China's Highly Competitive Environment Saps All

Discussion in 'China' started by Ray, Nov 28, 2013.

  1. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Preschool pressure excessive

    In Shanghai, competition starts as early as preschool. To level the educational playing field, the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission has urged all primary schools in the city to "teach from zero," an initiative started last year as a trial which is in full swing this year.

    A little background might be necessary for those who aren't familiar with Shanghai's preschool education scene. According to reports, so many preschoolers attend private training classes teaching primary school-level content that many primary schools are skipping the groundwork and teaching directly from where the majority of students left off in kindergarten.

    The prevalence of primary school-level courses aimed at Shanghai's four- and five-year-olds was highlighted in a survey conducted by the education commission earlier this year. It selected six kindergartens in six districts and polled the parents and teachers on the percentage of kids who took at least one after-school class. The result was a staggering 88 percent. On top of that, over 32 percent of children took classes on three to five different subjects. The most popular subjects of study are pinyin and English, both of which are taught in primary school, followed by painting, musical instruments, dancing, brain training, sports, calligraphy and recognizing Chinese characters.

    The result is that many primary schools now skip or speed up lessons on basics like pinyin and the alphabet in their curriculum. A parent recently told me that in her child's grade-one class, the teacher asked the students whether they had learned pinyin before. When over 80 percent of the kids raised their hands, she announced that the classes on pinyin would be skipped. Those who hadn't learned pinyin before were urged to catch up with their peers by taking extracurricular courses.

    This is a dangerous trend. Firstly, kindergarteners are unnecessarily burdened with academic pressures at an age that should be carefree. This isn't like high school students preparing for college calculus. Many education experts have pointed out that the priority for preschool children is to learn about the world by interacting with it, guided by their natural curiosity, and not to acquire as many skills and facts as possible.

    Secondly, these kindergarten kids all took their pinyin or English classes in training centers, rather than proper schools. This means their first experiences with formal education, their learning habits and their notion of a classroom are formed not in a school but in a training center. When they attend a primary school class, they bring their different learning habits there, which is challenging to their teacher and detrimental to their future study.

    The education commission's new initiative aims to tackle these problems. But will it work? As early as 2004, in an attempt to lesson the burden of primary school students, the commission specified in an annual document on the planning of primary and middle school curriculums that primary schools should not organize midterm exams. However, this was never strictly followed by the schools, which, just like the students, are burdened by parental expectations of their children's performance and by middle school enrolment rates.

    Another question is whether this initiative will have a practical impact on reducing preschool training. Will parents refrain from sending their children to these preschool courses once they know everything will be taught again in primary school? It seems unlikely. On the contrary, if they find that school education does not meet their expectations, they might send their children to more training centers, where young kids are crammed with exam papers and classes.

    Intensive preschool education is an inevitable trend with roots in China's inveterate exam-oriented education system that puts too much emphasis on grades. To reverse the trend would require a systematic change of Chinese education, and it's far more complicated than a simple government initiative.

    Preschool pressure excessive - People's Daily Online
     
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  3. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Preschools struggling to recruit male teachers

    When Zhu Jun graduated from East China Normal University in Shanghai in 2003, he dared not tell anyone he had found a job as a kindergarten teacher.

    "People thought a kindergarten teacher was a nanny and they would not accept a university graduate becoming a nanny," he said.

    It is now 10 years since Zhu, Shanghai's first male graduate of preschool education studies, started in the profession. In that time he has become the city's first professionally qualified male kindergarten principal.

    Male kindergarten teachers are now more recognized by Chinese society, but kindergartens still find difficulty in recruiting enough male teachers.

    In the Dongfang Kindergarten in Shanghai's Pudong New Area, where Zhu now works as a deputy principal, there are eight males among the total 127 teachers. The rate is the highest in Shanghai and ranks top in the whole country, Zhu said.

    A report from China Education Daily earlier this year quoted figures from the Education Statistics Yearbook of China illustrating the lack of male teachers in Chinese kindergartens. The 21st Century Kindergarten, which has 18 branches in Beijing, has only 16 male teachers among a workforce of 1,108, according to the report. There are approximately 1 million staff employed by kindergartens across China, of which the male employees number around 60,000, while those males working as teachers total around 10,000. This means only 1 percent of kindergarten teachers in China are men. In Japan, the figure is about 7 percent, while in the US it is 10 percent, the report said.

    Ni Jieji is one of the two male teachers in the Haoertong Kindergarten in Shanghai. He insisted that male teachers have unique roles in educating young children.

    "Male teachers' voices, body language, gestures and, most of all, the way of thinking, are all different from those of the female teachers. For instance, when we play games, I am more creative and pay more attention to whether the children are happy, while female teachers are more concerned about safety or whether the games suit all the children," said the 23-year-old, who is popular among children and their parents.

    Cai Jian, a mother in Shanghai's Hongkou district, wishes her 5-year-old son could be taught by a male teacher, but in her son's kindergarten, all the teachers are female.

    "Female teachers are very careful indeed. However, they tend to take care with everything and the children lose the chance to test themselves," she said.

    Despite parents' wishes, few males are willing to join the profession. In 2003, when Zhu graduated, he was the only male graduate in the preschool education department. When Ni graduated with the same major in 2011, there were two men among the 200 graduates.

    At Shanghai Normal University, only 2 percent of those studying preschool education are men, said Li Yan, a professor in the department.

    When these male teachers arrive in their jobs, many feel lonely in the female-dominated kindergartens, while some abandon the career because of the comparatively low salary.

    Education authorities and kindergartens have taken measures to attract more men to the profession and to keep them in their jobs.

    The Guangxi College for Preschool Education in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, greeted the first batch of 100 male freshmen this September. These students enjoy free tuition and accommodation and will serve for at least six years in kindergartens of Guangxi when they graduate two years later.

    Education authorities in east China's Jiangsu province have initiated similar male-focused recruitment projects since 2011. The recruitment quota for this year is 600, and students must work for at least five years in kindergartens in the province after graduating.

    Professor Li Yan suggested that education authorities should bring the male kindergarten teachers together for regular social and professional gatherings to give them a sense of belonging.

    "These male teachers will make good fathers too. I believe their value will be increasingly recognized and their career prospects look promising," she said.

    Preschool pressure excessive - People's Daily Online
     
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    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    'Male aunties' train for jobs at preschools

    Education authorities in southern China are training male preschool teachers in an effort to provide suitable male role models in kindergartens, traditionally dominated by female teachers.

    Yang Linyun is among 100 men who are being trained as a preschool teacher in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. They will be eligible for a government subsidy.

    Before going to work in Guangxi’s kindergartens in two years time, Yang and the other men stood in huge contrast to a number of young women on enrolment day earlier this month at Guangxi College for Preschool Education in Nanning, capital of Guangxi.

    Yang applied for the course because he said he thinks he has strong communication skills, is great with kids, and most of all, it will not cost him anything as all his expenses are covered by the Guangxi government.

    “In kindergartens, female teachers make up the majority, which means there is a better chance for me to find a good job after graduation,” said Yang, who is from Leye County in Guangxi.

    The men said they do not care whether others look down upon them for choosing to be “male aunties” in what is mostly a female dominated profession in China.

    The program was announced by Guangxi’s education department in June.

    The men will get two years of free training, then have to work in Guangxi’s preschools for at least six years.

    The program has attracted many students from poor, rural areas. Once recruited by the college, the male students are exempt from tuitions and accommodation costs. In addition, they are eligible for subsidies, scholarships and grants.

    Only one in every 300 kindergarten teachers is a man in Guangxi. Education authorities hope the program — the first of its kind in the region — will alleviate a lack of preschool teachers in general, and male teachers in particular.

    Parents and education experts alike are concerned that the preponderance of female teachers in kindergartens is not good for the development of children.

    Kindergartens may well have a strong demand for male preschool teachers, but there is an acute shortage of them across the country.

    Zhang Wenjun, dean of the education department, said the Guangxi College for Preschool Education has already compiled a training schedule for the male students. He said they will have no trouble finding a decent job after graduation.

    'Male aunties' train for jobs at preschools - People's Daily Online
     
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    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Preschoolers feel the pressure

    Nearly 90 percent of preschoolers attended extra classes to learn pinyin, English and mathematics to prepare themselves for primary schools, despite repeated please from experts that it was unnecessary.

    The report, led by Shanghai Education Commission, surveyed 1,323 parents and 939 kindergarten teachers in six districts, looking into children's preparation for entering primary school.

    The report showed that 88 percent of preschoolers had attended extra classes out of kindergarten and 32 percent attended more than three classes. In an extreme case, a child attended 10 different classes because his parent did not want him to lag behind others when he entered primary school.

    Learning pinyin, a phonetic system used to read Chinese characters, topped the list with 22.75 percent of children taking lessons in it.

    Preschoolers feel the pressure - People's Daily Online
     
  6. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Boys will be boys

    As concern mounts over a crisis of confidence among male pupils, one kindergarten is working to help them discover their masculine side. Wu Ni in Shanghai reports.

    Ni Jieji, a 23-year-old kindergarten teacher, has seen many children screaming and wailing when they first enter school, but the unusual timidity of Xiaolei still surprised him. Ni found the 5-year-old boy seldom talked with his classmates. In class, he seemed afraid to speak. "He didn't even dare to ask to leave when he wanted to go to the toilet," Ni recalls.

    Xiaolei might be an extreme case. However, Xu Hui, the principal of Haoertong Kindergarten in Shanghai's Pudong New Area, noticed that on the first day of a new school year most of the children crying are boys. Moreover, boys are slower to get integrated into the "small society" of kindergarten than girls.

    The so-called "boy crisis" — the claim that boys are becoming physically weaker and emotionally more vulnerable than girls — is starting to worry Chinese teachers and parents.

    To boost the masculinity of boys, the Haoertong Kindergarten has developed a gender education program, becoming the first and only kindergarten in the city to apply gender education to children as young as 5.

    "We would like to introduce some of the best traits in men valued by Chinese tradition, such as bravery, the courage to overcome difficulties and the sense of responsibility," Xu said.

    "For girls, we hope to cultivate their gentleness, carefulness and grace," she added.

    An embodiment of the gender education program is two specially designed classrooms for boys and girls, namely the boys' club and the girls' club.

    Twice a week, boys play in their club, which is equipped with mini-versions of sport facilities associated mainly with boys, such as baseball, golf, archery and car races. And there is a small sand battlefield where boys can use toy soldiers and weapons to fight a war. At the end of the half hour of activity, they practice a few gestures from kung fu, under the guidance of Ni Jieji, one of the two male teachers at Haoertong.

    "When boys play with boys, they play more wildly and freely," said Ni. "The club is a catalyst."

    Sports are especially emphasized in the program to boost masculinity, according to Shen Ying, chief of the kindergarten's research section, which is responsible for the gender education program.

    "Compared to foreign parents who pay great attention to children's sporting abilities, Chinese parents tend to stress more on enriching children's knowledge and developing skills like drawing or playing musical instruments," Shen said.

    "But sports, especially some challenging games, are a key element in shaping children's physical strength and character," she said.

    The lack of manly traits in boys in big cities can be blamed on the fact that many boys are overprotected, as they are the only child in the family and their parents are also only children, Shen said.

    "In many families, boys are looked after by nannies and grandparents, who are too careful to allow the boys to take risks," she said, adding that news reports about accidents involving children only make them more anxious about safety.

    The absence of a father figure in families also contributes to the lack of masculinity in boys. In the case of Xiaolei, his father is always very busy and seldom picks him up in the kindergarten, said the teachers.

    Cao Yanmei, a mother from Suqian in Jiangsu province, has been vigilant on the female-dominant child-rearing environment. She invited her father, who used to serve in the army, to help take care of her 4-year-old son.

    "My father would not spoil the child. When my son did something mischievous, he would not yell to stop him, but would let him learn the lesson by himself," she said.

    Cao's family now lives in Shanghai, where she says many parents and grandparents, in her opinion, are overprotective of children.

    "Many parents told me that they never take their children on a bus, subway or train, even when they are 4 or 5 years old. The only vehicle they allow them to take is the family car because they feel the public transportation isn't safe or clean. But the children miss opportunities to gain experiences and social contact," she said.

    The mother agrees that kindergartens need to set up classes catering to the gender characteristics of boys and girls.

    However, the gender-specific program at Haoertong sparked some controversy when it was first set up in 2011, according to Zhu Jun, the kindergarten's former principal.

    While the boys' club is based around a sports theme, the girls' club is decorated as a sweet, pink house. There is a corner where girls learn to make flower bouquets, a small kitchen where they "cook" with toy food materials, a wardrobe with plenty of skirts for girls to wear and a T-stage where they can show off their style.

    "Some questioned why boys could not do the activities of girls, or why girls are confined to the stereotypical professions. We actually fully consulted the children's wishes and designed the two clubs according to their choices," Zhu said.

    And there is more to the clubs than just playing, Zhu said. For example, once a boy was left behind in a sport and other boys volunteered to help him; they were praised for "having the spirit of brotherhood and helping those in need".

    Xu Hui, the current principal, said that the club system is more like a test area where teachers can make observations, do research and make improvements.

    "We emphasized the gender characteristics recognized by Chinese tradition, but ultimately we need to allow the children to choose freely what kind of person they would like to grow into," she said, adding that they may bring down the wall separating the two clubs to enable the children to have more choice in activities.

    Li Yan, a professor of preschool education at Shanghai Normal University, said the clubs can help boys and girls to learn more about the roles of males and females and thus adjust their behaviors.

    "It is worthwhile doing follow-up studies to see whether the boys' masculine qualities are stronger after receiving the education program," she said.

    Ni Jieji, a 23-year-old kindergarten teacher, has seen many children screaming and wailing when they first enter school, but the unusual timidity of Xiaolei still surprised him. Ni found the 5-year-old boy seldom talked with his classmates. In class, he seemed afraid to speak. "He didn't even dare to ask to leave when he wanted to go to the toilet," Ni recalls.

    Xiaolei might be an extreme case. However, Xu Hui, the principal of Haoertong Kindergarten in Shanghai's Pudong New Area, noticed that on the first day of a new school year most of the children crying are boys. Moreover, boys are slower to get integrated into the "small society" of kindergarten than girls.

    The so-called "boy crisis" — the claim that boys are becoming physically weaker and emotionally more vulnerable than girls — is starting to worry Chinese teachers and parents.

    To boost the masculinity of boys, the Haoertong Kindergarten has developed a gender education program, becoming the first and only kindergarten in the city to apply gender education to children as young as 5.

    "We would like to introduce some of the best traits in men valued by Chinese tradition, such as bravery, the courage to overcome difficulties and the sense of responsibility," Xu said.

    "For girls, we hope to cultivate their gentleness, carefulness and grace," she added.

    An embodiment of the gender education program is two specially designed classrooms for boys and girls, namely the boys' club and the girls' club.

    Twice a week, boys play in their club, which is equipped with mini-versions of sport facilities associated mainly with boys, such as baseball, golf, archery and car races. And there is a small sand battlefield where boys can use toy soldiers and weapons to fight a war. At the end of the half hour of activity, they practice a few gestures from kung fu, under the guidance of Ni Jieji, one of the two male teachers at Haoertong.

    "When boys play with boys, they play more wildly and freely," said Ni. "The club is a catalyst."

    Sports are especially emphasized in the program to boost masculinity, according to Shen Ying, chief of the kindergarten's research section, which is responsible for the gender education program.

    "Compared to foreign parents who pay great attention to children's sporting abilities, Chinese parents tend to stress more on enriching children's knowledge and developing skills like drawing or playing musical instruments," Shen said.

    "But sports, especially some challenging games, are a key element in shaping children's physical strength and character," she said.

    The lack of manly traits in boys in big cities can be blamed on the fact that many boys are overprotected, as they are the only child in the family and their parents are also only children, Shen said.

    "In many families, boys are looked after by nannies and grandparents, who are too careful to allow the boys to take risks," she said, adding that news reports about accidents involving children only make them more anxious about safety.

    The absence of a father figure in families also contributes to the lack of masculinity in boys. In the case of Xiaolei, his father is always very busy and seldom picks him up in the kindergarten, said the teachers.

    Cao Yanmei, a mother from Suqian in Jiangsu province, has been vigilant on the female-dominant child-rearing environment. She invited her father, who used to serve in the army, to help take care of her 4-year-old son.

    "My father would not spoil the child. When my son did something mischievous, he would not yell to stop him, but would let him learn the lesson by himself," she said.

    Cao's family now lives in Shanghai, where she says many parents and grandparents, in her opinion, are overprotective of children.

    "Many parents told me that they never take their children on a bus, subway or train, even when they are 4 or 5 years old. The only vehicle they allow them to take is the family car because they feel the public transportation isn't safe or clean. But the children miss opportunities to gain experiences and social contact," she said.

    The mother agrees that kindergartens need to set up classes catering to the gender characteristics of boys and girls.

    However, the gender-specific program at Haoertong sparked some controversy when it was first set up in 2011, according to Zhu Jun, the kindergarten's former principal.

    While the boys' club is based around a sports theme, the girls' club is decorated as a sweet, pink house. There is a corner where girls learn to make flower bouquets, a small kitchen where they "cook" with toy food materials, a wardrobe with plenty of skirts for girls to wear and a T-stage where they can show off their style.

    "Some questioned why boys could not do the activities of girls, or why girls are confined to the stereotypical professions. We actually fully consulted the children's wishes and designed the two clubs according to their choices," Zhu said.

    And there is more to the clubs than just playing, Zhu said. For example, once a boy was left behind in a sport and other boys volunteered to help him; they were praised for "having the spirit of brotherhood and helping those in need".

    Xu Hui, the current principal, said that the club system is more like a test area where teachers can make observations, do research and make improvements.

    "We emphasized the gender characteristics recognized by Chinese tradition, but ultimately we need to allow the children to choose freely what kind of person they would like to grow into," she said, adding that they may bring down the wall separating the two clubs to enable the children to have more choice in activities.

    Li Yan, a professor of preschool education at Shanghai Normal University, said the clubs can help boys and girls to learn more about the roles of males and females and thus adjust their behaviors.

    "It is worthwhile doing follow-up studies to see whether the boys' masculine qualities are stronger after receiving the education program," she said.

    Boys will be boys - People's Daily Online
     
  7. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    An insight into China's pre schooling experience.
     

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