China's "Boarding Kindergartens" Keep Kids For Five Days Straight
First instituted over 60 years ago to help care for war orphans, the schools eventually began to attract a more moneyed clientele. Today, supporters say they promote independence, while critics say they leave some kids feeling abandoned.
Kecia Lynn has worked as a technical writer, editor, software developer, arts administrator, summer camp director, and television host. A graduate of Case Western Reserve University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she is currently living in Iowa City and working on her first novel.
What's the Latest Development?
Throughout China, thousands of three- and four-year-olds spend a good part of their week -- from Monday morning to Friday afternoon -- learning, playing, eating and sleeping in "boarding kindergartens," returning to their parents only for the weekend. Xu Jing, executive principal of one Shanghai school, offers several reasons for the phenomenon: "Some think it's good for the children because it helps promote independence. Other parents don't have time or energy to look after their kids...Some parents worry that the grandparents will spoil the child, so they send them here."
What's the Big Idea?
First instituted in 1949 to help care for war orphans as well as the children of busy Communist Party leaders, boarding kindergartens were seen as fashionable status symbols at their peak in the 1990s. Today, they are experiencing a decline in popularity, with some closing outright and others changing their programs from residential to day care. Critics such as psychologist Han Mei Ling say that sending children away at such a young age can leave emotional scars as they get older: "They feel abandoned and irrelevant. They struggle to find their place in life, and they don't know how to behave in their own family."
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