Yunnan as a whole is moving toward a future economy focused primarily on two things — tourism and emerging technologies. The latter will require a new generation of highly trained professionals. In an attempt to meet such demands — as well as bolster educational sophistication in general — the provincial government has issued an edict requiring towns, no matter how small, to provide kindergarten classes to all children by 2020.
A section of Yunnan's Twelfth Five-Year Plan — implemented in 2015 — outlines the need to make access to kindergarten a provincial priority. Official statistics show that over the past three years, total preschool enrollment across the province covered only 64 percent of all potential students. This level of registration and participation is 11 percent lower than the national average, and both rural teachers and children must often cope with deplorable conditions.
A new plan calls for the establishment of kindergarten facilities in all rural villages that currently lack them. The plan also includes sections of urban areas where children must currently be bused long distances to attend already crowded schools. In total, five billion yuan (US$759 million) is earmarked for the program, which planners expect to be completed by 2020.
Zhao Derong (赵德荣), deputy secretary of the Yunnan Education Bureau, outlined the policy — entitled the "Yunnan Preschool Education Achievement Plan" — at a meeting held June 14-15 in Weishan (巍山). He explained that the additional teachers required for the province-wide program will first be recruited on a volunteer basis.
As yet, no specific teacher qualification prerequisites have been made public. However, Zhao did elucidate the goal of having "at least two teachers and one nursery staff member" in each classroom by 2020. This aim, he said, will be facilitated by encouraging freshman attending Yunnan universities to pursue degrees in elementary education.
Some of the five billion in funds will be disbursed to existing preschools that accommodate students from underserved and far-flung rural areas. However, the bulk of the money will be used to accelerate the creation of new "countryside kindergartens". Some 2,083 of these have been built over the past year, and are teaching a standard curriculum once unavailable in rural schools. Additionally, an annual stipend of 300 yuan will be given to kindergarten students hailing from the province's poorest areas.
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