Kindergartens will no longer be allowed to teach young children primary-school-level lessons, the Ministry of Education announced on July 13. The rule is designed to ensure that children are not overburdened in their formative years, it said.
Banned subjects include primary-school-level Chinese language, mathematics and English coursework. The rule will prevent kindergartens from forcing grade school academic education on children too early, the ministry said.
Kindergartens are also forbidden from administering any kind of test, the statement said. The teaching of such subjects to kindergarten pupils by private training institutions is likewise forbidden.
Playing games will be the basic activity in kindergartens, the ministry said, and children should be admitted to neighborhood primary schools without reference to any test of their knowledge.
The ministry said local education authorities have until the end of August to work out detailed plans to prevent kindergartens from teaching lessons intended for primary school students. They should provide hotlines and e-mail addresses for the public to report noncompliance.
Kindergartens, primary schools and private training institutions should correct any misconduct by the end of this year, the statement said, adding that “education authorities will strengthen supervision and shut down violators that refuse to obey the regulations”.
Lin Fei, a teacher at Dongfang Kindergarten in Shanghai, said that in recent years public kindergartens in the city had begun to focus on organizing various outdoor activities and games, and to teach kids painting, singing and sports.
Early education, she said, is about engaging students, having fun－getting messy and having paint on their hands. “Games and activities are really important. It’s what they remember. You see the joy of learning on their faces.”
Yu Fengyi, the father of a 5-year-old girl in Hunan province, said he welcomes the regulation. “Kids today hardly experience the pleasure of childhood like we used to be able to,” he said. “Kids should just be kids and play with each other. I don’t want my daughter to have too much academic pressure at such a young age.”
Kindergarten teachers should offer more chances to play and engage in hands-on learning activities, since they provide children with opportunities to interact with their peers in a more natural setting and to solve problems on their own, he said.
The opportunities to engage children in play-based learning activities can help them grow academically, socially and emotionally, he said.
Bo Ling, mother of a 4-year-old boy in Beijing, said she has doubts about the regulation. She thought a more relaxed teaching style in kindergarten may not adequately prepare children for tougher primary school schedules.
Children will hardly be able to keep up with the fast-paced schedule of Grade 1 primary school without learning Pinyin, Chinese characters and mathematics earlier at the kindergarten stage, she said.