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...