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Cultural Education and Special Needs Prove Kindergarten Priorities

Instilling Chinese culture from an early age, overcoming the shortfall in special needs facilities and both high and low-tech security and safety concerns dominated the trade agenda at the Sixth International Kid's Education and Health Expo 2015.

Photo: Early learning toys: A chance to jump-start junior education.
Early learning toys: A chance to jump-start junior education.
Photo: Early learning toys: A chance to jump-start junior education.
Early learning toys: A chance to jump-start junior education.

The Sixth International Kid's Education and Health Expo (Kids Expo 2015) bought together a wide array of businesses focussed on the childhood education, kindergarten design and environment creation, pre-school toys and teaching materials and motion sensor games sectors. The Guangzhou event also drew a large turnout of traders and dealers with interests in public and private kindergartens and early education institutions.

Chinese Culture and Pre-School Behaviour

Across the early childhood education sector, Chinese culture has become something of a focus for many kindergartens. In line with this, the Guangzhou Shenggong Education Group has been conducting studies into the practice of Chinese cultural education for the last 10 years. According to Chen Mei, a Systems Consultant with the group, this study has focussed on introductory education. According to a number of western studies, graphic memory learning is the most appropriate teaching methodology for children under six. Given their graphic nature, this is seen as making Chinese characters highly suitable as part of any early learning programme.

According to Chen, the practice of early Chinese cultural education is still – appropriately enough – in its infancy. Despite this, she sees it very much as a coming trend, believing that those kindergartens that embrace this approach will be ahead of the game.

Photo: An environmentally-kinder kindergarten.
An environmentally-kinder kindergarten.
Photo: An environmentally-kinder kindergarten.
An environmentally-kinder kindergarten.
Photo: Sporting activities from CGT.
Sporting activities from CGT.
Photo: Sporting activities from CGT.
Sporting activities from CGT.

In her opinion, it is inappropriate to use difficult classical works, such as the Analects, as part of any early education programme. Instead, she says, the Shenggong Group recommends the use of dedicated Chinese primers, notably The Three-Character Classic, The Book of Family Names and The Thousand-Character Classic. Through the process of reciting such works, she believes, young children will become familiar with the rhythm and tempo of Chinese language.

Overall, the Shenggong Group stresses the importance of customising teaching, training and teaching materials and aids. Only then, it says, will they be fully compatible with the teaching curricula of different cities' kindergartens.

Another company placing considerable emphasis on the teaching of traditional Chinese culture is the Guangzhou subsidiary of Hong Kong's Golden Wings Education Group. Incorporated in Hong Kong in 2005, the company now has an operational headquarters in Guangzhou.

According to Tian Yuha, Golden Wings' Deputy Managing Director, the company is primarily engaged in the development and promotion of early childhood education. It believes there is now considerable demand for early education courses in the third- and fourth-tier cities, as well as in the more rural areas of China.

According to Tian, Chinese cultural education is the most popular of Golden Wings' six primary categories of early childhood education products. Making use of fast memory techniques, as well as an understanding of the functional differences between left-brain and right-brain capabilities in early childhood, the company's proprietary memory cards can help young children learn classical poems and proverbs through verbal language and body movements.

Special Education

In 2014, some 61 mainland universities offered courses relating to special education, according the CPPCC's publishing house website (rmzxb.com.cn). In total, these courses offered places for 7,260 students, some 77% higher than the actual recruitment of such students in 2012. Based on these figures, only some 20,000-30,000 are currently enrolled on special education courses, with very few of these specialising in child rehabilitation.

Established in 1963, the Heep Hong Society of Hong Kong is a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing help to children and adolescents with special needs, both physically and mentally. The Heep Hong Society has introduced a number of advanced concepts, many of them originally pioneered in the US. It has subsequently adapted these techniques to meet the specific requirements of special needs children in Hong Kong. It is now offering the benefit of its practical experience to students through some 20-30 mainland-based special education training courses every year.

Photo: The Heep Hong Society’s app on show.
The Heep Hong Society's app on show.
Photo: The Heep Hong Society’s app on show.
The Heep Hong Society's app on show.
Photo: Hands-on approval from young learners.
Hands-on approval from young learners.
Photo: Hands-on approval from young learners.
Hands-on approval from young learners.

One of its techniques – the Hong Kong Preschool Fine Motor Developmental Assessment Tool – drew a substantial number of visitors to the Heep Hong Society stand. The system employs a variety of teaching materials and a range of colourful toys, including cards, drawing pens, scissors and small cars. These have all been designed to be irresistible to small children. The system can be used to assess children's sensory motor, visual cognition, writing ability and gaming skills. It is also sad to improve children's upper body stretching and clamping, as well as their bimanual coordination.

At the Heep Hong rehabilitation centres, teachers assess the conditions of children with special needs before designing suitable programmes. According to a Ms Lee, a representative of the society, some 70% of its trainees are able to enter primary school as ordinary students after completing these programmes. The society has also developed apps for parents and children to play together in order to establish the exact requirements in each special needs case.

Similarly focussing on the special needs field is The Taiwan Communication Disorder Association (TCDA). The Association has spent a number of years researching the subject, with the benefits of its experience now available on the mainland via Huiya, its Guangzhou-based agent.

According to Chen Qianlan, Huiya's Representative at the Expo, there remains considerable scope for the development of special needs education on the mainland, with the supply of special education teachers still falling far short of demand. At the South China Normal University in Guangzhou, many students studying the subject receive job offers well before graduating.

Playing Safe

Security and well-being are understandably important criteria for parents when it comes to choosing a kindergarten. In light of this, a number of exhibitors were attending the Kids Expo to highlight their latest innovations in this field.

Yiyun Innovation (Beijing), for one, had on offer its Baobaoyun mobile tracking system. Kindergartens that have installed this intelligent safe access control system can only be accessed by registered cardholders. The cardreader will also automatically send information to the smartphones of teachers and parents, allowing them to check children's attendance using the appropriate phone app.

In total, the system offers three different dedicated apps, with specific tailoring to the different needs of parents, teachers and headmasters. For the parents, this allows them to check the activity archives and weekly menus of their children. Kindergartens may also opt to allow parent to access their video monitoring system, allowing them to keep an eye on their children via their smartphones.

In the case of teachers, their app allows them to record the activities of all their students in the school. They can then compare notes with parents and express their views via the "home-kindergarten co-education” system. The headmaster app, meanwhile, allows monitoring of the overall operation of the kindergarten.

Photo: The Love Reason protective kindergarten products.
The Love Reason protective kindergarten products.
Photo: The Love Reason protective kindergarten products.
The Love Reason protective kindergarten products.

As well as smart management techniques, interest also remains high in lower tech aspects of baby and child safety. In line with this, the Guangzhou Ison Protective Equipment Co introduced two protective products for kindergartens at the show – its Love Reason bumper guards and corner protection angles.

According to Zhou Zhihui, the company's founder, wave theory is used in the design of these bumper guards, ensuring they not only act as effective buffers, but can also withstand considerable levels of wear and tear. As a result, these guards have a life span of three to five years and can withstand temperatures of between -40°C and 120°C. The company's corner protection angles for cupboards and desks also come with a high safety coefficient.

In the flooring sector, the Guangzhou Joyflor Decorate Material Co specialises in the production and sale of indoor and outdoor materials for early educational institutions. Its suspended assembled flooring system requires no bonding, while its unique press-and-lock tiles are easy to assemble and take apart. According to Hu Dingguo, an Executive with the company, Joyflor's products are made of non-toxic and hazard-free materials, making them ideal for young children.

Product Round-Up

Photo: Building the future: The Thinkertoy range.
Building the future: The Thinkertoy range.
Photo: Building the future: The Thinkertoy range.
Building the future: The Thinkertoy range.

Aside from the core areas of Chinese culture, special needs education and safety, a number of companies came to Guangzhou with innovations aimed at tackling a whole range of other educational challenges. Paperism, for instance, an environmentally-friendly furniture supplier, had on offer a range of paper toys, chairs and desks. Similarly appealing were the building blocks produced by Thinkertoy, a mainland based manufacturer. Its colourful construction toys are said to allow children build anything their imaginations suggest.

Taking a similarly constructive approach, the products from Suzhou-based Robotime allow children to build their own robots and use electronic and remote control devices to animate them. Staying in the high-tech sphere, Heyha, a Beijing manufacturer, utilises the latest in motion sensing advancements to provide an educational 3D gaming experience for young children.

The Sixth International Kid's Education and Health Expo (Kids Expo 2015) was held at the Poly World Trade Expo Center in Guangzhou from 5-7 June. This year the event attracted more than 200 international and domestic early education service providers and manufacturers, including representatives from Guangdong, Hong Kong, Macau, Guangxi, Fujian, Hainan and Hunan.

Jian Wei, Special Correspondent, Guangzhou

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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