New rules sought to protect pre-school children

Shanghai People's Congress hears that educational and day-care services for children up to the age of 6 are far from sufficient to meet the demand of city parents.

Local legislators are urging new rules for the management of pre-school education to better protect young children, particularly those under 3.

They are calling for an abundant supply and more effective supervision of Shanghai’s pre-school education as more parents seek services for their children at a very early age.

The proposal by Zhu Ziqiang, a deputy with the Fengxian delegation of the Shanghai People’s Congress, and another 27 lawmakers, follows two widely publicized child abuse cases in kindergartens in Shanghai and Beijing.

Based on research launched by the education legislation center at Shanghai Normal University, Zhu, the university's president, said the current number of kindergartens for children between 3 and 6 and day-care centers for the under-3s can't meet the needs of local parents.

“Although Shanghai keeps working on its pre-school education and makes great progress, the gap between pre-school resources and the public need is still growing in recent years with more and more people flooding into the city, alongside the second-child policy,” said Zhu.

His proposal said the number of under-3s in day-care centers last year was just 4,342, while every year some 200,000 babies were in need of day-care services. That led to unlicensed day-care centers being set up, possibly putting children's safety and health at risk.

Some others enrolled too many children, with overcrowding risking injuries and the spread of diseases.

Zhu said the city’s pre-school education regulations should cover nursing and educational services of children under 3 and clarify the responsibilities of local government.

He said there should be monitoring of the overall process of children's performance at school as well as the organization's management, and that information about these organizations should be open to the public.

A proposal submitted to congress by Xie Chunyi and another 14 lawmakers from the Hongkou District delegation said there should be a special supervision program to protect children's  rights.

They also suggested the setting up of special organizations for children’s rights protection, consisting of officials from related authorities.

“So far, our country’s law on minors' protection just concerns sexual assault on pre-school girls but there are no legal rules for pre-school boys,” said Xie. 

He added that the determination of child abuse was not very clear.

“The abuse of children not only happens to their physical health, but also could exist in the mental aspect,” Xie told Shanghai Daily.

Zhou Xingzeng, of the Pudong New Area delegation, called for more male kindergarten teachers, to ensure a balanced influence from both men and women for young children. 

“Now, Shanghai only has 428 male kindergarten teachers, far less than the number of their female counterparts,” Zhou said.

Zhou said local universities should encourage male students to study pre-school education and the public should change their bias against men who work as kindergarten teachers.

According to a local government report issued last week, there are plans to open, renovate or expand 35 kindergartens and open 20 community-based day-care centers for toddlers this year.

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