleviation efforts. He was dispatched by the association to support the county’s development in 2021.

“The association has been focusing on the improvement of education in Wenxian over the past 25 years,” he says, adding that the association has initiated 11 projects to enhance locals’ access to quality education over the past two years alone, covering 15 kindergartens, primary schools and middle schools across the county.

Through his investigations, Zhang found that many schools in the county hadn’t upgraded their teaching equipment due to limited finances. For instance, old computers with outdated hardware components and slower processing speeds can often be found in local schools.

Local students’ awareness of utilizing modern technologies for the improvement of their academic performance is relatively lower than their urban counterparts, he adds.

“We’re making continuous efforts to bridge the digital divide between local teachers and students and their counterparts in more well-developed cities in East China.”

“Nestled deep in the mountains, the children here have limited exposure to the outside world. It is our hope that advancements in education can transform their lives,” Zhang says, explaining why they wanted to collaborate with Tencent in the building of the high-tech-empowered classroom.

Two years ago, Tencent launched the charity project “future classroom” which seeks to upgrade the hardware facilities in rural schools across the country and provide teachers and students there with free access to online educational resources. It is an indispensable part of Tencent’s innovative minors guidance system, according to Zheng Zhong, director of Tencent Minors Guidance Center.

By the end of January, 36 such “classrooms” had been built and put into use in various cities across the country, including Enshi in Hubei province, Ya’an in Sichuan province and Shaoguan in Guangdong province, providing accessibility to the technology to more than 169,800 students. Among them, 5,623 students have participated in various programming competitions.

Yu Jinghui, 12, a student from the mountainous county of Ruyuan Yao autonomous county, in Shaoguan, is a beneficiary of the project.

Early last year, a classroom equipped with computers loaded with programming software, 3D printers, circuit boards and chips for making remote-controlled cars was built in his school.

After that, instructed by IT teachers, Yu started to learn programming. Four months later, during his summer holidays between carrying out work on the farm at home, he coded a game named Girl’s Smart Wardrobe.

The game asks users to first choose a desired destination or a certain occasion. Then the wardrobe offers clothes for the girl in the game to wear to help her create a specific look that is suitable for the occasion. “I’ve been wanting to make such kind of smart wardrobe for my sister for a long time. Hopefully one day I can create a real one for her,” says Jinghui.

The coding project enabled him to win the first prize in a provincial network originality competition last year.

“Coding can help me to realize my dreams in the virtual world, which brings me a strong sense of achievement,” he says. “And my logical thinking and hands-on abilities have also been honed during the process.”

To further connect those beneficiaries of the project, Tencent launched a WeChat mini program as an online platform for teachers and students to share the advancements they’ve made in learning science and technology-related subjects and to discuss and brainstorm solutions to problems they might encounter. The platform has, so far, attracted nearly 40,000 users.