How To Choose The Right Kindergarten  |  Find A School  |  How To Enroll

Coming to live in China with your family can be a frustrating and difficult process. The language barrier, not understanding local customs and lack of clarity can be a stressful time. When faced with bringing children along one must also worry about education. With Chinese education a mystery to foreigners, many opt for the easy choice of an 'international' school. However, in many cases the extra expense, travel frustrations and lack of availability can leave parents not fully satisfied.

This text hopes to help you understand a little more about the situation of kindergartens particularly in Chengdu and help you make a choice of what is most suitable for you. It is split into several sections: What is a kindergarten? Types of kindergarten; services offered; general costs; semesters/terms; curriculum; and teaching style.

The word 幼儿园 (youeryuan) or 幼稚园 (youzhiyuan) in Chinese is used to denote an organisation that is involved in teaching children prior to their entry to formal education. In most Chinese cities entry to 'kindergarten' starts at between 2 and 3 years of age and continues until 6 years old and covers a span of approximately four years of attendance.

Generally speaking, this covers both the idea of 'preschool' and 'kindergarten' together in the USA and ‘playschool’ and ‘infants’ in the UK. In this article, I have used the general term ‘kindergarten’ to cover all age groups from 2.5 to 6 years old

Every Chinese city is a little different and the specific arrangements of kindergartens can vary from one place to another. In Chengdu, kindergartens
generally use a similar framework for opening times. Please note these are only an approximate overview
8:00 – 8:30 Breakfast
8:00 – 8:30 Breakfast
8:30 – 11:30 Teaching activities
11:30 – 12:00 Lunch
12:00 – 14:30 Sleeping time
14:30 – 17:00 Teaching activities
17:00 – 17:30 Dinner
17:30 Pick up time
In reality each school is a little different. However, the general situation is that of above

Most Chinese kindergartens work on their own term schedule which relates closely to the Chinese holiday system. Generally speaking there are two semesters/terms per year, as below:
Fall semester: September – Chinese New Year (late Jan – early Feb)
Spring Semester March – June
For kindergartens, there are usually no mid-term holidays and in reality most local kindergartens are still open as usual during summer and winter holidays. The closest situation to reality is that Chinese kindergartens are open every day of the year except specific government holidays which make a total of about 5 to 6 weeks per year.
Chinese kindergartens do not close for Christmas or any other Western holidays. However, schools may celebrate them by themselves.

There are two types of government run kindergartens, one is called ‘Jiguan’ (official) and the other ‘Gongli’(public)
Official kindergartens generally speaking have high standards and are experimental kindergartens or attached to universities for research. However, coverage is extremely low and there is huge competition for these subsidized places. In most cases, official kindergartens are only open to people with ‘connections’. However, they sometimes open their doors to foreign children.
Public kindergartens have much lower standards and less government backing. They are more open to foreign placements but are not usually the place of choice.

Private Kindergartens
Private kindergartens essentially make up for the lack of coverage of official and public kindergartens or provide a higher quality service than most public kindergartens.
Although essentially governed by the same requirements and operating on a similar schedule, there is a huge difference in teaching, service, resource and equipment quality between private kindergartens.

Semi-International Kindergartens
In China, semi-international kindergartens are a grey area. These kindergartens often advertise as ‘fully international’ kindergartens but in reality are not. They are often invested in by overseas investors and run somewhat on overseas principles. However, legally speaking they are on exactly the same footing and governed by the same regulations as private Chinese kindergartens. This requires that the principal must be Chinese and they generally turn into a slightly-modified version of local kindergartens. Standards are usually around average for the market yet prices are often way above average. International Kindergartens International kindergartens are usually a small section within an international school. They operate according to UN charter and can only accept children with an overseas passport. Prices are high as is quality, however they often have other disadvantages due to scarcity and the fact that they operate on overseas term/semester arrangements.

Many local kindergartens offer a service quality that even international schools find it hard to match. This gives several advantages Time – Local kindergartens generally cover all the times that parents are at work. With release time at 5:30 pm you rarely have to worry about getting there on time to pick them up. If you wish to pick children up earlier too, schools are generally open to you doing so. Location – due to the number of kindergartens that have a reasonable quality, it is possible to choose one close to your home. Children do not have to take long bus journeys to go to school. Safety – Due to the scale of purchasing, larger local kindergartens such as Golden Apple can purchase many foods and school materials directly from source and avoid completely the possibility of contamination Support Network – Local kindergartens often have a huge support network of professionals such as pediatricians, dental experts, dieticians, logistics experts, mental health experts etc. This support network enables kindergartens to react positively to almost any event. Extra Interest Classes – Chinese kindergartens have many experiential classes for children to take part in. Although they are sometimes organized in a different way than overseas, they are often enjoyable opportunities for children to try out new things. Extra classes can range from dance and art to physical activities such as roller skating and Taekwondo.

There are many concepts of curriculum. However, Chinese kindergartens are generally based around the local curriculum. The local curriculum covers Health, Science (including Math), Language, Art and Social Studies and is taught in an integrated way. In addition to the local curriculum, many kindergartens also have English classes and rotating English teachers that go to classes. All Golden Apples have foreign teachers who can communicate with overseas parents and children. Some kindergartens, such as Golden Apple Tianfu Kindergarten, operate on an immersion-style language principle with English in the mornings and Chinese in the evenings Occasionally, kindergartens such as Golden Apple IPAK, operate a fully bilingual international curriculum with English and Chinese simultaneously throughout the day.

Worries about care quality, language barriers and teaching style often lead overseas parents to choose international kindergartens. This is a very valid option if you wish your child to learn in English and is many times preferential for parents of non-English speakers when in China. Local kindergartens can give children a taste of local culture, immersion into the Chinese language and a different perspective on childhood that an international kindergarten cannot possibly give. The care quality in many local kindergartens such as Golden Apple is often exemplary and beyond that of many of even the best international schools. Teachers in Chinese kindergartens do generally have higher expectations of children both academically and behaviorally. So, local kindergartens are not necessarily suited to parents who like to give their children fewer boundaries. If you wish your child to learn the Chinese language, have high academic expectations and prefer your children to have very clear behavioral boundaries, local kindergartens such as Golden Apple can be a good choice.