Test-focused cram reviews are now available to Chinese kindergarteners in Wuhan, one of China’s major inland cities according to Chinese reporters in Wuhan [translation available at EdNewsChina]. Parents worried that they might – excuse me, their kids might – “lose at the starting line” can now enroll them in kindergarten prep classes.

These classes, known as “kindergarten linkage classes” (幼小衔接班), are promoted as stepping stones to success in elementary school. They provide one-on-one practice in subjects like English, math, and the strategic chess-like game called Go. Some training centers even offer interview practice to help kindergarteners ace the elementary school admission interviews.

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At some training centers, spelling and pronunciation are the most popular classes. Fees vary between different training centers, ranging from 1,000RMB ($163) for short-term courses to 10,000 RMB ($1,627) for year-long courses.

These training centers claim to have connections to top schools and guarantee enrollment or money back. Schools, for their part, have disclaimed any relationship to such training centers.

Is elementary school admissions really this competitive in China? The Wuhan Department of Education, as it turns out, prohibits selective testing for elementary school enrollment. Each year, schools in the city hold a day of activities between teachers and students to determine “basic habits and current academic capabilities.” However, one school interviewed by the reporters said that these interactions with students “absolutely do not test post-kindergarten knowledge-level content such as arithmetic and character recognition.”

So where did these training centers and their classes come from, and why are parents so anxious to get in?

One possibility stated by the reporters of the original article is that training organizations ask students about the topics of these teacher-student interactions. They then extrapolate from the topics to produce the content for their training and inflate the academic requirements for elementary admissions. Parents unaware of this are then are tricked into pushing their children for an even earlier head start, in the belief that every little bit of extra knowledge will translate to a more competitive edge. In the process, they end up unnecessarily increasing the academic burden of their children.

Wuhan is not the only city offering these “kindergarten link classes.” A quick Baidu search shows that these classes are also popular offerings in other major Chinese cities, like Chengdu and Guangzhou. These classes could be just a fad, quick to rise in popularity and equally quickly to be taken down by education experts and critics. Or it could just be the next stage of evolution for the education industry in China.

For additional details, read a full translation of the Chinese article at Education News China.

[Update 5/29/13] Apparently early education classes aren’t just limited to elementary school admission. MBA programs for 3-6 year-olds are also available for parents who can pay (classes are $300 each) – these courses teach toddlers to “learn about teamwork, money, negotiation, and leadership.”

What’s next, Pre-Law for Pre-Teens?

 

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