AN EARLY learning program developed in Australia for babies and toddlers has launched in Shanghai to fill a gap in the education system.
South Australian early education provider Hessel Group this month opened a children’s centre and training college – the first of their kind in the Chinese super-city.
Both facilities are aimed at delivering a Western early learning experience that has been tailored to suit Chinese families.
The launch of a learning program for Chinese children aged 0-3 fills a much-needed niche in the country’s education environment, Managing Director of Hessel International Tanya Cole said.
“After going to China, visiting some kindergartens and discussing issues and needs from teachers, parents and kindergarten owners it became very apparent there was a need,” she said.
“On my first visit I was able to engage two industry related teachers who undertook research on my behalf in Beijing, Shenzhen and Xiamen, to develop the program.
“Through research, I identified there was no curriculum or guideline set for the 0-3 age grouping, and I was able to query some of the results with Government representatives who confirmed there was a gap in that age range,” she said.
Earlier this year, about 50 delegates from the South Australian education, services and health sectors visited China as part of a business mission to help bring Western skills and expertise to the region.
According to a report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the majority of early brain development occurs during the first three years of childhood, making a positive educational environment crucial.
The research found that in many Chinese kindergartens, teachers relied too heavily on theory-based approaches, with little practical training.
A key aspect of Hessel Group’s three-year development program was identifying cultural differences between the Chinese and Australian education environments.
“Initially I was surprised teachers had not undertaken any practicum in their four years of study or their masters,” Cole said.
“I also didn’t realise they had never programmed activities, so many had limited knowledge on how to plan an activity.
“Then there have been things like hygiene practices, eating, security, which have all had areas of differences which we’ve had to adjust or accept.”
Despite the cultural differences, the Western approach to education has been successful in the childcare centre’s first few days, Cole said.
“Already the new centre is showing families the difference in the actions of our teachers where they are inclusive rather than standing and watching,” she said.
“The staff are far more interactive with the children, and the parents have been able to see our strong basis in EQ and play-based programs.
“Parents have been very pleased with the standard, space and decoration of the centre along with the positive interactive staff,” she said.
Hessel Group will use its training centre to teach practical packages to local early education providers and parents.