In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Early Childhood Education in China

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks
  • Reports in Early Childhood Education
  • Journals
  • The Development of Early Childhood Education and Policy Reform
  • Curriculum Development
  • Teacher Education and Professional Development
  • Early Childhood Inclusive Education
  • Play and Pedagogy
  • Family Education and Study
  • Home-Kindergarten Collaboration

Education Early Childhood Education in China
Liang Li, Feiyan Chen
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 January 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 May 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0080


The study of early childhood education (ECE) in China has been intimately influenced by the reforms and progress of Chinese politics and the economy. Currently, the Chinese government has shown interest in early childhood education, implementing policies in the form of The Guidance for Kindergarten Education (Trial Version) in 2001 and The National Education Reform and Development of Long-Term Planning Programs (2010–2020) in 2010. It has been found that China’s kindergarten education has dramatically changed since 1990. In recent years, various Western curricula and pedagogical models have been introduced to China, such as Montessori programs, Reggio Emilia, Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP), and the Project Approach. Many kindergartens have faced difficulties and challenges in adapting these models in their programs. Therefore, a heated debate about how the Western curricula can be appropriated in the Chinese cultural context has been initiated between early childhood researchers and practitioners. Research has revealed that the most important aim for promoting curriculum reform is to improve kindergarten teachers’ professional knowledge, such as their understanding of the concept of play and pedagogy, and perceptions of inclusion and kindergarten-based curriculum. Furthermore, within the process of reform, family education and family collaborations cannot be ignored in child development.

General Overviews

Early childhood education in China has made dramatic progress since the 1980s. In Tobin, et al. 2009, which studies across three cultures, the continuity and change across the systems of early childhood education are evident. The project report Zhongguo Xueqian Jiaoyu Fazhan Zhanlue Yanjiu Ketizu 2010 reflects upon the development of China’s early childhood education and locates the current situation of the development of early childhood education. The historical development of Chinese early childhood education indicates three distinct cultural threads, including traditional culture, communist culture, and Western culture, that have shaped early childhood education in China, as demonstrated in Zhu and Zhang 2008 and Lau 2012. Furthermore, currently, administrative authorities intend to establish an independent budget for the ECE field in order to support early childhood education in rural areas (Zhao and Hu 2008). A higher quality of educational provisions for children living in rural areas will be another goal for the Chinese government. Many researchers have detailed the important issues of early childhood education, especially teacher education. The exploratory study in Hu and Szente 2010 (cited under Early Childhood Inclusive Education) has indicated that Chinese kindergarten teachers hold negative attitudes toward inclusion of children with disabilities, as they do not have enough knowledge and skills for working with this population. This indicates that kindergarten teachers need to improve their perceptions of children with disabilities. Furthermore, Gu 2007 has focused on the issues of new early childhood teachers’ professional development and puts forward some feasible suggestions about how new teachers deal with key events in their everyday teaching practices. With regard to families’ support of their children’s early development at home, family education should be focused and the collaborative partnership between kindergarten and family needs to be enhanced. Teachers’ attitudes toward family intervention are a vital aspect of teacher-family collaboration. Therefore, kindergarten teachers should support family members in their role as the child’s first teacher and build collaborative partnerships with family, as presented in Ding 2007. Furthermore, kindergarten teachers should be considered as active researchers in children’s role play. This supports the co-construction of their teaching knowledge in relation to children’s initiation/subjectivity in role play (Liu, et al. 2003).

  • Ding Lianxin 丁连信. 2007. Xueqian ertong jiating jiaoyu (学前儿童家庭教育). 2d ed. Beijing: Kexue Chubanshe (科学出版社).

    Shows a thorough and comprehensive overview of the topic. It is suitable for undergraduate and graduate students, kindergarten teachers, and family schools.

  • Gu Rongfang 顾荣芳. 2007. Cong xinshou dao zhuanjia—youer jiaoshi zhuanye chengzhang yanjiu (从新手到专家—幼儿教师专业成长研究). Beijing: Beijing Shifan Daxue Chubanshe (北京师范大学出版社).

    This book is focused on teachers’ professional development in early childhood. It is a cooperative development between new teachers and experienced teachers—their teaching and research activities—and includes some empirical studies on teacher development.

  • Lau, Grace. 2012. From China to Hong Kong: A reflection on the impact of the educational reform in the Deweyan perspective on early childhood education in the Land of the Dragon. International Journal of Educational Reform 21.1: 2–23.

    This paper is focused on how Dewey’s philosophy has influenced educational reform on early childhood education in modern China, including the mainland and Hong Kong, and evaluates the cause and impact of the implementation of educational reform through Dewey’s perspectives.

  • Liu Yan 刘焱, Zhu Limei 朱丽梅, and Li Xia 李霞. 2003. Zhutixing biaoyan youxi de tansuo yanjiu (主体性表演游戏的探索研究). Studies in Preschool Education (学前教育研究) 5:22–24.

    An active study between two kindergarten teachers in Beijing in 2000 and 2001 is presented in the paper in order to promote the development of children’s subjectivity in role play.

  • Tobin, Joseph, Yeh Hsueh, and Mayumi Karasawa. 2009. Preschool in three cultures revisited: China, Japan, and the United States. Chicago and London: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    A cross-cultural study shows that Chinese preschools have changed dramatically since the authors conducted their original study in 1985. It explores in depth the process of continuity and change across the systems of early childhood education and the influence of implicit cultural beliefs of how children learn and how teachers teach.

  • Zhao, Lin, and Xinyun Hu. 2008. The development of early childhood education in rural areas in China. Early Years: An International Journal of Research and Development 28.2: 197–209.

    DOI: 10.1080/09575140802079756

    This paper reports on the past twenty-five years of early childhood education in rural areas in China. A case study of Gao village in northwest China was used as a typical example to show the developmental trends and challenge of early childhood education in rural areas of China. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Zhongguo Xueqian Jiaoyu Fazhan Zhanlue Yanjiu Ketizu 中国学前教育发展战略研究课题组. 2010. Zhongguo Xueqian Jiaoyu Fazhan Zhanlue Yanjiu (中国学前教育发展战略研究). Beijing: Jiaoyu Kexue Chubanshe (教育科学出版社).

    This book analyzes the regulations and policies on early childhood education since the reform and open-door policy implementation, drawing conclusions on the developmental experience in management systems, education models, and so on, based on broad-range empirical field studies and studies comparing early childhood education and developmental models with those of other countries.

  • Zhu Jiaxiong, and Zhang Jie. 2008. Contemporary trends and developments in early childhood education in China. Early Years: An International Journal of Research and Development 28.2: 173–182.

    DOI: 10.1080/09575140802163584

    The authors discuss the history of early childhood education in China, showing three distinct cultural threads, including traditional culture, communist culture, and Western culture. The discussion further confirms how it is important to rethink and continue to promote early childhood curriculum reform. Some developmental trends in ECE are covered. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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