Early Childhood Education and Relative Policies in
This paper reviews the development of early childhood education in
key words: Chinese early childhood education, relative policies, cultural and regional appropriate
Early Childhood Education and Relative Policies in
Early childhood education in
The current state of early childhood education and care in China
Early childhood education in
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.
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
The one-child policy and early childhood education
The one-child policy has affected the world population, the economic development of
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
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
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
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
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
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
· 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
Following recent research in
“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.