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October 31, 2009

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Home » Metro » Education

City's kindergartens in hot demand

SHANGHAI kindergartens are suffering widespread overcrowding amid the ongoing baby boom, education authorities said yesterday.

Among the 17 districts and one country in the city, only one district, Changning, hasn't reported overcapacity in its kindergartens, according to enrollment figures.

The problem is worse in suburbs populated by migrants. More than80 percent of classes exceed the maximum pupil level, ranging from 25 to 35 children, in Qingpu, Jinshan and Songjiang districts.

"Kindergarten demand is growing far beyond the erection of new buildings," said Ni Minjing, a Shanghai Education Commission official in charge of elementary education.

The city has been on a kindergarten building spree to tackle the baby boom, which started in 2006.

The boom has resulted in soaring demands on kindergartens, which usually cater to children aged between three and five.

"It's very hard to enroll kids in kindergartens now," said Fleming Gu, father of a three-year-old boy.

"Several kindergartens have denied my son entry, citing overcapacity."

The city has about 1,000 kindergartens looking after more than 300,000 preschool children.

Ni said about 500,000 children would be eligible for kindergartens by 2011 as the boom continues.

An estimated 500 more kindergartens needed to be built by 2011 to cope, Ni said.

More than 50 kindergartens were built last year and 60 more are expected to be completed this year.

Most of the new kindergartens are in the city's suburban districts or other areas where migrants are settling.

Education authorities may increase student limits in kindergartens to ease the problem.

"If we increase the student numbers allowed in each class by five,for example, the situation will be much better," Ni said.

However, parents and education experts are worried that increasing classroom numbers may cause poor conditions for learning.

"The increase in quantity will cause a decrease in quality," said Wu Jinling, mother of a three-year-old boy.

"Teachers will find themselves busy comforting crying kids, with little energy left to care whether my son is happy or not."

Fu Fang, director of Weihai Road kindergarten echoed Wu's view.

"The amount of students enrolled in kindergartens should meet each school's 'real' situation," Fu said.


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