My time volunteering

(My previous post was deleted by VSO).  I was a VSO Volunteer English teacher in China from 1999 to 2001 (two years) in Nanchang, Jiangxi, China.  My role set by VSO was to teach English to Chinese English teachers from Jiangxi's countryside in a provincial capital city, to improve their English, which allowed them to return to the countryside and teach their students with improved English skills.  Their students would received improved English skills and give them a greater chance to succeed.  That project failed absolutely.  The report compiled by VSO in 2001 confirmed the ineffectiveness of VSO's English teaching program in China. 

The impact of my placement

VSO's volunteering placement, which was shared between me and another (English) English teacher, had little or virtually no impact. VSO's project was confused and ill-thought out from the education planners in London, the Placement Officers in Beijing and the educational institutions involved in China. Where I taught, students were happy only when they received an expected high score; the university was only happy when the students were happy; VSO was only happy when the university was happy. Volunteer teachers had no opportunity or support to engage with the institution to improve standards, improve, or introduce new teaching methods. English language was often described as the 'Cinderella' of the curriculum. No student ever failed an English exam based on their performance for their level, unlike other subjects. At the time I taught, new opportunities were open to the more capable students. The more capable students used their time to study for newly created post-graduate opportunities and subsequently moved on, leaving only the poorly performing students to return to the countryside to remain as English teachers, leaving the students in the countryside with only poor English teachers. One mature student once told me that his two years at my college was simply a two year rest from teaching.

My unforgettable moments

My most unforgettable moment was when our Placement Officer from Beijing asked both my co-VSO English teacher and me in my own apartment should we be replaced. The other VSO English teacher unequivocally stated we should not be replaced. I concurred. We both agreed our university was not making any kind of improvement. My co-VSO English teacher claimed corruption was a significant factor involved in her decision. Three new VSO Volunteers subsequently replaced us: two young females and a young male. Our opinions were not respected by VSO.

The impact my placement has had on me

I continue to teach English in China. VSO failed at helping and supporting institutions to develop. Colleges failed to learn anything about Western teachers (people), and when VSO pulled out, because Volunteers were used simply as 'free' English teachers, the institutions I experienced, failed to recruit qualified, mature English teachers from the West for themselves. They simply became lost, because they had failed to develop. Colleges often relied on very dubious employment agencies to supply some very questionable English teachers. VSO, like other charitable organizations, are too arrogant, too stubborn to address their failings.
Nanchang, Jiangxi


28.682892, 115.858197