Hello! My name is Anna, and I have lived in Shanxi province in China for 2 years. I’m teaching English in a local nursery. My 2 sons, who also attend this kindergarten, must face some unusual rules and traditions each day.
Many kindergartens work according to an “all-inclusive” system.
Every parent wants to make the maximum contribution to their child’s development which is why private kindergartens are the norm for China’s average-income residents. Here, kindergarten isn’t a cheap thing: one year of study at this place would cost around $1,700—4,500 in the province, and about $4,500-6,500 in larger cities.
A kid enters an “all-inclusive” zone for this money that includes: 5 meals a day, school bus transfers, uniforms, shoes, a backpack, a set of bedsheets and pillowcases, and a stack of colourful textbooks. Using a plastic card, and only during special hours, you can get into the classroom at the school. Following their lessons, children will stay for an additional fee for activities like Lego-building, riding run-bikes, roller skating, basketball and scientific experiments.
Parents are willing to do almost anything to enrol their children in a good nursery. There were cases in larger cities in China where residents in some areas were lined up a couple of days before registration begins. They literally put up a tent on the premises of the school, took turns, and watched at the start of the registration.
By the way, a kindergarten class’s “coolness” doesn’t depend on their size or location. A private kindergarten may be small, and its playground may be nearly on the roof of the building in which it is situated. For example, there are 60 pupils at our kindergarten, 20 in each group. Each community has an assistant and 2-3 permanent teachers.
In essence, teachers are young girls under the age of 30, and assistants have a different age limit that is 45. Such age limits have been set because the job is considered to be intense. We are not allowed to wear fancy dresses or glamorous hairdos at work, made-up or dolled-up. Here teachers look more like older sisters— wearing the same brand sweatshirts or T-shirts, black pants, and sneakers. They have to tie their hair back, and they can’t “done” their nails— they could actually be fined for it.
Children have Chinese, English, arithmetic, music lessons throughout the first half of the day, they learn to read Chinese characters, and recite poems. Teachers interact with children— Chinese and English, in 2 languages. Children get a progress test each month. If a kid hasn’t mastered the subject correctly, the instructor is punished.
Children take part in masterclasses including national cooking or pottery classes once a month. There is a special event every season that involves parents: a visit to a bank, a post office, a farm, a dentist an office, climbing a mountain, park competitions, or foam parties right in the schoolyard.
Chinese children are supplied with special water pistols and foam cartridges. Some parents come with umbrellas to these events, and use them to hide from all the splashing.
There are the ones who love active entertainment as well. Once the fathers of the kids had pots with ladles, and a real water battle began. The teachers could hardly beat out the children.
Kids can spend the whole day in street clothes and shoes.
In Chinese kindergartens, children don’t wear different shoes, regardless of whether it’s winter or summer. Children are brought into the class in light trainers (sneakers) during the winter, which is why they don’t feel hot inside. The air in the room is quickly getting thick and dusty though. Sometimes children don’t even take off their jackets or coats and the reason is simple: a lot of classrooms in the southern part of China don’t have heat (we live in the north of the country so it stays pretty warm in our classrooms).
They’re also not wearing hats, even when the outside weather is below zero. Even if their children’s ears are red, no one wears a hoodie. My son is the only one wearing hats and hoods.
I recently read an announcement intended for parents and understood why Chinese kids wear barely any hats.
“The outside temperature has dropped. Beware of keeping children’s bodies warm. Employ the’ 3 hot, 2 cold’ concept. Keep warm on the back, the belly and the feet.
Through keeping the backs of children warm we shield them from catching a cold because 1/3 of their body heat is going out through their eyes. When it overheats, the flow of heat diminishes. The child may become dizzy, confused, and even lose consciousness, so make sure their head is calm.
Pressing the collarbone. If it’s warm it means the child’s properly dressed.
There is no such thing as a “kids’ menu.”
Ordinary Chinese dishes are served to children in kindergarten, with a minimum amount of spices. The typical lunch consists of soup, a rice or noodle platter and a bun. This is it.
They need to eat their main course first, then “wash it down” with the soup. Just water is given to children before they go into the cafeteria. Many children aged in kindergarten will eat spicy food (starting at 2 years of age). The menu also provides shrimps every other week.
The kids fold their arms in front of their chest before each meal and say thank you for their food.
Much attention is paid to national customs in the Chinese kindergartens. Everyone makes dumplings on the winter solstice day, and they eat them later. On the early autumn holiday, teachers cut the watermelon into round shapes (to look like the sun) for the kids to eat.
On March 21, everyone tries to find their inner equilibrium with the start of the spring equinox. The main thing to do this day is to try to get raw eggs to stand up in a vertical position in order to balance and not fall. For this to happen, you need to have a lot of patience and concentration.