Early Childhood Education China vs Us
Early Childhood Education in China vs. the United States As a person born and raised in the United States and whom is currently working as a toddler teacher in the early childhood education system of the United States, it is interesting to compare similarities and differences as well as the strengths and weaknesses between the early childcare in the U. S. and China. When familiarizing myself with the early education in China, I was prepared to find vast differences in the way that the schools and programs were run, the environments the children were placed in, the methods of teaching and expectations of the young children.
I was surprised to see that there is actually a balance between similarities within the two countries and their strengths and weaknesses. In China, children under three years old, they attend nurseries. Nurseries are a small group of children with many caregivers on hand. The caregivers are trained as nurses rather than teachers because the main goals are providing physical care and nurturing (Vaughan, 1993). The ages from three years old to six years old are the most important when defining the early education period.
Schooling at this age is called kindergarten (Scott). Kindergarten is a full-day program which provides child care and educational preparation. Public kindergarten programs are provided from the government, government-licensed private individuals and neighborhood committees, and work units. The government has full ownership of the school. There are three types of public kindergartens: department of education related, state organization or corporation related and local town or county related (Hu and Szente).
In 1981 government regulations recommended children are separated by age into three groupings: juniors, middle and seniors for kindergarten. In these three groupings, education becomes more important than physical care and class sizes increase, ranging from 20 to 40 children, as age increases (Scott). Not only to the kindergartens in China provide a nurse along with two teachers, in the larger, more affluent centers, there is usually at least one doctor on hand for sick or injured children (Vaughan, 1993).
On the other hand, there are also private kindergartens in China, that do not receive government funding, which means they are not required to participate in quality rating programs. As a result, there are two extremes – in the more developed areas there has been an increase in Montessori schools, while there are also a large number of private family-care programs in the villages of China. These facilities are usually poorly equipped (Hu and Szente). The kindergarten usually has multiple classroom buildings that surround a courtyard for the children to use as a playground.
The playground is used quite a bit between lessons and provides equipment for large motor activities, bright colors and shapes and trees and bushes. Outside children are able to choose their own activities and have minimal supervision. This is unlike within the classroom where there is more structure and expected obedience and respect for the teacher at all times. The classrooms within the building provide large rooms for each age group, with a separate room for naps. It is noted that compared to American classrooms, there are less available toys for the children sitting out on display for them to choose.
The rooms in China provide more tables and chairs for every student with one larger open area for group dancing or playing (Vaughan, 1993). As for the curriculum, learning social skills is a very important aspect for younger children, as well as respecting the teacher and obeying school rules. Children also learn to help one another and solve disagreements on their own. In the United States, our early childhood programs like to mostly appeal to the children’s interests. Granted, we expect respect and obedience, but these traits are better developed in China.
The curriculum content is still very similar to the American program, but the teaching methods are quite different. In China, children hardly work alone or in small groups on tasks. There is an emphasis on teacher-directed, total group instruction. This means that the entire class is expected to do the same thing at the same time. For instance, during a drawing lesson, the class would be expected to copy an object drawn by the teacher (Vaughan, 1993). It is suggested that the importance of the whole group instructional approach outweighs the limitations of minimal supplies.
Even going to the bathroom is done in a group, because in China it is believed that “It’s good for children to learn to regulate their bodies and attune their rhythms to those of their classmates” (Vaughan, 1993). It is slightly surprising how there is this emphasis on working in groups, yet the children are very respectful of the teacher and one another and learn to become very altruistic and nurturing. In the United States, I have noticed with the early childhood age, that children are free to choose by what they are interested in, yet most have a difficult time sharing, following directions or being respectful of the teacher.
It appears to me, that in China these traits are somehow implemented into children at a younger age than in the United States. In China, since children are all learning the same thing at the same time, together, then they are expected to be developing at the same pace. The children do not have many distractions, though, since their materials are limited due to teacher-directed instruction. There is limited opportunity for creative expression or exploration of individual interests. As for rules and discipline, China and the United States are similar in their expectations.
For instance, during group activities it is expected for children to give the teacher their full attention and to participate. When it comes to free play, it is acceptable for the classroom to become noisy, since children are encouraged to have active social interactions. In some observations, the children in China seemed to have minimal incidents of peer conflict or disruptive behaviors during group activities, along with no cases of disrespect or lack of obedience to the teacher (Scott).
As far as I’ve seen within my classrooms, through my own experiences or what I have heard by ear, there are quite a bit of conflicts between children and incidents of children not obeying their teachers. These differences are quite intriguing and show that there is some weakness in the way the American program is implemented. Could it be that in China they use public correction and criticism on children for misbehavior and poor performance? This is an acceptable technique used in China and possibly could the difference in why children want to please their teachers and refrain from being embarrassed.
Teachers believe that these corrections will encourage children to work harder in order to avoid future mistakes (Vaughan, 1993). Another type of early childhood program is the pre-primary classroom, which is a half-day program for children the year before first grade. Here, more emphasis is placed on academics and the teaching methods still resemble more of those in the Chinese elementary classrooms, rather than similar to the United States. There are more academic goals stressed in the pre-primary classrooms over the kindergartens (Vaughan, 1993).
The reason parents choose this path for their child is because the schooling in China is very competitive to get into later on, beginning with high school and then college. In China, the compulsory education system only serves from grades one to nine. After the ninth grade, children need to compete for admission in high schools and colleges. There are a limited number of high schools in China for all of the children that there are and then when entering college there is a highly competitive entrance examination (Hu and Szente).
The pressure of having limited space for the children in higher education makes parents anxious about their child’s academics as early as preschool. As a result of limited school space and parents desire for early education, Chinese parents prefer having their children memorize songs and poems and obey their elders instead of their children learning on their own through self exploration and play. Chinese parents do not realize how beneficial the child-oriented education theory can be and that kids need to be allowed to be creative.
Rather than having developmentally appropriate curriculum taught in kindergarten, parents would like to see teachers focus on mathematics and reading. It is even difficult for early childhood teachers to implement developmentally appropriate curriculum and activities, because they are so used to a direct instructional method of teaching (Hu and Szente). The early education market is growing fast in China and not only are the teachers trained in teaching in an instructional only way, there is a shortage in early childhood teachers as well.
Not many colleges were trained in producing early education professionals and the teachers that were trained were educated in principles followed by the institution attended (Yan, 2007). It has not been until recently that Western philosophies are making an impact in the early childhood education system in China. New curriculum approaches such as High Scope, Integrated Theme-based Curriculum, Project Approach, Reggio Emilia and Montessori are now being used in both the public and private kindergartens (Hu and Szente).
Another factor that is affecting the schools in China is the one child policy. This policy has helped to put a bigger emphasis on early education for young children and the heightened involvement of parents in their child’s achievements. The one child policy is another reason for parents to want the best for their child and to compete for their higher education. Teachers say that parents are more and more interested in their child’s success in school and become critical if they believe their child is being treated unfairly (Vaughan, 1993).
In the United States, some parents are very involved with their child and their schooling, but we also have plenty of parents who could care less. Unlike China, children do not have to compete to get a placement in a high school and there are many options for college, if further education is desired. I believe this is part of the reason for less involvement by American parents. China and the United States share some similarities and differences in their school system. I think the U. S. s stronger in their teaching methods, because I personally agree and believe that the child should direct their learning to a degree at a young age and explore to be able to figure out what they are interested in. Every child is better in different areas and he should be able to find that out on his own, but curriculum and structure should still be implemented into their daily routine in early education. China is improving in expanding their teaching methods and allowing children to direct learning. China, though, is strong in building obedient children whom follow directions and respect their elders.
In the United States our young children seem to lack in these qualities. China’s classrooms also appear to lack stimulation and creativity. They do not have the abundance of toys and choices that American classrooms have, but China is also improving in this area while expanding their teaching methods and bringing in Western philosophies. China is stronger than the United States in that their parents are more involved in the learning of their children and focusing on their academic success. Early childhood education is perceived differently in every country.
There is no correct way on how to actually educate young children or what is the most important aspect to focus on, but there are many theories and philosophies out there to help influence us. Looking at China and the United States we can see that there are many things that each country can learn from each other and no system is the only system. References Scott, H. K. (Date Not Provided). Early Childhood Education around the World. Babyzone. Retrieved from http://www. babyzone. com/toddler/toddler_development/early_education/article/international-early-childhood-education-pg2 Vaughan, J. (1993).
Early Childhood Education in China. Precious Children. Retrieved from http://www. pbs. org/kcts/preciouschildren/earlyed/read_vaughan. html Hu, B. Y. , Szente, J. (Date Not Provided). Exploring the Quality of Early Childhood Education in China: Implications for Early Childhood Teacher Education. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 31. Retrieved from http://pdfserve. informaworld. com/578889__913910094. pdf Yan, W. (15 November 2007). Early Childhood Education Stirs up a Wave in China. All-China Women’s Federation. Retrieved from http://www. womenofchina. cn/Issues/Education/200306. jsp