China mulls law to ensure accessible, quality preschool education

(Xinhua) 08:35, August 29, 2023

BEIJING, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- Chinese lawmakers are considering a preschool education law to ensure that preschool education is accessible to all children and of high quality.

The draft law was tabled Monday before lawmakers for deliberation at the ongoing session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.

While explaining the draft law at the session, Huai Jinpeng, minister of education, said despite the rapid growth of preschool education, the sector has witnessed unbalanced and inadequate development in recent years.

He noted significant problems, such as the difficulty of getting enrolled in kindergartens and the fact that some kindergartens collect exorbitant fees.

To secure the sound development of the sector, the draft law stresses the principal role of the government in popularizing preschool education and building a preschool public-service system that covers urban and rural areas.

The draft law clarifies the duties of the government, ensuring that preschool education is steered toward the public interest, which is of great significance to safeguarding the rights and interests of preschool children, said Zhan Zhongle, a professor at the Law School of Peking University.

To promote the balanced and rational distribution of education resources, the draft specifies that governments at various levels should narrow the gap in preschool education between urban and rural areas and between different regions.

It stipulates that the country will establish a financial aid system for preschool children from impoverished households, and that kindergartens should admit children with disabilities who are capable of adapting to life in kindergarten.

The government should meet the basic needs of preschool children, enabling the most underprivileged children to enjoy equal educational opportunities, said Chu Zhaohui, a researcher at the National Institute of Education Sciences.

Meanwhile, the government should guide non-governmental entities to provide accessible preschool education resources, according to the proposed draft.

Recent years have seen some kindergartens collecting high fees, raising concerns about profit-seeking phenomena in the sector.

The draft would ban any group or individual from operating or supporting the operations of for-profit private kindergartens using public or donated funds or assets. Social capital would not be permitted to control public kindergartens or non-profit private kindergartens through means such as mergers or acquisitions.

"These provisions reflect the need to curb the commercialization of the preschool education sector," said Zhang Zhiyong, director of the National Education Survey Center of Beijing Normal University.

Zhang said the draft emphasizes the government's responsibility to invest more in preschool education and step up training for teachers.

On child care and education, the draft specifies that kindergartens shall give top priority to the protection of children's safety.

It prohibits preschool education institutions from conducting any form of testing for kids except for necessary health checkups. The teaching of elementary school courses is also forbidden.

The legislation would see preschool education institutions perform their due roles, enabling children to adapt to primary school life more easily, said Wang Xiaoli, head of the Normal School of Early Childhood Education at Lanzhou City University.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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