Stepping Stones Shanghai – Become a Volunteer

Who is Stepping Stones?

Stepping Stones is Shanghai’s first and only city-wide voluntary English teaching program in the schools for migrants in Shanghai.  More than 6 years since its inception in October 2006, the program for academic year 2011 to 2012 consisted of around 169 volunteers providing free oral English classes each week to 3,857 students in 15 schools and community centers in six districts of Shanghai. For the same academic year, another 1,652 students benefited from participation in other educational events hosted by 162 other volunteers, and 1,057 benefited from our I Care project. The program continues to grow.


The program was founded at the request of principals of schools for migrants in Shanghai, who struggle to hire and retain qualified English teachers to teach in their schools, and are concerned about the low level of English skills among their students, compared with their local peers.  The migrant school principals asked if English-speaking volunteers could be introduced into the schools to help the children with their oral English.

This need was matched with available resources in the expatriate, local white-collar and corporate communities in Shanghai, where there is a high level of English fluency and a high degree of enthusiasm for such volunteering opportunities.  A survey carried out in the Spring of 2011 in one Minhang school showed a 9% improvement in English grades in classes with our volunteer teachers!

3In addition, Stepping Stones has become a successful platform for a wide range of other initiatives to benefit migrant children in Shanghai, including material donations and provision of eye care. We also lead volunteering tours to teach English in rural primary schools.

Why participate on a Volunteer event in China?

In China, a basic command of English is critical to children’s life chances.  English is one of the three core elements of the Chinese school curriculum (along with Chinese and mathematics), and a student’s grade in English is one of the key criteria for entry to higher education.  Due to lack of qualified English teachers in rural schools (including schools for migrants), English skills are the biggest differentiator between rural students and their urban peers. By volunteering, you can contribute to bridging this gap.


Volunteer experience

Most of our volunteers appreciate the opportunity that Stepping Stones provides them to see a different side to Shanghai and China. The volunteering experience will allow you to visit migrant schools and community centers and hence interact with migrant students and their broader communities, which you otherwise might not have the opportunity to experience. The volunteering programs have proved to be extremely instrumental in building bridges between communities, who otherwise do not regularly have opportunities to interact.

Types of Volunteer Events


  • One way to get involved is to sign up as a volunteer English teacher and give free oral English classes to migrant students in the migrant schools. Volunteer English teachers are normally asked to commit to teach once a week for at least one whole semester.
  • Another way to get involved is to join the Rural Volunteer Trips that Stepping Stones organizes at least once a semester. These trips bring a group of volunteers to teach for a week in a local primary school in a rural province of China, such as Henan Province.

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