2017-09-19 06:02:56

The certificate needed to open a kindergarten in China can be obtained for nothing more than a one-off fee and an identity card check, China National Radio reported Monday.

Kindergarten directors need to have a recognized teaching qualification, three years of experience working with preschoolers, and a certificate to say they have completed training, according to regulations issued by the Ministry of Education in March 2016. But these regulations don’t specify which government bodies are responsible for overseeing the training of directors or the issuing of certificates, and in the absence of such oversight, many schools have stepped into the breach.

Hundreds of the country’s training institutes now provide so-called kindergarten director’s certificates, and weak enforcement has led to the emergence of unscrupulous companies that sell the qualifications without any accompanying training.

Dong Yaling, from central China’s Henan province, opened her private kindergarten in Zhengzhou, the provincial capital, in 2016. It is attended by more than 200 children divided into eight classes. Dong, who previously worked as a kindergarten teacher and held a mid-level managerial post in the same school, refused to reveal both where she obtained her directors’ certificate and how much money she spent on the qualification. “It’s not difficult to get hold of the certificate if you have relevant experience,” she told Sixth Tone.

A cursory search for the term “kindergarten director certificate” in a Chinese search engine returns a range of services from different organizations. Some promise a three-day training course priced at 4,800 yuan ($730) and a coveted certificate issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security in two to three months. Others cost only 2,500 yuan and claim to offer a certificate issued by the China Employment Training Technical Instruction Center.

A Henan-based training institute, Ivory Tower Education, even promises customers a certificate without asking clients to sit the necessary exams. “As long as you transfer us a down payment of 500 yuan, you can give us the remaining 2,000 yuan any time in the next 20 days, and we’ll get you the certificate,” said a female employee surnamed Liu, who claimed to be a teacher at Ivory Tower.

Liu also claimed that Ivory Tower’s certificates are issued by the National Center for Educational Technology, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Education. “They are recognized nationwide,” Liu said.

Although many training institutes make claims similar to Liu’s, in practice, not all recipients of directors’ certificates are greenlighted by the state. State news agency Xinhua recently reported that police in southwestern China’s Guizhou province are investigating the case of a woman who claims to have been cheated out of 4,000 yuan for a three-day session at a local training institute in return for a kindergarten director’s certificate. When she took this certificate to the local education bureau to apply to establish a private kindergarten, the authorities informed her it was invalid.

Ren Mingyong, an official with the provincial education department, was quoted by Xinhua as saying that in Guizhou, only certificates issued by either official education or human resources authorities are recognized as legitimate. Normally, he continued, teachers are first promoted to the role of director and only later receive training to acquire the document.

As young parents attach greater importance to preschool education, Guizhou has witnessed a surge in the number of kindergartens in rural areas, says Zhang Jianhui, director of the provincial Center for Kindergarten Teacher Development.

“Last year, only 581 kindergarten teachers in the whole province were included in the national [directors] training plan,” Zhang told Xinhua, referring to an annual drive run by the Ministry of Education that seeks to prepare existing teachers for directorial roles. “That’s well below the real demand. But people can’t wait until they’re included in the plan, so they decide to make their own arrangements.”

Editor: Matthew Walsh.

(Header image: A teacher watches over a class of children at a kindergarten in Shanghai, April 14, 2016. Liu Xingzhe for Sixth Tone)