A Case Study of Poverty Alleviation through the BNVS Model
Release date:2019-05-17 Views:3995

Case Study Type: Employment and Entrepreneurship – Vocational Education

Keywords: BN Vocational School; Poverty Alleviation through Vocational Education; Charity; Free

Submitted by: China Institute for Poverty Reduction, Beijing Normal University


Executive Summary

Poverty alleviation through vocational education is a method of poverty alleviation through the provision of vocational education to children of underprivileged families, thereby helping them escape from poverty.  Its implementation faces several challenges that prevents it from fully realizing its potential in helping children of underprivileged families escape poverty and thereby preventing the generational inheritance of poverty.  These challenges include the inability of underprivileged families to afford relevant fees (such as tuition), the inability of schools to guarantee the quality of the faculty and the education they provide, and the bias overly in favor of technical skills at the expense of life skills in the education.  To address these challenges, BN Vocational School (BNVS) has developed the poverty alleviation model of “charitable vocational education,” which utilizes the resources from many sectors of society to provide free vocational education to students from underprivileged families and, at the same time, pays attention to the quality of the faculty and teaching as well as the students’ long-term development.  This model can efficiently address the challenges named above that poverty alleviation through vocational education has faced in the past.  We hope to share with the international community four main lessons that can be drawn from BNVS’ experience.

1. BNVS fully utilizes the resources of many sectors of society, gaining support in the foundation and operation of the school from the government, the business sector, the non-profit sector, the families of students, and other collaborating educational organizations.  With their support, BNVS has been able to solve issues such as the school’s funding and usage of educational facilities;

2. BNVS puts emphasis on the development of the school’s operational procedure and has, in accordance to the school’s developmental needs, established comprehensive mechanisms for assessing teaching and management performance, ensuring the teaching quality of its faculty;

3. BNVS puts emphasis on the development of comprehensive skills for its students, aiming to improve the students’ capacity for long-term growth, creating favorable conditions for continuous future development;

4. BNVS puts emphasis on the issue of ensuring that vocational education meets the demands of the job market.  Students learn skills that are contemporarily most needed in the job market, ensuring employment immediately after graduation.


Due to challenges such as financial difficulties, their parents’ little educational background, and below-average educational resources available at certain locales, children of underprivileged families often cannot receive a good education and thus are unable to improve their families’ financial circumstances through the improvement of their own knowledge and skills.  This in turn becomes a vicious cycle, resulting in poverty being passed down across generations.  Further, due to the lack of adequate knowledge and capacity for personal development, some targets of poverty alleviation return to poverty after once being alleviated of it.  The sustainable alleviation of poverty requires the improvement of the targets’ capacity of personal development.  Therefore, the current focus of society is on how to improve the knowledge base of underprivileged members of society, help them obtain knowledge-based vocational skills, and thereby increase their income levels.  In 2005, with the support of many philanthropists, Ms. Yao Li, a social entrepreneur, founded BN Vocational School, the first free-of-charge charitable vocational school in China.  The school provides certified vocational education, completely free of charge, to children of underprivileged families.  The education combines the life skills students need for long-term development as well as the vocational skills needed for immediate employment.  BNVS has helped a large number of young adults solve issues regarding education and employment, thus helping them escape from poverty.


To ensure that more children of underprivileged families can receive a vocational education that is free-of-charge and suitable for long-term individual development, BNVS took a series of measures to improve the skill levels of its students and to lay a good foundation for their future self-development.  These measures include: 1. Establishment of the school with the help and collaboration of people from many sectors of society; 2. Establishment of clear rules and procedures that inform the daily operation of the school; 3. Establishment of well-qualified teaching and management teams from industry, education sector, and the community; 4. Strict control of the target demographic of admissions recruitment, ensuring that all admitted students come from underprivileged families; 5. Improvement of students’ learning abilities through the implementation of “individual learning plans;” 6. Close collaboration with the business sector to ensure immediate employment after graduation.  The following paragraphs address these measures in detail:

1. The establishment of the school with the help and collaboration of people from many sectors of society.  In 2005, the school started to work on its establishment after assembling a team covering tasks such as human resources, operations, education management, student affairs, financial management, and logistics.  The school first registered as a “private non-corporate organization” at the Beijing Dongcheng Civil Affairs Bureau and obtained a license to open a vocational education school from the Education Commission.  The school solved the issues of funding and use of educational facilities through collecting charitable donations and utilizing various social resources.  At the same time, the school employed a small number of full-time staff responsible for administrative tasks in the daily operations of the school.

2. The establishment of clear rules and procedures that inform the daily operation of the school.  BNVS employs corporate-style management methods.  The School Board is the highest decision-making body of the school.  It exercises its powers and takes responsibility in accordance with the by-laws of the BNVS School Board.  Members of the Board do not receive any compensation.  At the same time, to ensure the organization’s proper operations, the school’s corporate-style management methods also entail: 1. Establishment of quality management systems and operations manuals in accordance with ISO9000 standards; 2. Development of “BN Tree” on-line information system, covering all school operations using a comprehensive database and applying the Blockchain philosophy on education management; 3. Ensuring transparency of the school’s financial operations through the usage of a strict budget allocation system and hiring of accounting firms to perform annual (calendar year and academic year) audits, so that the school can ensure that its financial management conforms with international accounting standards as well as relevant Chinese policies and laws.

3. Recruitment of qualified teachers from multiple channels and the establishment of full-fledged teaching and management teams through close collaboration with the business sector. BNVS invites expert-level instructors from numerous higher-education institutions as well as numerous experts in their respective professions.  The school has established a dual-curriculum system addressing life skills and professional skills respectively.  To ensure the continuous improvement of the quality of education, the school is also continuously developing the teaching team through training and support.

4. Strict control of the target demographic of admissions recruitment, ensuring that all admitted students come from underprivileged families.  To make sure that the free education provided by BNVS is put to good use, the school mainly targets its recruiting at students who face financial difficulties.  The primary condition for enrollment is that the student’s family is facing financial difficulties.  To ensure that students supported by BNVS satisfy that condition, BNVS fully utilizes assistance from local governmental organizations and non-profit organizations, referrals, and other methods to recruit students from families facing financial difficulties.

5. Achieving the purpose of improving students’ overall skills and capabilities to ensure the long-lasting effects of the school’s education and the prevention of return to poverty.  The school insists that education’s goal is the nurturing of the whole person, including one’s moral integrity.  The school has designed a curriculum that consists both of life skill classes that help students adapt to urban society and the professional environment as well as vocational skill classes that develop skills suitable for professional employment.  The curriculum takes three years. The first two years take place on campus while the third is a year of internship at an appropriate business.  The school designs “individual learning plans” for each student to accommodate actual challenges he faces.  This also ensures that students pick classes that suit their own educational backgrounds, study habits, interests, and goals.

6. Close collaboration with the business sector to ensure immediate employment after graduation.  The natural next step after vocational education is employment.  The core of the BNVS poverty alleviation model is immediate employment after graduation.  For that end, the school collaborates with over 200 businesses to design its curriculum and establish internship programs.  BNVS graduates are in high demand precisely because BNVS curriculum caters to the needs of the labor market and students’ internships are effectively monitored.

Real-life Examples

Wang Lin, from Sanhe City, Hebei Province, is a graduate of BNVS’s inaugural class.  His family’s financial difficulties were such that he gave up an opportunity to attend a top high school and chose instead to quit school and begin working so that he could support his mother’s medical treatment as well as his older brother’s education.  After learning about his situation, BNVS admitted him to free-of-charge vocational education with the school. While at BNVS, Wang Lin fully utilized the school’s education. He took initiative in his studies and worked hard, and he was hired by a property management company immediately following his graduation. His superb performance at work led him to be promoted as a manager of the property management company.  He not only helped his family repay all debts, but he also did not forget the education he received at BNVS and always remembered his duty to give back to society.  In 2017, Wang Lin was named a “Beijing Youth Technical Expert” for his excellent work performance and received a ¥5,000 (around $730 USD) award from the government, and he donated all of the award proceeds to BNVS.  Over the past years, Wang Lin donated in total almost ¥20,000 (around $2930 USD) to the school in support of the school’s charitable education.

Jizi Qubu is a young man of Yi ethnicity from Daliang Mountain, Sichuan Province and graduated from BNVS’ Sanya branch.  He was never able to afford wearing socks due to his family’s financial difficulties before he came to BNVS.  Having heard about the school’s free vocational education, he came to its Sanya branch so that he could take charge of his own destiny and lead his family out of poverty.  Upon graduation from BNVS, he was recruited by a five-star hotel and gradually grew to become a core member of its staff.  BNVS not only changed his life but also his attitudes towards it.  Every year, he returns to his hometown to volunteer at the local orphanage and give back to society with his own efforts.

It is because of the positive changes BNVS makes in its students’ lives that founders and supporters of the school are ever more ardent in their belief in charitable vocational education.  They rightfully believe that it is an effective way to help underprivileged young adults achieve employment and professional development as well as receive the opportunity to live a meaningful and impactful life.  They also believe that it is the positive driving force behind the harmonious development of society.


BNVS’ charitable vocational education program has brought educational opportunities to children of underprivileged families, helping them develop their vocational skills.  From a macro perspective, the charitable vocational education program has made the following impacts on society:

1. Children from underprivileged families have achieved meaningful employment and have enjoyed improved living standards.  From 2005 to 2018, BNVS has admitted over 6,800 students from underprivileged families, 4,100 of whom have graduated and all graduates are employed.  Many graduates of the BNVS Beijing branch have grown to become core members of their respective corporations, and those who have been promoted to managerial roles.  30% of graduates are spending time receiving further education while working so that they could further improve their living standards.

2. Personal development and familial poverty alleviation are achieved simultaneously.  Students begin receiving a stable income during their third year at BNVS when they start their internships.  Upon graduation, students receive a certified diploma, which is invaluable when pursuing a desired job or another educational opportunity.  The students’ everyday needs are provided for while they are at BNVS, reducing pressure on their families.  The students’ salaries upon achieving full employment after graduation are capable of improving their families’ financial conditions.  The students’ ability to have a stable career after graduation makes it possible for their families to escape poverty.

3. BNVS graduates actively give back to society with their own efforts by participating in philanthropic activities.  Up till now, BNVS graduates have donated over two million RMB (around $300,000 USD) to the school.

Lessons from experience

1. Gain the widespread support from the many sectors of society by building an open philanthropic platform.  In essence, BNVS is similar to an open philanthropic platform as it utilizes assistance from many sectors of society to provide free vocational education opportunities to children from underprivileged families.  Numerous corporations, individuals, and foundations have made tremendous contributions throughout the course of BNVS’ development.  Many organizations donated funds as well as professional equipment that the school needs, and numerous corporations supported the school in the form of project collaborations.

2. Guarantee the quality of teaching through the establishment of a teaching evaluation mechanism.  To safeguard the teaching quality provided to students from underprivileged families, BNVS has established multi-dimensional mechanisms to evaluate teaching quality as well as management performance.  The mechanisms evaluate the performance of faculty members who teach over 20 credit-hours as well as that of the full-time management team, thus providing the basis for continuous positive change for BNVS’ education.

3. Emphasize students’ capability of long-term growth by helping them develop a comprehensive set of skills.  BNVS has established a dual curriculum system addressing life skills and vocational skills respectively.  Alongside guaranteeing employment for its students, BNVS also focuses on students’ continuous growth in the future.  The school nurtures the students’ capabilities on this front by emphasizing on moral integrity and encouraging them to develop self-management skills through a variety of methods.



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