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Xuemin Zhao

Photo of Xuemin Zhao

As a student who majored in Communications and Journalism in college, I have been frequently asked why chose to switch to education for graduate study. My answer to this question has always been the same: because of my experience working as a journalist.

When I was interning at People’s Daily, I had the opportunity to visit a migrant school located in the outskirt of Beijing. The school, along with many other similar migrant schools in urban China, serves children of migrant workers, who are often referred to as migrant students. Because of the government’s residence policy, most migrant students are denied easy access to public schools. Those whose family cannot afford expensive private schools have no choice but to send their children to migrant schools. The problem is, can migrant schools provide these children with a good quality education?

From what I saw that day, the answer is no. The migrant school I visited lacked resources of almost every kind, from a heating system to spacious classrooms, from teaching facilities to certified teachers. Since then, I could not stop thinking about educational equality, a principle that has been promoted in China for several decades but not yet achieved, and about what can be done to protect migrant students’ educational rights. Such reflections and curiosity led me to the IEPA MA program at the Stanford Graduate School of Education.

The IEPA MA program provided me with the opportunity to transform my interests into actions. Together with my writing partner, we studied the educational difficulties faced by migrant students in China for our MA Paper. As a student with a near-zero quantitative background or familiarity with academic inquiries, I began this research project with uncertainties and doubts. By the end of the year, I was amazed by how far I had come. The Stanford GSE offers a variety of courses that equipped me with the skills and knowledge to advance my research. The courses focus on research methods, both quantitative and qualitative, while the theoretical courses that introduce different perspectives in viewing educational issues greatly helped me grow as a researcher.

The GSE is not only a place where one can continually learn new things but also a place that offers opportunities to achieve more. In May 2019, the second EPIC Stanford China Education Forum was successfully held in the GSE. This forum was able to bring together educators, researchers, and entrepreneurs from both China and the U.S. to have in-depth conversations about China’s educational issues. As one of the organizers, I am sincerely grateful to the GSE’s generous support for this student initiative.

After one year of studying here, I am confident to say that coming to Stanford was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I will start a position at an education company based in Beijing and work as a product designer. By devoting myself to the education industry, I hope to utilize what I have learned here and carry on the GSE’s motto, “improving lives through learning.”

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