Falling births trigger calls for reallocating preschool resources

Updated: Apr 9, 2024 By ZHAO YIMENG China Daily Print
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A teacher reads an illustrated children's book at a kindergarten in Huzhou, Zhejiang province, on Sunday. WANG ZHENG/FOR CHINA DAILY

Additionally, the quality of care and education needs to be enhanced, with more financial investment in place, he added.

Li Guohua, a national political adviser and an official with the Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Kuomintang, said the challenges of early childhood education could also provide an opportunity to promote high-quality development and free access.

For instance, public first-tier kindergartens in Shanghai charge a monthly tuition fee of 225 yuan ($31.2), Li said, while proposing universal free access to early childhood education in China.

"By exempting tuition fees for kindergarten education while continuing to collect fees for meals and childcare supplies, we can gradually incorporate early childhood education into compulsory education," Li said.

He also called for further reducing the teacher-child ratio, as the current guidelines for staffing standards in kindergartens were issued 11 years ago, stipulating that each kindergarten class should have two full-time teachers, and the ratio of childcare staff to children should be between one staff member for every seven to nine children.

He recommended a revision of the standards, taking current requirements for high-quality development into account.

Dong Yuzheng, president of the Guangdong Social Sciences Association, said the investment and allocation of educational resources should be adjusted along with the changes in population structure.

As the population concentrates toward large and medium-sized cities, rural areas and smaller towns experience a decrease in population, which also leads to a reduction of preschool students, Dong told media outlet Yicai.com.

The adjustments and merging of rural educational institutions are becoming a major trend, he said.

Some education authorities have already taken measures to adjust school layouts in accordance with new changes in the school-age population.

In November, the education department in Hunan province issued a notice on optimizing the layout of kindergartens, as well as primary and secondary schools in response to population changes.

The notice suggested organizing the orderly establishment, conversion and closure of kindergartens. A batch of public kindergartens should be built or renovated in areas with growing urban populations, while new kindergartens should not be established in rural areas, it said.

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