At the beginning of each semester, the middle school teachers would be assigned to go to different villages throughout the township to understand and pursuade dropped out students to come back to school to study. To our surprised, more than 40% of students who started middle school never finish. This doesn't even include those who didn't even go to middle school. There were totally 157 dropped students and we went with 2 teachers to a nearby village to visit the homes of 17 dropout students.
It was an eye-opening experience to go inside each home and to speak with the parents and sometimes the child how the reasons why the students didn't go back to school. The first home we came upon was a student who finished 6th grade but didn't go to 7th. Instead he stayed home and helped out with farm work. After furthur understanding, we found out that the boy's father went to jail and his mother left to be re-married when the boy was young. All these years he lived with his uncle. His uncle didn't want to pay for any educational cost and his demand is that if it doesn't cost him anything, he is willing for the boy to go back to school.
Another home we came to has two girls. The father was away as a laborer in far away city. One girl never went to school. The other didn't finish 6th grade because the mother didn't think education is important and when the girl was lost interest in studying, the mother just let her stay home.
We visited many other homes. Most drop out students had gone out to work in factories. One girl just left 2 months ago to a far away city to work in factory because her father cut his feet when chopping wood and borrowed money to pay for the medical bill. That girl, according to the teacher, was quite a good student and it was a shamed that she dropped out.
Home after home, we understood more and more about the reasons for so many drop outs. Slowly we came to realize that the educational problem in such rural area is complex and interwine. It is not fair to blame on just one or two key causes. It is also naive to think that the problem can be solved using some simple quick-fix solutions.
The drop out situation is a combination of parents' putting low priority in education, financial difficulties, family disharmony which affects a child's emotion, the lure of earning money in by working as a laborer in a factory, a student's lost of interest in studying, teacher's teaching quality and care for students which affects a child's learning interest, and China's educational system which stresses on preparing for entrance exam.
Things are improving. But it still hurts to see any child who is left behind...