Stepping Stones (上海闵行区华漕铺路石青少年发展中心) is a non-profit organisation registered in Shanghai. With a mission to improve the education and general welfare of disadvantaged children in China, Stepping Stones has hosted numerous programs focused on children’s education and well-being since 2006. Stepping Stones recruits, trains, and supports about 1,000 volunteers per year to help children and youth discover the joy of learning a foreign language, digital literacy, and other subjects critical to their holistic development. We also provide professional training to foreign language teachers.
Our program delivers more than 8,000 lessons to around 6,000 students each year in 10 provinces. Students who participate in our program show increased interest and confidence in their studies, which improves their access to educational and work opportunities in the future. Additionally, students are exposed to different cultures, and get early exposure to volunteer programs and volunteering spirit.
Our Focus is on two key subjects where resources are in short supply in disadvantaged communities: English and digital literacy.
Stepping Stones’ work began in 2006, when principals of migrant schools in Shanghai and rural Chinese schools asked our founder to teach English to their students. English is the subject that poses the most challenges to rural and other disadvantaged children, due to inadequate English language learning resources. Lack of attainment in English skills restricts educational and employment opportunities for disadvantaged children and youth. Our main objectives are to improve students’ motivation and confidence in English, which are two key dimensions of learning a second language.
Our approach is designed to place emphasis upon teaching English through speaking and listening activities and to maximize the active participation and engagement of students in the teaching-learning process. Our volunteers are trained to provide fun and interactive oral English lessons, which motivate and engage students by using only English in the classroom.
Digital literacy skills are essential for success in the 21st century. We can hardly live without the internet, and without computer skills, work opportunities are highly limited. Unfortunately, the digital literacy rate among our beneficiaries in China remains extremely low. This low rate can be attributed to lack of computers in homes and schools, and even where there are computers in schools, there is a shortage of computer teachers. Lack of digital literacy skills, together with low self-esteem, lack of support and a generally poor quality of education significantly contributes to a low rate of high school or vocational school enrollment in our beneficiary communities.
We do not believe that by simply bringing computers and internet to our beneficiaries, we will magically help each child to be successful. But we do believe that with the right balance of fun and challenge, mentoring, encouragement and discipline, as well as a carefully planned curriculum and properly trained teachers, we can begin to help the children develop many of the digital literacy skills they are currently missing to be better prepared for today’s fast moving and tech-focused society.