首页 专家简介 专家著作 专家论文 学术交流 学前教育课程资源 专家推荐 交流论坛 博客 联系我们
Early Childhood Education and Relative Policies in China
2015-05-29        点击:5541

Early Childhood Education and Relative Policies in China

Abstract

This paper reviews the development of early childhood education in China in the recent 3 decades and examines the advantages and disadvantages of the relative policies made by the government. This paper mainly focuses on one-child policy, the policies about early childhood curriculum reform and teacher education, and policies of early childhood education administration. Contemporary early childhood education is becoming more diverse in its forms, funding sources, and educational approaches, and is aligning itself with the increasingly open and diversified society. It is clear that early childhood education in China is strongly influenced by socio-cultural changes and conditions, and reflects the Chinese culture, the political system and influence of western cultures. Chinese early childhood educators and policy makers should re-think what has happened in the past years, especially the issues of cultural and regional appropriate, and continue to promote development in early childhood education. 

key words: Chinese early childhood education, relative policies, cultural and regional appropriate  

 

Early Childhood Education and Relative Policies in China 

Early childhood education in China plays an important role in Chinese society and in children’s development. Contemporary early childhood education is becoming more diverse in its forms, funding sources, and educational approaches, and is aligning itself with the increasingly open and diversified society. It is clear that early childhood education in China is strongly influenced by socio-cultural changes and conditions and reflects the Chinese culture. Chinese early childhood educators and policy makers should re-think what has happened in the past years and continue to promote development in early childhood education.

 

The current state of early childhood education and care in China

Early childhood education in China refers to education for children from birth to age of 6. There are mainly three types of early childhood education and care institutions in China. Nurseries are for children of 0~3 years old, kindergartens are for children of 3~6 years old, and the so-called “preschool classes” attached to primary schools are for 5~6 years old children. (Zhu, J., 2002a, p.79) Traditionally, the Ministration of Education is in charge of kindergartens and the Ministration of Hygiene is in charge of nurseries. Nowadays, kindergartens in some areas begin to enrol children of 2~3 years old, and also provide education and guidance service for 0~2 year old children and their families.

The Chinese government made policies by which early childhood education and care institutions might be run by multi-department, multi-unit and others -- in social sectors and with multi–funds. For example, The Regulations on Kindergarten Management and Rules on Kindergarten Routines were issues by the State Education Commission (the former Ministry of Education) in 1989, with approval of the State Council. Those two documents provide the legal basis for ensuring legal rights and interests of kindergartens, clarifying the responsibilities and obligations assumed by the governments, societies, and concerned departments, and also clarifying the administrative system with respect to responsibilities of local authorities and management at different levels. (Zhu, M. 2006, p.35~36) The multi-sectors includes Education Department, Health Department, Family Planning Department, Women’s Federation and so on, and form a cooperation system with responsibilities by individually concerned department.    

In China, early childhood education is concerned as a part of basic education. The state and local education resources are generally scarce at the local and state level. The government pays attention on the 9-year compulsory education (6 years primary education and 3-year middle school education) when allocating education budget. Early childhood education is non-compulsory education. Chinese government only invested 1.3~1.4% of whole national education budget on early childhood education in the recent seventeen years. In 2007, there were 129.1 thousand kindergartens with 951.9 thousand staff members including teachers and directors. 77,616 kindergartens were private. The national enrolment of children in kindergarten was 23.49 million ( Ministry of Education of China, 2008). The enrolled rate of children aged 3 to 5 years in kindergarten was 44.6%, 55.6% was in cities and townships, and 35.6% was in rural areas which account for about 70% of the total population.

Although great progress has been made in early childhood education in the past three decades, there are still many issues and problems facing educators and policy makers in China. There are many important policy and research issues, including, among others, the one-child policy and early childhood education, the introduction of integrated birth-to-age 6 education and care, early childhood education in rural or remote areas, cultural changes and their effects on early childhood education, early childhood curriculum reform , teacher professional development and so on.

 

The one-child policy and early childhood education

China began implementing one-child policy in 1979 with 6.1 million children getting singleton card. From 1970s to the end of last century, the number of newborn decreased 300-400 million since one-child policy has been implemented. Now there are about 90 million singletons.

The one-child policy has affected the world population, the economic development of China and so on in a greatly positive way. But it also might cause some problems. For example, many parents express their concerns that their only children are lonely and are missing out on valuable opportunities for social interaction (Tobin, Wu, & Davidson, 1989). These concerns were reflected in the “4-2-1 syndrome” – four dotting grandparents, two overindulgent parents, all investing their hopes and ambitions on “an emerging generation of spoiled, lazy, selfish, self-centered and overweight children” .

Now, the singletons from 1979 are all reaching the marriage and child-bearing age. It’s estimated that in next 10 years, the number of new families (which the singleton parents bring up singleton) will exceed 10 million. These parents play more and more important roles on social development of the next generation.

Actually there is no evidence indeed to demonstrate only children will get negative affirmation in their development till now. In fact, the early childhood educators, parents and others pay more attention on children’s early education and development, not only on children’s language, intelligence and health development but also on emotional and social development and education, including communication, friendship maintenance, emotional expressions, de-confliction, facing changes and new environment adaptation. In other words, only child policy has strengthened the emphasis on early education and the families’ involvement and investment in their only child.

Family Planning Department is one of the official administrations and on behalf of carrying out the one-child policy. Nowadays, this department partly transforms its work to early childhood care and education. That means the members of this department will go to the families and work with the parents about the care and education for the children from birth to 3 years.

 

Early childhood curriculum reform: from the 1980s to the present

In China, there have been three major eras of early childhood curriculum reform, in the 1920s-1930s, in the 1950s, and from the 1980s-to the present time. From the 1980s, China started to carry out the Reform and Open-up Policy, which greatly modified traditional education concepts and heavily effected on early childhood education. Many foreign theories, such as those of Dewey, Montessori, Bronfenbrenner, Bruner and especially Piaget and Vygotsky, began to spread widely in China, and the thoughts of recent modern Chinese educationists such as those of Xingzhi Tao, Heqing Chen and Xuemen Zhang were brought to the fore again. These ideas challenged the early childhood education rationale and practice that had existed for more than 30 years. The early childhood curriculum reform began with spontaneous experiments in different parts of the country, gradually expanding from a single subject to the whole curriculum, progressing from city to village, and actively propelling the early childhood curriculum reform on a large scale (Zhu, J. 2002a, p.83~84).

The most influential measure of this reform was the Rules on Kindergarten Routines, issued by the National Education Committee in 1989. This document reflected the original aim of the reform; that is, that early childhood education should face the world, face the future and face modernization. Through administrative policies, the reform content was implemented to each level of administrative organizations and each kindergarten. According to this document, the spirit of the reform is mainly reflected in the following aspects:

1. It emphasizes child initiated activity.

2. It emphasizes individual differences.

3. It emphasizes the importance of play.

4. It emphasizes an integrated curriculum.

5. It emphasizes the process of activities.

This document was immediately and widely disseminated throughout the country, and reform was implemented at all levels of administration and in all kindergartens. According to this document, early childhood curriculum should shift from an emphasis on teaching knowledge and skills to an emphasis on the development of children and the acquisition of abilities, from an emphasis on the result of educational activity to an emphasis on the process of activity, from an emphasis on the uniform curriculum standards to an emphasis on diversified and autonomous curriculum development and implementation.

This document adopted theories and practices from different cultures and presented progressive ideas and practices to early childhood educators in China. However, it has been difficult for practitioners to fully embrace this progressive ideology so long as powerful and deep-rooted cultural traditions run counter to modern scientific and democratic ideas (Wang, J. & Mao, S. 1996). There was a big gap between the rationale advocated by this document and educational practice. For example, the traditional values of obeying authorities and upholding unity are contrary to the goal of establishing a unique and democratic relationship between a teacher and each individual child. In addition, the lack of practical guidelines left many teachers not knowing how to implement the regulations. To solve these issues, the Ministry of Education (2001) issued the Guidance for Kindergarten Education (trial version). The Guidance takes into consideration the gap between progressive ideas and reality and offers compromise solutions by stating specific requirements and content in different domains.   

The reform movement is still ongoing. Curriculum approaches are becoming more diverse and aligned with the increasingly open and diversified society. Different curricula such as the Project Approach, Reggio Emilia and Montessori have been widely adopted and localized (Li, H. & Li, P., 2003). As a result, many new curricula have been developed. For example, the Integrated Theme-based Curriculum which is advocated by local government in Shanghai represents a localized progressive early childhood education approach (Zhu, J. 2002b). Many kindergartens were required to develop their own school based curricula by the local administration department no matter they could do it or not.

The reform movement has been criticized by some scholars and educators. The critiques mainly focus on culturally appropriate of curriculum development.    

 

Culturally Appropriate of Curriculum Development

This brief history of early childhood education in China reveals three distinct cultural threads -- traditional culture, communist culture, and Western culture, which have combined to profoundly shape Chinese people’s lives and also different aspects of Chinese early childhood education (Wang & Spodek, 2000). Thus, the contemporary early childhood curriculum in China can be seen as reflecting a hybrid of these three cultural threads (Zhu & Wang, 2005, p.59~60). The curriculum development and reform have to concern all of these three cultural threads and make them balance.

Traditional Chinese culture has greatly influenced Asian countries from ancient times. Chinese people are more group-oriented, or social unit-oriented as opposed to individual-oriented, and more extrinsically motivated as opposed to intrinsically motivated (Tobin, 1989; Liu, 2003). Chinese people also tend to value drilling, memorizing and discipline rather than creativity, understanding and freedom (Cheng, 1996; Chan,1996). Confucianism has greatly influenced Chinese educational ideas. In the context of globalization, it may be good for Chinese people to modify their traditional culture, but not to change their own culture totally. Actually it is impossible to change their own culture totally. As Tobin, Yeh and Karasawa ( 2006, p. 185) argued, preschools are institutions that both reflect and support the cultures of which they are a part. In this sense, preschools are inherently conservative institutions, institutions mandated to produce the kind of child the culture most values.

Mascolo, M.L. (2008) did his comparison work about Chinese culture and American culture, and pointed out the differences of the school programs between these two cultures.

 

Cultural Foundations of School Program in United States and China

 

American Individualism

Chinese Confucianism

Culture

Individual Freedom, Equality and Choice

                              

·    Morality: Individual Rights and Responsibilities

·    Moral Domain Separate from Social Convention

·    Equality: Individuals are Equal; Equal Opportunity

·    Personal Freedom: Free to Choose Own Course of Life

·  American Dream: Individuals Make their Own Destinies

Social Honor and Harmony within Moral Hierarchy

 

·  Honor:  Familial Honor; Awareness of Evaluations of Others

·  Harmony: Modesty, Respect; Acknowledge Others

·  Moral Hierarchy:  Filial Piety; Obedience and Care; Shame

·  Self-Cultivation: Learning and Self-Perfection for Family Honor as Moral Value

 

School

Child-Centered Education

 

·  Student Focused:  Teacher Adjusts to Student Abilities

·  Localized Control: Courses, Textbooks, Exams

·  Value on Education: Lower  Expectations; Mixed Parent Involvement

·  Duration: Shorter/Fewer Days; Extracurricular Activities seen as Important; Less Homework

·  Self-as-Learner:  Intelligence and Ability as Fixed

·  Process Focus:  Teaching Process; Learning Styles

·  Many Behavior Problems/Lower Achievement Anxiety

Traditional Teacher-Centered Education

 

·     Teacher Focused: Teacher Sets Rigorous Academic Agenda

·     Nationalized Standards: Courses, Textbooks, Exams

·     Value on Education: High Standards;  Extreme Parent Involvement

·     Duration: Longer Days; More School Days; Extra Tutorials; More Homework; Fewer Extracurricular Activities

·     Self-as-Learner: Intelligence as Malleable; Growth Mindset

·     Content Focus:  Deep Content and Rote Knowledge

·   Few Behavior Problems/High Achievement Anxiety

 

From Mascolo, M. F.. Pathways in the cultivation of the learning motivation in young children: culture and the emotional foundations of learning. Presentation at “The Second Cito Conference on Early Childhood Education: Education of the Youngest, a Blessing or a Curse?” on March 7, 2008, the Netherlands.

 

The influence of this hybrid on early childhood education has been selective, dynamic, and changing. First, each of the three cultural threads has shaped different aspects of early childhood education. While the influence of the communist culture is evident in practical aspects of kindergarten education, such as organization, administration, and curricular goals and content, traditional culture has had a profound influence on the ideological and philosophical bases of kindergarten, including views of the young child, views of learning and development, and views of appropriate teacher-child relationships.

Sometimes one cultural thread counteracted another. For example, individuality is one of the main goals of the new EC curriculum. It emphasizes individual differences, individual needs, individual choices, individual expression and etc. But this might pose a threat to the communist social order. McClelland (McClelland, 1961) has pointed out that the achievement-oriented ego style that is a prerequisite of economic development tends to encourage selfishness and thus to pose a threat to social cohesion if it is not corrected by an emphasis on “other directedness” and “collectivist” in the education system.

The pattern of influence has changed over time. In the post-Mao era (1976- ), European-American culture has emerged as an important cultural source and has exerted an increasingly powerful influence. The progressive ideology regarding children, educational values, and the curriculum has been a strong force in early childhood education reform in recent years. Meanwhile, the communist culture’s control and the influence of traditional culture on early childhood education have been waning ideologically and philosophically (Li, 2007). But there have been no major practical changes, especially in most developing areas. 

In recent years, many curriculum and pedagogical models have been introduced to China. These include the Montessori curriculum, the Project Approach, High/Scope, Reggio Emilia, DAP (Developmental Appropriate Practice) and the Whole Language Approach. Many kindergarten directors and teachers have tried to imitate or adapt these models, but some of them have failed (Li & Li, 2003).

Following recent research in China, Tobin (2007, p.142) concluded that the government was using the reform of early childhood education as a tool for producing a labour force able to compete more effectively in the global economy:

“Many American early childhood educators would no doubt welcome the spread of constructivism, learning centres, self-expression, and the project approach in Chinese preschools. But as an educational anthropologist I worry about how these approaches will be integrated with Chinese cultural values and be made responsive to the concerns and conditions of local Chinese communities. Many countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia that are much poorer than Turkey and China have much less ability to stand up to pressure to introduce a Western approach to early childhood education.  Help from North Americans in developing their systems of early childhood education is welcomed by many poor countries, but it is important that they do so on their own terms, in ways that respect their local cultures.”

Actually there is no high quality curriculum that can be effectively adopted in all different cultures. It is important for us to look into and think about the culturally embedded nature of these successful curricula and identify these cultural factors in the process of appropriating and localizing any borrowed curriculum. Just as Tobin (2007, p. 143) said, Cultural traditions of childcare and education should be respected and valued (which isn’t to say that they should not also be critiqued and changed) and differences across nations and cultures in approaches to early childhood education should be respected and not treated as deficits. To do otherwise is to engage in colonialism, ethnocentrism, and intellectual provincialism.

责任编辑: admin
收藏本页 Email给朋友 打印本文
站内搜索
Copyright © 2004 -2015 朱家雄学前教育研究网 技术支持: Ezness.net 当前在线:19,共有位访问者