Oct 26, 2015 06:51 PM

Preschool Gives Children Language, Social Skills Edge, Research Shows

(Beijing) – Children in kindergartens in rural areas of central and western China have better language and social skills than those who did not attend preschool, a recent report says.

Zhou Nianli, a professor of preschool education studies at East China Normal University in Shanghai, released the report at an international conference on poverty alleviation and child development in Beijing on October 22.

Zhou's team studied youngsters at preschools in central and western parts of the country set up in 2009 by the non-profit China Development Research Foundation. The research also covered children living in the same parts of the country who did not attend preschool and kindergarteners in towns in three provinces.

The team found that only half of children aged four and five years old who did not attend school performed well on tests for language and social skills. Some 85 percent of youngsters who went to kindergartens set up by the foundation did well on the examinations.

Zhou said the children who did not attend preschool were difficult for her researchers to handle.

"Children who did not attend kindergartens tried to run from us because they had not met strangers before," she said. "They refused to do some things the researchers asked."

Zhou also said that children in the foundation's kindergartens did not do as well on the tests as the youngsters in schools in towns in the three provinces. This was due to the quality of teachers and their materials, he said, adding that the educators at the foundations kindergartens are usually volunteers.

The foundation has set up nearly 800 kindergartens teaching 20,000 youngsters in eight provinces as of August. The schools are funded by donations and provide three years of education.

Zhou said the research shows that the foundation's kindergartens are helping children in rural areas develop, and that the government should do more to set up kindergartens and help them continue operations.

Lu Mai, the secretary-general of the foundation, said that the government should pay more attention to the development of children in rural areas because most of them are poor and left-behind by their parents who go to work in cities.

Preschool education could help prevent the children from a life of poverty, Lu said.

Chen Feng, a school planning official in the central government, said most of the country's towns and large villages have kindergartens and all children will have the chance to attend preschool within five years, except for those in extremely remote areas.

(Rewritten by Guo Kai)

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