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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Kindergarten cop-out for funds

(Global Times)

10:38, January 09, 2012

The Chinese government has been the target of criticism from education experts over its fresh crackdown on what it deems "excessive" kindergarten fees. Beijing kindergartens are subsidized to the tune of 100 yuan ($15.90) per child, but there is a cap of 230 yuan on what schools can charge parents as an enrollment fee. This led to many schools imposing all manner of additional charges such as school building fees, sponsorships and special classes in order to make up the funding shortfall. The latest regulations issued by the National Development and Reform Commission on January 4 effectively ban the collection of these fees, with local authorities being encouraged to "severely" punish irregularities.

No one can disagree that early education is vitally important to enhancing a child's life prospects. Most educators are aware of the crucial period from one-to-six years of age when children rapidly develop their capacity for language and music. However, governments have finite resources and must choose to allocate them where are deemed to be most effective.

In China's case, compulsory education begins at six years old at primary school, which is a perfectly valid policy choice as getting children literate and numerate by 12 is essential. With kindergarten regarded as optional, the government is under no particular obligation to provide more funding.

Nevertheless, the cap on fees has clearly created a problem. The purpose of the limitation is obviously to make preschool education more accessible to low-income families. Demand is extremely high and competition is fierce for limited places, but all the current policy will do is choke schools' access to funds without the shortfall being made up by the State.

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