A disabled Chinese teenager has recently become the first student to finish all junior high school courses by using the Internet.
Meanwhile, he has been given the option of pursuing further study at a key senior high school in Beijing.
Wang Huansheng is 1.7 meters tall and weighs over 70 kilograms, but he can't walk because of his illness. Neither can he go to school like other kids. Yet the 17-year-old succeeded in getting his junior high school diploma with the help of the Internet.
The success of Wang is typical of the fast development of the Internet in China, where the construction of a nationwide information highway started in 1995.
Only six years have passed and China's number of Internet surfers had soared from zero to over 26 million by the end of June this year, according to the China Internet Network Information Center. Among them was Wang Huansheng, the protagonist of our story.
Suffering from unusual fibrous hyperplasia of the bones, Wang lost the ability to walk when he was seven. His disability made his school life totally different from other students.
After being found to have such a disease, Wang underwent eight major operations in the seven years that followed. Even some parts of everyday life such as eating and going to the toilet would have been very hard for him without the help of his family.
However, the idea to receive education like other kids never faded from his mind. He spent half of his primary school life in bed teaching himself. His hard work resulted in a ranking among the top five in the class he had never sat in since his illness.
When he entered middle school, the number of subjects increased and became harder and harder for him. He could hardly keep up.
Many people advised his family to hire a teacher for him. But it was too expensive for his parents with a monthly income of less than 1,000 yuan. Leaving school seemed the best choice for the adolescent.
But there was always a way out.
Li Rong, Wang's mother, happened to see an introduction about on-line schools in a newspaper one day. She jumped with excitement: "Our child has hope! Our child has hope!"
The savior was the Internet, which had been introduced in China only a few years earlier.
Supported by his relatives and friends, Wang Huansheng bought his first computer and began his new middle school study on line.
Huiwen Network School, a known Beijing on-line school for primary and middle school students, also offered Wang free study in the school.
Ding Jing, principal of Huiwen, often visits Wang and brings him the learning software and materials.
"The teachers (of Huiwen) designed the specialized curricula for Wang because he has to rely fully on the Internet to finish his normal study while other students use it only to assist them," Ding said.
Wang Huansheng spent a limited number of days at his ordinary school, compared with the long hours he has spent on line. He downloaded his tutorial learning materials following the pace of the network school and answered the questions raised by the teachers on line.
In this way Wang has learned how to design his home-page and use the Internet applications, while getting good scores for his middle school courses.
Nevertheless network schools in China are still not accepted as institutions for diploma education, which means the students can't get their diplomas directly from those schools. But Wang's ability was recognized when he easily passed regular school exams.
"It is no problem for him to study the courses for undergraduates or even postgraduates," Ding said, "We are applying for diploma education to meet the needs of students like Wang."
Ding's remarks reflect the fact that surfing the Internet is becoming more and more popular among the general public in China. It is no longer a game played among a few well-educated people like in the first days of the Web in the country.
"My dream is to study in the computer department of a well- known university and find a programming job at home," Wang said, with confidence about his future.
(Xinhua News Agency 08/18/2001)