Recent child abuse scandals show need for tighter preschool education rules

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/12/5 21:18:40

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT

Not long after a case of child abuse at a nursery in Shanghai for online travel agency Ctrip employees' children, another similar scandal emerged at an RYB Education kindergarten in Beijing's Chaoyang district. Although it was hard to separate the facts from the rumors, there's no doubt that child abuse is a serious issue requiring in-depth study in China.

At the time of the Ctrip incident, our analysis found that the aging society and declining birthrate were significant factors. We also warned that the Ctrip child abuse case was only the tip of the iceberg and that similar cases must be widespread in the current preschool education system. However, judging from the RYB event, the government should not only look at child abuse in terms of demographic policies; careful analysis of the commercialization of education is also needed.

The incident sounded the alarm for us in various aspects. For one thing, it revealed the extent to which education has become a business. RYB conducted three rounds of financing before its IPO, involving dozens of enterprises and institutions. Undoubtedly, this mode of operation will lead to a profit-seeking institution. In order to satisfy the capital requirements, such institutions will need to accelerate brand expansion continuously and compete for student sources.

In the past two years, capital from various areas has been ploughed into the early education industry, including from real estate developers in transition and even the building materials business. Even though most of these enterprises do not have any experience in education, they are capable of investing in the early education projects.

Meanwhile, the management of domestic education is out of control, because intervention from the government and law are lagging behind. In our opinion, education, like medicine, is a special field. Even if it is developed in a market-oriented manner, special supervision should also be carried out.

But the frequent child abuse incidents in our country have clearly proved that this industry is seriously under-regulated. The most recent incidents are by no means isolated cases. Since 2014, RYB has been sued multiple times for varying degrees of child abuse. However, the company has suffered little punishment, and it has seen a continuous expansion of scale.

The supply of educational services, especially in terms of early education, by the government is also problematic. With the withdrawal of State-owned enterprises and the acceleration of urbanization, the traditional public services for early education seem to be out of line with the current demand. With the release of the two-child policy, the government must consider expansion of its related early education services. And where such services are offered by market-oriented businesses, proper regulation and strengthened stewardship should be put in place.

There is also a serious shortage of training for nursery personnel. For instance, at East China Normal University in Shanghai, there are around 100 graduates in preschool education each year, but more than 200 kindergartens went there to recruit staff last year.

Given this situation, the market-oriented nature of early education needs much tighter scrutiny. In order to meet the needs of society, social forces should be encouraged to set up kindergartens and increase the service provision together with the government. The government can also attach greater importance to the particularities in education and should not allow private capital to dominate this field.

In addition, we should consider establishing independent departments for child protection. For enterprises and participants that violate laws and regulations, heavy penalties and huge amounts of compensation should be imposed so as to solve the current problems.

This article was compiled based on a report by Beijing-based private strategic think tank Anbound.

Posted in: INSIDER'S EYE

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