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English>>China Society

Live and let learn

By Feng Shu (Global Times)

09:43, November 14, 2012

A group of children work on a carpentry project this autumn at Ba Xueyuan in the outskirts of Beijing. Photo: courtesy of Ba Xueyuan

In the playground of a private kindergarten, 4-year-old Chenchen waits for her classmate Nande, who, as usual, is late. She does this every day, come rain or shine, and it's a habit that her teacher does nothing to discourage.

In another scene, 2-year-old Xikun tries to gauge the capacity of a garbage bin by putting basketballs and other children's shoes into it. He does this every day for a month until finally losing interest, then turns his attention to the objects on a shelf in the classroom, throwing the contents of a box onto the floor. Instead of scolding him, his teachers encourage him to indulge his curiosity.

Despite complaints from angry parents, 5-year-old Chi Yiyang, notorious for his bullying attitude toward other kids, has never felt singled out for his behavior. Instead, the teacher tries every means to help the boy establish rules for his games. Chi eventually changes his ways, and even tries to uphold justice in a fight between two boys.

These are all scenes from "Kids' Kingdom", an 80-minute documentary that enters the world of a group of kids by following their lives at the Ba Xueyuan kindergarten in the outskirts of Beijing.

Most Chinese kindergartens try to get children to learn as much as possible in order to give them a strong start for their intensive elementary school studies. Ba Xueyuan, inspired by a similar school featured in the popular Japanese book Little Bean Beside the Window, took a different approach, immediately drawing attention from parents who wanted to give their children a happy and carefree childhood, a notion that is anathema to most of China's public and private kindergartens.

"Looking back, I feel my son did have a normal childhood that was based on his natural development. No extra knowledge was taught in advance, and the focus was on growth in a fun and free environment," said mother Xin Xuhui, as she looked back at the four years spent at the kindergarten by her son, who was one of the first students at Ba Xueyuan.

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