A Critical Analysis of the Changing Landscape of Early Childhood Education in Mainland China: History, Policies, Progress, and Future Development

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China’s ‘reform and opening-up’ policy initiated in 1978 has ushered the country into rapid economic development. Early childhood education (ECE) has also subsequently entered a period of monumental development. In this chapter, using the ‘3A2S’ framework (Li et al. Int J Chin Educ 3(2):161–170, 2014), we analyse the development and implementation of ECE policies in China within the last four decades, examining particularly Phase I (2011–2013) and Phase II (2014–2016) of the Three-Year Action Plan. Analyses of national data from statistical reports and official agencies indicate that (1) the supply of kindergartens is soaring, but the accessibility problem still persists, especially in destitute areas and for those from disadvantaged backgrounds; (2) funding support for ECE is increasing, but is still not sufficient enough; (3) the government has intensified its involvement in ECE, but objective monitoring and assessment mechanisms have yet to be established; (4) the Three-Year Action Plan has been implemented to enhance sustainability of ECE; and (5) efforts have been made to address educational equality for young children from vulnerable circumstances. These findings collectively suggest that the government is improving accessibility, affordability, accountability, sustainability, and social justice of ECE, but more work is needed to achieve a better and stronger ECE system in China.

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Education in the Asia-Pacific Region

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