To­ward a more child-friendly so­ci­ety

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By WANG HONGYI in Shang­hai wanghongyi@chi­

Ed­u­ca­tion ex­perts have said that fam­i­lies, the com­mu­nity, so­cial or­ga­ni­za­tions and the govern­ment need to work to­gether to cre­ate an inclusive child-friendly com­mu­nity ser­vice sys­tem which will pro­mote healthy de­vel­op­ment and safe­guard the rights of the coun­try’s chil­dren.

While of­fi­cial fig­ures show that there are about 220 mil­lion chil­dren aged be­tween 0 to 14 in China, the coun­try has yet to be­come a child-friendly so­ci­ety as many par­ents still face prob­lems such as the short­age of pre-school ed­u­ca­tion and health­care ser­vices, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts.

“Take the ed­u­ca­tion for chil­dren aged 0 to 3 old for ex­am­ple — we found that par­ents’ ex­ces­sive pro­tec­tion and ig­no­rance about this mat­ter ex­ist side-by-side. Be­sides that, ex­ces­sive ex­pec­ta­tion and anx­i­ety, in­for­ma­tion over­load and con­fu­sion also co-ex­ist,” said Zhou Nianli, a pro­fes­sor in ed­u­ca­tion sci­ence from the Shang­hai-based East China Nor­mal Uni­ver­sity.

Hav­ing ob­served the ex­pe­ri­ences of coun­tries like the United States, United King­dom and Ja­pan in build­ing pub­lic ser­vice sys­tems for chil­dren, ex­perts said that one of the first steps would be to set up a vol­un­teer sys­tem to serve the chil­dren across China.

“The govern­ment’s plan­ning and joint work by var­i­ous de­part­ments are needed if we want to es­tab­lish an inclusive pub­lic ser­vice sys­tem as well as a cor­re­spond­ing sup­port­ing plat­form. This is sys­tem­atic work which re­quires the whole so­ci­ety’s at­ten­tion and par­tic­i­pa­tion, such as aca­demics, so­cial or­ga­ni­za­tions, chil­dren care in­sti­tu­tions and en­ter­prises,” said Zhou dur­ing a sym­po­sium in Shang­hai on the de­vel­op­ment of child friendly com­mu­ni­ties in China.

So­cial or­ga­ni­za­tions have be­come in­creas­ingly in­volved in com­mu­nity ser­vice de­vel­op­ment in re­cent years. Some so­cial work in­sti­tu­tions and par­ents have vol­un­tar­ily set up or­ga­ni­za­tions and car­ried out a se­ries of mu­tual aid com­mu­nity ser­vice projects based on pre-school ed­u­ca­tion. Many of these projects have re­ceived pos­i­tive feed­back from the com­mu­ni­ties.

For ex­am­ple, the Yi Fu­ture Par­ent- Chil­dren Ser­vice Al­liance, an ini­tia­tive that fo­cuses on the early de­vel­op­ment of chil­dren and the pro­mo­tion of fam­ily ed­u­ca­tion, has es­tab­lished 45 pilot projects in the coun­try to ad­dress pre-school ed­u­ca­tion is­sues for chil­dren aged 0 to 6.

“This is a pre­lim­i­nary at­tempt in build­ing a child-friendly com­mu­nity in China. We hope to de­velop a sus­tain­able com­mu­nity-based pub­lic wel­fare ser­vice plat­form through new con­cepts and ideas,” said Zhou Weiyan, who ini­ti­ated the pro­gram.

Zhou said that this ser­vice, when com­pared with other com­mer­cial pre-school ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions, puts more em­pha­sis on the pos­i­tive in­flu­ence that fam­ily and the com­mu­nity have on chil­dren, es­pe­cially in the build­ing of a child’s char­ac­ter.

In June this year, the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion and other re­lated de­part­ments jointly re­leased guide­lines re­lated to the de­vel­op­ment of com­mu­nity ed­u­ca­tion, which the govern­ment has said is an im­por­tant part of the coun­try’s ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem and com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment ef­forts.

“All as­pects of so­ci­ety should work to­gether to help pro­vide a rel­a­tively equal ba­sic pub­lic ser­vice for the 220 mil­lion chil­dren in China, al­low­ing them to have a fair de­vel­op­ment chance,” said Song Wen­zhen, di­rec­tor of the chil­dren’s divi­sion of the State Coun­cil’s Na­tional Work­ing Com­mit­tee on Chil­dren and Women.

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