No one less

Most young Chinese at my age seen the movie No One Less in some kind of encouragement activity arranged by schools when we were in primary school. The movie talks about a story about a young teacher looking for her poor dropped student and getting him back to school around 1990s in Chinese countryside. We were asked to watch this movie together in the auditorium because the teachers wanted us to be aware that some kids were too poor to go to school and we should cherish our opportunities to receive education.

No one can deny that economic ability is one step stone to the access of education. We talked about open access, connected learning, but how about the kids that are too poor to get accessibility or too poor to be connected? From 2008, the Chinese government pay for all the tuition and books for all school-age kid from the first grade to the 9th grade. The free education for primary and secondary school attract back millions of poor students back to school.  College students can take loans without interest, and brilliant young scholars can get the scholarships to study abroad. Financial assist does improve education accessibility.

But, let us look at the high college drop rate in developed US. In the blog titled “Setting Students’ Minds on Fire” By Mark C. Carnes, President Obama stated in 2010, “more than a third of America’s college students fail to earn degrees“. Do the students drop because they cannot afford the tuition? Yes, the expense to go to college in the US is unexpected high but this is not the only or primary reason, since students are eligible to work part-times, take loans, win scholarships and all sources of financial aid. Why they still drop before they get degrees?

Think about the football tickets when Virginia Tech played with Ohio State at the Lane Stadium. From my view on Facebook, they are no less than $200 for a non-student ticket. Big football fans will still get it by borrowing money from family or friends or raising money from strangers, even if as nearly-bankrupted college students they do not have $200 in their pocket or bank account. Why did not my advisor who earns $100,000 per year buy only one ticket? Because she did not like football games at all! She would rather spend $20,000 on her vocation to Florida and swim with Manatees instead of $200 on a football ticket. It is a matter of whether you consider it worth or not when you can afford but you do not buy it.

The students with full access to all sorts of financial aid but still quit college share the same reason. They do not think it is worthy to receive college education. It is understandable. We all know there are plenty of problems in higher education, it is hard and pressure-burn to carry a huge student loan, or maybe simply they cannot see a direct input and output from college, and they still do not figure out their life puzzle. Educators are trying to improve the quality of higher education; government are putting more education budget to help out students financially; public media are promoting the short and long term salary increase with a college degree. What else we can do to help those kids who are in chaos?

No push, no rush. Maybe we can let them enjoy their gap year or gap years as volunteers, experience how it feels with full time work even as waiters or labor workers, or play video games even doing nothing. When they realized they lack the skills to make a better and meaningful life, they will come back to school and learn and strengthen themselves. The society or community should provide the opportunity for them to come back. When they come back, they will be more motived since they know what are they interested in and what they should learn. Not only the schools admitting older students, government providing financial aid to them and their family, but they need emotional or spiritual encouragement and more. For example, Virginia Tech Graduate School arranges over 30 casual picnic, and provide free weekly drop-in child care for VT students with children who need a break or have to study or attend a lecture or want to catch up on work.

I wish everyone who drops or quits but wants to go back to college can have the access to receive higher education. I consider this as an important part of accessibility to education.


3 thoughts on “No one less”

  1. Interesting post, Sihui. I like your comment on gap years. I actually had 5 gap years, haha – between graduate education and undergraduate. And you are right, it absolutely gave me more drive to do more, and to gain more out of my graduate education. I feel as though when everyone else is complaining about class, or just taking the minimum course requirements, I am thinking what additional classes can I take to further my education, and do it while it is still paid for though my assistantship. When I worked in industry, I realized that I wanted to have a more meaningful life like you stated, and that played a big role in why I came back for my PhD. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I really like your post, Sihui. I watched the No One Less movie when I was in middle school I think, at that time, I didn’t quite understand the deeper implications of that movie, I just thought that we were lucky that we were not poor and we were able to go to school. I like your analogy of the different attitudes towards football tickets between some students and some faculty members, and I agree that it’s interest that drives people’s behavior.
    I am taking a statistic course this semester, and sometimes I find it dry and hard to follow, however, when I talked with one student who is auditing our class, she said she understood the lecture and she was really focused in class. I was wondering why, she said, “as I am auditing the class, I don’t get any grade, if I don’t listen in class, why I am here in the classroom?” This conversation made me thinking about what are the real motivations for students to come and listen to the classes.
    Anyway, thank you for sharing and I enjoyed reading your post.

  3. So, I definitely want to hear more about “No One Less” as it sounds like an important piece of socialization for your generation! But I’m especially intrigued by Lyujun’s story about the student auditing the statistics class. You could read it at least two ways, I suppose: 1) the student was intrinsically motivated to get the most out of the lectures because she found the subject stimulating and important. 2) she appreciates how expensive college is and was trying to get the benefit of the course without having to pay for it. 3) some combination of 1 and 2 — or?

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