China push for universal pre-school launched
Quality early learning programmes bring highest social benefits
BEIJING, 19 May 2012 – Earlier today, the Ministry of Education and UNICEF launched China's first national Early Childhood Development (ECD) Advocacy Month. The launch of the month-long campaign is a key part of efforts to promote early learning for all children under six years of age.
The launch of the campaign was attended by the Minister of Education, Mr. Yuan Guiren, and UNICEF Representative to China, Ms. Gillian Mellsop.
One highlight of the month-long campaign is a series of Public Service Announcements on ECD that will be aired on China Education Television (CETV) and is expected to reach millions of families across China. Another highlight is a parenting portal, officially launched today, which provides authoritative and comprehensive information for parents, caregivers and educators.
"By making early childhood education and development a clear government priority, China is taking a momentous step toward ending the inter-generational cycle of poverty, achieving the Millennium Development Goals and brightening the future for all of its citizens.” said Ms. Mellsop.
A body of scientific evidence shows that quality early childhood development is vital to children's optimal physical, mental and emotional growth. Yet according to official statistics, only around half of young children in China have access to preschool education. Preschool attendance rates are even lower in rural areas.
Even when children do attend preschool education, they often do not receive age-appropriate services. Instead, many preschools, whether because of insufficient teacher training or misplaced parental pressure, focus on providing primary-school-like education.
However, the launch of the Advocacy Month also comes at an exciting time in the development and expansion of ECD in China. In 2010, in a landmark decision, the Government committed increased funding for ECD over the next decade. That funding will support the construction of new preschool facilities, greater teacher training opportunities, ECD subsidies in rural areas, and enhanced support to privately-run preschools.
The Advocacy Month builds on UNICEF's work over the last decade to improve ECD in China, both in national poverty counties in western provinces like Guizhou, Guangxi, Yunnan, Xinjiang, and in areas with large populations of young migrant children like Chongqing. UNICEF's assistance has included the provision of toys and games, parent education, teacher training, and promotion of public-private partnerships. UNICEF and the Ministry of Education have also jointly developed Early Learning and Development Guidelines, which will provide guidance on quality preschool education for teachers and parents.
UNICEF works in some of the world's toughest places, to reach the world's most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit www.unicef.org.
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