Early education problems in China show need to refocus

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 January, 2018, 9:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 January, 2018, 10:22pm

Recent news about alleged child abuse and sexual assaults in several kindergartens in mainland China has aroused heated discussion online. When angry parents criticised the kindergarten managers, and the government looked into the imperfect management policies, it was overlooked how our current early childhood education is headed the wrong way.

Childhood education in China is deficient in various ways, including overlooking social and emotional development, potential psychiatric disorders, and educational inequality due to mono-standard utilitarianism. The two most important benefits that children should get from education – self-awareness and civic awareness – are missing in the education system.

My six-year-old niece complained about the six mandatory extra-curriculum classes each weekend. “They are far from enough; other kids are learning more,” said her mother. My 31- year-old cousin who has worked for nine years in different fields, spoke of her confusion. She said she felt like a loser, as she did not even know what she was passionate about. The real purpose of education has been lost in the “competitions” that make superb test-takers and differentiate students.

There is one area where we don’t seem to believe in education at all and just leave people to figure it out themselves: self-awareness. Who are you? What do you care about? What are you good at? How can you manage relationships and protect yourself? There is an odd silence in education when it comes to those broad questions. Successful K-12 curriculums should cultivate the students who can answer the above questions and speak for themselves in any circumstances.

Another area we neglect is citizenship education. Passive learners rarely have clear life goals based on self-discovery and citizen responsibility. Lacking citizenship education undercuts one of the most important traits as a citizen: willingness to subordinate private interests to the public interest and maintain a sustainable development of the society.

Future K-12 curriculums should emphasise training in self-awareness and civic awareness. Schools can offer classes on morality and ethics, and topics that help students learn basic cultural, economic and political systems of the world. Parents must also promote the right values and a broader vision for their children.

Chenzi Song, New York, US