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Pre-School Equipment Set for Boom as China's Kindergartens Upgrade

New Government guidelines require investment in educational resources by many private kindergartens.

Photo: Mainland kindergartens: Under-resourced and in need of investment. (Xinhua News Agency)
Mainland kindergartens: Under-resourced and in need of investment.
Photo: Mainland kindergartens: Under-resourced and in need of investment. (Xinhua News Agency)
Mainland kindergartens: Under-resourced and in need of investment.

According to the latest figures released by the Ministry of Education's Pre-school Education Assessment Task Force, the mainland is home to some 209,900 kindergartens, with the total 2014 spend in the sector estimated at around Rmb204.876 billion. At present, the majority of China's kindergartens are privately-owned and run, with curriculum-based teaching typically dominating the activities on offer. Historically, this has provided a ready market for companies specialising in the provision of early learning teaching materials.

In terms of the educational supplies and toys market, there is now considerable scope for expansion. At present, many kindergartens are adopting layouts very similar to those of primary schools. This sees them providing their young students with classrooms, desks, chairs, outdoor activity equipment and benches. Many of them, however, are under-resourced in terms of educational supplies, toys and appropriate teaching materials.

In the wake of the central government's increased focus on pre-school education, many provinces and cities across the country have begun to commit a higher level of resources to the sector. Under the current three-year action plan for pre-school education, games have been highlighted as an important component in all pre-school activities. This has seen the relevant local authorities encouraged to nurture such initiatives in their own kindergartens. The authorities in Jiangsu, for instance, have established game-based learning parks across the province, while also granting Rmb400,000 in financial support to qualifying kindergartens for the purchase of educational supplies, toys and other related equipment.

This year, the Ministry of Education is to issue its long-awaited standards for kindergarten educational supplies and equipment. This will explicitly set out the requirements governing kindergartens when it comes to the installation of playground equipment and the provision of educational toys. It will also lay down more comprehensive teaching guidelines.

While compliance with these standards might be relatively straightforward for the minority of publically run kindergartens, it may prove more difficult for many private kindergartens. In light of this, many kindergartens may need a degree of investment and refinancing when it comes to purchasing the compulsory educational toys and installing the designated playground equipment.

Unbalanced regional economic development and a lack of official standards in the pre-school sector has seen many kindergartens fail to provide the appropriate level of educational support equipment, while teaching standards have also varied considerably across the mainland. It is hoped that these new Ministry of Education standards will help remedy this. This will ensure that operators of kindergartens across the country will meet the necessary education and teaching requirements.

Since 2013, the annual China Toy Expo Shanghai has featured a dedicated hall for pre-school supplies and playground equipment. This has seen the number of kindergarten principals and toy distributors attending the event steadily increase every year. The continuing development of the mainland's pre-school education market has also attracted the attention of a number of major foreign suppliers in the sector. As a result, at the 2015 toy fair, Dusyma, one of Germany's leading manufacturers of educational toys, as well as a great number of US and Korean toy companies, exhibited at the event.

By far the biggest such event in the region, though, is the HKTDC Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair. At present many overseas companies use the event as a platform for accessing the mainland pre-school education market, while an increasing number of China's kindergarten operators attend the event in order to evaluate and purchase the latest early learning equipment innovations.

Cynthia Hu, Beijing Office

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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