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Leveling the playing field with virtual classrooms for rural areas

December 12, 2019

Students in rural China are lagging behind their urban peers, in part because of a lack of modern educational resources. Through the 3M Impact program, a team of 3Mers helped setup a virtual classroom for children in Chengdu with the organization Pad for Hope.

Close up of child’s hands on digital tablet computer.

Rural China is in the midst of an education crisis.

According to research conducted by economist Scott Rozelle, about a third of rural Chinese students will drop out of school by 9th grade, a stark contrast from the 90% of urban students who finish high school.

Many factors contribute to the education gap, but a lack of access to modern educational resources is one obvious place to start. That’s what Rohit Ramdey, Technical Specialist — Asia Pacific, and 12 other 3Mers traveled to Chengdu, China to help solve.

Before they left, the group participated in six weeks of pre-deployment assignments that helped them get to know each other and the organizations they would be working with.

Once arriving in Chengdu, Rohit found out that, along with two other 3Mers, he would be working with Pad for Hope. Pad for Hope is a nonprofit organization that works on two key social causes: equal education opportunities for all and optimum recyclability of electronics. The organization works to send older or obsolete versions of iPads to rural areas where they don’t have funding to provide that technology to their students. Then, they work to provide a STEAM education curriculum and virtual classroom the students can access on their iPads.

Rohit and his teammates’ task was to provide a structured curriculum for elementary classes and develop a teacher assistance package to help them execute virtual STEAM classes.

At first, Rohit and his team were very apprehensive about the scope of their project since none of them had teaching experience. But they dug right in by gathering information and interviewing teachers and students to find out what their current challenges were and what they expected from the teaching assistance package.

To understand the challenges of the virtual classroom, Rohit decided to conduct a virtual classroom himself, which he says was the high point of the project.

“Though I don’t have any background in education, I provide virtual trainings to application engineers across the Asia Pacific region, so I was able to apply what I’ve learned doing that to this aspect of the project,” Rohit explains. “It was my favorite part because it was incredible to interact with the kids and see that with the right amount of support, they could easily compete with kids who have access to more resources around the world. It was great motivation to deliver what we promised to this community.”

“It was incredible to interact with the kids and see that with the right amount of support, they could easily compete with kids who have access to more resources around the world.”

– Rohit Ramdey, Technical Specialist, 3M Asia Pacific

At the end of two weeks, they were able to deliver both the curriculum and the teacher assistance package to the organizations, and the parents and teachers of the students were ecstatic.

“We were very moved when we saw the reactions of the parents,” Rohit recalls. “When they saw their children working on projects and learning it was truly heartwarming. I have been on many business trips, but I would rate this as the best ever. Personally, I am now able to see how much capacity I have to do more and contribute to solutions like this. Professionally, working with an extremely diverse team of people I’ve never worked with before has helped me so much in my current role, as I work with people from different countries and different cultural backgrounds every day.”

About 3M Impact

When asked why they love to work for 3M, many employees say that they have the opportunity to make a difference in the world by impacting people’s lives. To encourage this passion, 3M offers a program called 3M Impact, an immersive experience where employees travel to communities around the world to spend two weeks collaborating with a local organization to contribute to a solution for a pressing social or environmental issue.


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