Yu Shuming teaches in the extremely remote Baihuzhuang village in the middle of the Taihang Mountains in China. The area is subject to flash floods and mudslides, threatening the lives of the inhabitants. Many teenagers drop out of school due to the harsh environment and the poverty created by it. Other teachers have stayed one or two years in the village and then left. However, after coming to the village and revolutionising the education provision, Yu Shuming has repeatedly declined high-paying invitations to return to the city and teach in places such as Beijing.
In order to help bring some of the benefits of modern education to the mountain village, Yu Shuming has adapted the education method of Wei Shusheng, a famous Chinese educator. This involves using school discussions to inspire his students to pursue independent and co-operative learning – augmented with his own methods of teaching literacy. In order to prevent poor students dropping out, Yu Shuming has used his own wages to help students in special hardship, and has encouraged other parts of the country to donate, raising more than 1.2 million yuan. He has also published research in the form of articles on how educational standards have been raised in the mountain environment, so that other teachers in similar contexts throughout the country can be informed.
Yu Shuming’s teaching has made a big difference to his students. In 2005, all 32 students in the senior high school entrance examination succeed in winning places at a high school. Many of his students have been admitted to key graduate or national universities; and nearly 30 students that had previously dropped out returned to school. These teaching achievements, among others, mean that Yu Shuming has been recognised as one of the Top Ten Teaching Reform Stars in China, as well as winning the China May Fourth Youth Medal.
If awarded the Global Teacher Prize, Yu Shuming would use the prize money for classroom reform and innovation, purchase of teaching equipment, and to aid the construction of local mountain roads so that people can access services and education. He would also help build a reading library and a volunteer service to help complete local community and education projects.