Giving preschoolers a sporting head start

By Lu Wen’ao in Chengdu Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/21 18:33:40

Program aims to address shortage of PE teachers in kindergartens

Preschool kids of two kindergartens line up for a soccer game on July 11 in Chengdu, capital city of Southwest China's Sichuan Province. Photo: Courtesy of Beijing Yinglets Sports

Although China has been trying to promote physical education (PE) across the country in recent years, kindergartens face a severe shortage of PE teachers, especially male ones. And with China adopting the two-child policy since 2016, the coming population spurt means there will be greater demand for ­kindergartens in the next two years.

"Ninety-five percent of the estimated 250,000 kindergartens in China do not hire PE teachers," said Hu Jianguo, chief of the National Development Committee for Young Children's Sports.

"Among those kindergarten ­teachers, 95 percent of them didn't have professional preschool education training and 95 percent of them are female teachers."

To change the situation, the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation and the China Sports Foundation jointly launched the China Eyas Program in May last year, aiming to bring better-quality physical education to kids aged from 3 to 6.

Cultivating teachers

Due to the shortage of preschool staff, the program has started cultivating the teachers before working on the kids, with more than 1,000 teachers having already started the curriculum.

"The cultivation of preschool teachers is an essential part of the program," Hu noted.

"Since last year, we have had more than 1,000 teachers taking the courses."

Sichuan provincial capital-based Chengdu University, which has a preschool education school at its teachers' college, will be the research center for the national development of young children's sports.

With China focusing on developing its soccer level across the country, the program is also using the sport as its testing ground in the preschool program, which has previously often been neglected.

"Soccer is just the starter … We have included a total of 16 sports in the initial process but ball sports are the major ones in the first phase," Hu said.

He also noted that instilling the idea of group work is the most important factor in the process.

"What we need to do is to help the kids understand team spirit," he noted.

"A plan is not enough. We need concrete actions."

But he is wary about putting the program directly into many kindergartens, as currently Chengdu Jianlei Sports Kindergarten, where Olympic gold medalists Feng Zhe (gymnastics) and Ren Xi (diving) spent their preschool days, spearheads the program's drive.

"If we make mistakes, the consequences would be unaffordable," said Hu, adding that the committee needs to make sure that the program is professionally and scientifically "suitable" before it is expanded in scale. "What we need to consider with regards to preschooler sports is much more delicate than those for adults."

Liu Hong, executive partner of Beijing Yinglets Sports, which operates the program, said they hope to reach some 3,000 kindergartens across the country by the end of this year.

Online courses

But under the current situation, expanding the scale of the project means a certain shortage of teachers for the moment.

"We have set up an online teaching platform, hoping it can reach more teachers in professional preschool education training," said Liu, adding that they are considering sharing male teachers between kindergartens due to their shortage.

An information platform was established to offer teachers online courses and allocate teachers in a bid to handle the shortage.

But Liu also noted the online system serves as an assistant to the teachers rather than a "key player" in itself.

"The first-hand experience of the teachers at the scene is always irreplaceable," Liu said.

Posted in: SOCCER

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