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2005年12月东京第2届东亚幼儿教育论坛
2006-09-02        点击:2837

Transition from Kindergarten to Primary School

 

Jiaoxiong Zhu

East China Normal University Shanghai,200062 P.R. of China

 

     

A research in mainland China, 1990’s

1990-1994, UNICEF and the Ministry of Education (at that time the name was “Educational Committee”) had done a cooperative research on “transition from kindergarten to primary school”. This research had investigated 2189 children in 88 educational institutions from 8 provinces; and done experiments in 16 primary schools and kindergartens. This research had gone through 5 years. At that time, there were 21-25million children went to primary schools and about 60% children had more than one year’s experiences in kindergartens. 

The goal of this research is to “discover the universal rules and problems of transition from kindergarten to primary school in rural and urban areas, mainland China; put forward effective and instructive suggestions on the basis of educational experiments; offer possible data, facts and solutions for administration departments to make decisions; bring forward theoretical argumentation and advices in detail, to improve educational institutions on this issue, renew parents’ image of children and make their educational methods more concrete.”       

At that time, in mainland China, the diversity of early childhood educational institutions, and the different chances of getting into kindergartens (or preschools), made children have very different experiences respectively before they went to primary school. Meanwhile, in mainland, early childhood education and primary education are two totally different periods. The learning style and daily life regulations have big differences. In early childhood educational institutions, play is the main educational style; while in primary schools, formal academic learning is the leaning educational style, and is supported by strict learning and living regulations. These differences result in the slope of the transition between kindergartens and primary schools. Obviously, the steeper the slope is, the more problems the children will have in adaptability (like fish out of water).        

This research investigated 1127 K3 (kindergarten, grade 3) children of 44 kindergartens, and 1127gradeI students of 4 primary schools, including their: family situations, health conditions, reading and writing abilities, social adaptability. Field observation was also done. It discovered that the problem of learning adaptability is due to abilities, not due to knowledge and skills.     

This research also discover that testing results on reading & writing, mathematics, social adaptability, these 3 factors are significantly positive relevant. This demonstrated that children have adaptability problems will influence their learning adaptabilities to some extent. So, in order to solve problems on the transition of kindergarten and primary schools, we should not only improve children’s leaning adaptabilities, but also try to improve children’s social adaptabilities. 

Among the factors which influence children’s learning adaptabilities and social abilities, the result of this research particularly emphasis on the factor of children’s active character. That is, whether the child is active, positive and enthusiastic, is significantly related to children’s school readiness and adaptabilities. So, great importance is attached to developing children’s active character.  

The experiments in this research focused on the above investigation results, ascertained the two tasks for kindergartens and primary schools: kindergartens prepare for school readiness, stress on learning adaptability and social adaptability; primary schools work for children’s adaptation after they enter into primary school, make the jumping-off point lower to the level of intercross period of children and students, let children adapt primary school lives successfully.

Both the process and result of the experiments revealed that the role of teachers is to abide by children’s development laws, rely on children’s active character for their learning, under teachers’ education and administration. Teachers should not only pursue higher academic achievement, but also should pay attention to children’s social development, and should particularly emphasis on training abilities when instruct knowledge. Regarding concrete methods, during the transition period, teachers should change the way of unitary instruction, introduce play into class, adopt multiple learning styles, such as: after school activity etc.; let children both use hand and brain in activities, make balance between movement and quiet activities; stress the important function of family education during this transition period, etc.     

Influences of the 1990’s research on current Mainland reform of kindergarten and primary school transition

Because this research is a cooperative project between UNICEF and the Ministry of Education, it definitely will influence the educational theory and practice, especially the kindergarten (preschool) and primary school curriculum reform, through the ways of educational policy making and application etc. From mid 1990’s, a series of laws, guidelines and policies made by the Ministry of Education has directed the kindergarten and primary school curriculum reform. Many aspects are conformed to the results of this research. The details are as follows: 

I. Regarding educational notion, it require teachers pay much attention to children’s development and children’s active activities 

From last century’s opening and reforming in Mainland China, the educational reform in primary school, junior school and kindergarten all began to stress the idea of “human-oriented”. The idea of “children’s development oriented” is advocated by educational department. The government also tries to make this idea become a part of teachers’ thoughts and behaviors through teachers’ education and practice.    

For example, in 1996, the Ministry of Education enacted “kindergarten work regulations”. It clearly states that the education of kindergarten should “conform to children’s physical and psychological development rules, conform to children’s characteristic of their age, pay attention to individual differences, treat every child respectively, guide children, let their personalities develop healthily.” Kindergartens should “make play a basic activity, make education immerged in various activities”. “The educational activities in kindergarten should have aim and well-planned educational process, guide children do activities lively, vividly and actively.” etc. After 10 years’ advocacy and education, in kindergarten grade 3 or preschools, the government’s guidance and dominant public opinions is all object to make early childhood education become primary school education, claim that children explore and learn actively and independently.           

II. Reformed early childhood curriculum and primary curriculum

In the past early childhood curriculum is universally regulated by the country. After reform, it is determined by kindergarten itself. The content of curriculum is changed from previous “language”, “physical education”, music”, “art”, “general knowledge” and “numeration”, which are set by country; to 5 relatively divided areas “language”, “science”, “society”, “art”, “health”, which are encouraged to fuse and immerge with one another.     

Students in the beginning years of primary school have one more course “morality and life”. It attaches importance to students’ own life experiences. Then, it can connect with early childhood curriculum.

III. Emphasis on the value of social adaptability, such as:   children’s play, emotion and attitude 

Children’s play is stressed not only in the education of kindergartens and preschools, but also added in the course of “morality and life” in primary schools. Teachers are required to use the methods same as kindergartens (that is integrated educational methods centered by play and activities) to teach primary school beginners.

Teaching in class, teachers are required to pay great attention to children’s attitude, social and emotional development. It is believed that this will benefit children’s transition from kindergarten to primary school, and benefit a person’s life long development. 

Re-thinking on “transition from kindergarten to primary school”

The achievement of the 1990s’ research on “transition from kindergarten to primary school” played an important role of propelling the kindergarten and school educational reform at that time. It not only criticized the universal phenomenon at that time that schools only pursued academic achievement and ignored children’s ability, social and emotional development; but also directed educational practice on how to solve the problems of kindergarten and primary school transition.   

From today’s point of view, it will be different when we reflecting the transition of kindergarten and primary school, comparing with 10 years ago, because changes have taken place in Mainland China, the social, economic and cultural situation have all changed. Issues which are focused by society and need to be solved are different.   

10 years ago, Mainland China just began to adopt opening and reforming policy, was eager to develop economy. At that time, people had strong reform consciousness and requirement on planned-economy and its influences of various fields. In the field of education, a lot of western theories and practices were introduced into our country. Educators were strongly not satisfied with the educational situations at that time. They had intense reform requirement and zealousness. 

In recent 20 years, immerged in the upsurge of economic reform, what the government of Mainland China focus is efficiency, is how to change the lag behind situation, even at the price of paying less attention to the stableness of social structure and the balance of social relationships. “Let some people get rich first” is a policy conformed to this idea. Likewise, in educational reform, similar phenomenon is definitely aroused. For example, Government attaches great importance to “excellent kindergartens and schools (model schools)”, let them be models of reform. When we look at the research of “transition from kindergarten to school” 10 years ago and its influence from this perspective, we will find that what the project want to solve is “how can do better”, and use model schools to lead all the other kindergartens and schools to do the same.      

Now, as the economy in Mainland China develops to some extent, by and by, some social problems become the main problems that government worries, such as the huge gap between rich people and poor people, wealth unfairness. Up to now, in Mainland China, 2/3 children still have no chance to enter into early childhood education institutions for more than 1 year’s education. It is said that complete popularization of compulsory education can be realized until 2015. Now, Mainland China focuses on “establish a harmony society”. Then, education issue becomes one of the issues that need to be solved first. Letting every citizen obtain fair educational rights is an important index of a harmony society.       

From my point of view, 10 years ago, when we are not able to let all the people have the same educational rights, maybe it is reasonable to think “how to let some people get excellent education first”, to let some people develop better first. Now, when we need consider “develop in balance”, need urgently to change the educational unfairness situations, in such circumstances, when we think educational issues, including the issue of transition from kindergarten to primary school, what we need to solve is no longer “how to do better”, but “why we do?” “what we should do?” 

In my point of view, for those children, who never having chance or having less chance to enter into early childhood educational institutions, what they lack is not play; what they need to improve is not learning adaptabilities and social adaptabilities. For those educational institutions, in which the qualifications of the teachers are not good, teacher children ratio is very low, and they are short of educational resources, the exploring activities close to children’s living experiences are not good solutions to solve transition problems, either.

To solve problems of transition from kindergarten to primary school, there is no one good mode.  Far from it.

          

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