New Frontiers for Stepping Stones

Stepping Stones is pleased to have had Johan Vink recently complete his first “Short-term Placement Assignment” in Wuxi, China. Johan worked as an English teacher in Wuxi from May 30th until June 8th. While he was there not only did he leave a lasting impression on the students and teachers at his school, but they in turn also left an impression on him. After his placement in Wuxi, Johan remarked that “the kids and teachers at… [the]migrant school are wonderful,” and went on to stress that although teaching English in China can be an uphill battle, the “students are absolutely teachable, the teachers absolutely teaching, and the school is very viable!”

After leaving Wuxi, Johan certainly came away with a deeper insight into how difficult it can be to get a good English education in China. From his experience in the classroom, Johan said “In terms of English education, the big challenge is pronunciation, both for the students and teachers. Teachers desperately need professional development particularly in terms of pronunciation,” and that the migrant schools greatly need to “encourage the students to use oral language and to think outside the box and beyond the script.”

One way for both teachers and children to work on their pronunciation is to practice their English with volunteers, like Johan, from Stepping Stones. Research has shown that rural students in China are at the greatest disadvantage in terms of English language learning, due to lower quality of education in schools and lack of parental or tutorial support when they are out of school. The children in these village schools are mostly “left-behind children,” living apart from their parents, who have migrated to cities for work.

For these reasons Stepping Stones has created the “Short- and Long-term Placement” program. Short and Long-term placements allow for volunteers with strong English capabilities to teach in partnered schools not immediately in the Shanghai vicinity. Stepping Stones has these opportunities in Henan, Hunan, Gansu, Guizhou, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Anhui. Volunteer assignments can be as short as one week, but the longer the better!

For more information about becoming a Short- and Long-Term volunteer with Stepping Stones, please visit our website at to learn more or email Morgan Banaszek,, about how you can get involved and make a difference in the lives of rural Chinese children today.