On January 28, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) held an online high-level session titled “Advancing the Early Childhood Care and Education Agenda: Inclusive Innovative Dialogue towards a Global Partnership Strategy”. Vice Minister of Education Zheng Fuzhi attended the event.
In his speech, Zheng highlighted China’s record of consistently placing emphasis on early childhood care and development, and had stepped up its efforts to make preschool education more accessible and affordable. To achieve this goal, the following three major measures had been taken:
(1) Plans to improve access to education: in 2010, the central government announced medium and long-term plans for educational reform, setting a goal to achieve general access to preschool education by 2020. Later, two other important policies were rolled out to increase resources allocated to education, readjust educational systems, build up effective mechanisms and improve the quality of education. County-level authorities were designated to be the major implementers of these plans and policies.
(2) Clearer government body accountability and stronger synergy: local governments, under the guidance of the State Council, were given a more active role to play in education. Their responsibilities included building schools, funding, teacher recruitment and training, and inspection. Local governments prioritized the development of government-funded public kindergartens, while offering more support and guidance to privately-run kindergartens. Competent authorities in charge of education, finance, construction and healthcare worked closely together to promote preschool education.
(3) Increase of public spending on early childhood education and care: over the past ten years, the central government has earmarked funds for preschool education totaling over RMB 150 billion, and governments at all levels spent RMB 54.2 billion to support 47 million children from economically disadvantaged families.
Zheng said that in the past decade, the number of children going to kindergarten saw a remarkable increase of 18 million or 62%. The gross enrollment rate for children between age 3 to 5 increased from 56.6% to 85%, achieving the previously set goal. He said China would continue to expand funding to improve access to quality and affordable preschool education and strive to achieve the education goals set in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Ms. Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education and education ministers from various countries also attended the meeting.