Controversy flares over research of tot teachers
Updated: 2012-08-31 07:49
By Luo Wangshu (China Daily)
Two 4-year-olds wearing apple and banana costumes sing and dance to a nursery rhyme in an animated impersonation of fruit they are dressed as.
"I helped them dress like fruit for a role-play game," said Liu Fang, a 28-year-old teacher at a major kindergarten in Beijing.
"It's not just a game, I want to teach them to recognize different fruit."
The game is also part of her ongoing research in how to involve role-playing into children's cognitive development. The kindergarten encourages its teachers to conduct academic research as part of their daily work. Topics can include classroom strategies, or specific case studies of children with special needs.
"One of my colleagues is researching how to demonstrate scientific experiments to children. They love to see fuzzy flames in their classroom," Liu said.
Many kindergartens have requirements that encourage teachers to carry out educational research as part of their work, said Deng Yi, assistant professor at Hunan First Normal University, who specializes in early childhood education.
"These kindergartens are mostly labeled model kindergartens," Deng said.
Li Jing, vice-president of Sunny Kids Garden, a bilingual kindergarten in Beijing, said it is a bonus for their kindergarten when the teachers carry out research.
"We encourage teachers to be involved in research based on their classroom activities, but it is not a requirement," Li said.
"But if a teacher is good at conducting research and has published works in academic journals, she or he will find it easier to be promoted," she said.
Li said teachers conduct research based on their own interests.
Deng from Hunan First Normal University said kindergarten-based research could improve professional development.
"Kindergarten teachers focus on repetitive work, which may easily be tiring after a few years. It is important to maintain their passion for the job, keep developing professionally in their area and stay involved," Deng said.
"It will help teachers to improve their teaching skills," Deng added.
Many scholars believe that kindergarten-based research will improve various aspects of education.
Professor Zhu Jiaxiong from East China Normal University, whose expertise is in early childhood education, wrote a book in 2005 saying kindergarten-based research should focus on studying teaching plans.
Liu Zhanlan, a professor at Beijing Normal University, wrote in a 2009 paper that she believed kindergarten-based research will improve teachers' professional development.
However, Li from Sunny Kids Garden said that it is hard to find time for teachers to do research and teach.
"Kindergarten teaching is not as easy as outsiders think. It is tiring to spend a whole day taking care of and educating kids. It requires teachers to pay full attention to children, and many teachers are exhausted after a day's work. Kindergarten teachers need to have lots of energy to play with children, leaving them tired physically as well," Li said, adding that teachers would like to take a break after work instead of doing research.
She also said research requires a certain academic background, which limits the number of teachers that can focus on research as well as their teaching duties.
A Beijing kindergarten teacher surnamed Qu said she had been placed under too much pressure when her school asked her to conduct research.
"I stay with children eight hours a day and make decorations and student portfolios when they go home or nap. It is a lot of work. I just want to lie in bed after work. Sometimes I cannot even move my body I'm so exhausted," Qu said.
Sue Liang, a kindergarten teacher in the United States, said it is rare for kindergarten teachers to conduct academic research in the US.
"Teaching is a practical profession, which needs more pragmatic experiences than research," Liang said, adding that teachers in the US only do research for an advanced degree.
Some parents also do not see why teachers should carry out research.
Ye Jianzeng, a Beijing father of a 4-year-old boy, said: "There's no need to become a scholar to teach my boy. All I wish for his teacher is to take good care of him."