UNICEF Calls for Further Investment in Rural Early Childhood Care Services

Survey shows gap between kindergarten teachers’ level in rural and urban areas

BEIJING, March 19, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — With two-thirds of China’s 90 million children aged 0-6 living in rural areas, findings of a survey on early childhood development, released at a UNICEF briefing, illustrate that increasing investment in the quality of services will be critical to meet the Government of China’s target of rolling out universal pre-school education by 2020. The findings, along with the latest global evidence on neuroscience linked to a child’s brain development, were presented at an event showcasing how important the first few years of life are for a child’s physical, social and emotional development.

Recent global scientific evidence on neuroscience and brain development has indicated that in the first year of life the brain grows at the pace of 700 neural connections per second — a pace which is never achieved again.  By 3 years of age, a child brain is twice as active as an adult brain and fifty to seventy five percent of energy consumption in the first few years of life is allocated to brain development.

In light of these findings, UNICEF globally is advocating for investing in an integrated approach to early childhood development from 0 to 6 years old to make sure that this critical window in life is not missed, especially for the poorest and most disadvantaged children. For a child’s brain to develop, a multi prong approach is needed that provides health, nutrition, education and protection. 

"Early brain development and function is the foundation for learning, behavior and capabilities later in life," said Professor Pia Britto, UNICEF’s Senior Global Advisor on ECD.  "Investing in early interventions for the most disadvantaged children is the most effective and cost-effective way for societies to ensure all children develop their full potential."

Elements include: Good nutrition at the right time to feed and nourish the architecture of the brain during the sensitive periods of development. Stimulation and enrichment to spark neural connections across multiple regions of the brain to increase the brain’s capacity and function. Safety and protection to buffer against stress and allow absorption of nutrition and growth of brains cells.

Since the China’s State Council landmark decision in 2010, which called for expansion of early childhood development, national coverage for earlyc childhood are has increased from 35 percent in 2000 to 67.5 per cent in 2013.  This rapid expansion of services has been boosted by the central Government’s commitment of 50 billion RMB to expand pre-primary education in the poorest and remotest part of the country.

"These commitments made by the Government of China demonstrate how important this investment in early childhood care is for the country’s long term development," said Dr. Xuefeng Chen, UNICEF China’s Education Specialist. "To reach these ambitious targets, and make sure all children in the country benefit, we need to make sure we continue to give priority to building the skills, knowledge and understanding of teachers, health workers as well as parents and grandparents on why these first few years of life are so vital for a child’s longer term development and how through new types of interventions, they can be part of this investment."

The recent survey on early child care in kindergartens targeting children aged 3-6 years old, conducted in five disadvantaged counties in China revealed the gap between rural and urban areas for young children is likely to expand unless more is done to invest in teacher training and improving standards of care.  Led by the National Institute of Education Sciences and Peking University, the baseline data from UNICEF-supported child-friendly kindergartens surveyed children’s development outcomes and teacher’s competence levels. 

The recent survey on early child care in kindergartens targeting children aged 3-6 years old, conducted in five disadvantaged counties in China revealed the gap between rural and urban areas for young children is likely to expand unless more is done to invest in teacher training and improving standards of care.  Led by the National Institute of Education Sciences and Peking University, the baseline data from UNICEF-supported child-friendly kindergartens surveyed children’s development outcomes and teacher’s competence levels. 

NOTE TO THE EDITORS:

About UNICEF:

  • To learn more about UNICEF’s work in early childhood development and also to get the latest science on a child bran’s development, please go to www.unicef.cn and download our new publication Building Better Brains. 
  • To help build parenting skills for caregivers on ways to stimulate, engage and take care of children from the ages of 0-6, the Ministry of Education with UNICEF have launched a parenting APP.  To download it, please go to http://yuer.cbern.gov.cn/12yue.jspx.
  • As part of focus on the first 1000 days of life, UNICEF has launched a new animated video on how important this period is in a child’s life. To watch it, please go to http://www.unicef.cn/en/index.php?m=content&c=index&a=show&catid=49&id=3685

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.  For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

Visit UNICEF China website: www.unicef.cn

Follow us: Sina Weibo http://weibo.com/unicefchina Tecent Weibo http://t.qq.com/unicef

Wechat: unicefchina

For further information, please contact: Shantha Bloemen, UNICEF China, +8610 85312610, sbloemen@unicef.org or Liu Li, UNICEF China, +8610 85312612, liliu@unicef.org