Preschool education is the foundation of basic education, and a foundational project to comprehensively establish the lifelong education system. Since 10th 5-year plan started, all levels of the Suzhou government have implemented the policy on reform and development of pre-school education of the Office of the State Council (the office of the State Council  No.13), guidelines for accelerating the reform and development of preschool education by the Office of Jiangsu Province Government (the office of Jiangsu Province Government  No.73), and the decision on further accelerating the reform and development of preschool education by the Suzhou Municipal Government (the office of the Suzhou Municipal Government  No.141), calling for larger allocation of funds and lower burden of expenses to develop the preschool education that will meet the needs of the people.
1. Public kindergartens as the main body, and government funding as the main source of funds
Preschool education is a social public service, and developing this public service is the responsibility of the government. Since the reform and open policy were introduced, preschool education of Suzhou City has been a matter of key importance at all levels of the government. Public kindergartens have been given a central place in the structure of preschool education and government funding is the main source of education funds, backed by the rapid developing economy.
Construction and the personnel wages are the main expenditures of kindergartens. In Suzhou, all of these significant expenditures are covered by government funding. As for the construction of kindergarten buildings, taking the village/town central kindergartens governed by Suzhou as an example, during the past three years, Zhangjiagang has built 15 new kindergartens, expanded 11 ones, and remodeled 32, with the total funds amounting to more than 200 million Yuan. During the past five years, Changshu has spent more than 140 million Yuan for the building, expansion and rebuilding of kindergartens, construction of 22 new kindergartens, and rebuilt (expanded) 12. Wujiang has newly built 16 countryside central kindergartens, rebuilt or expanded 5 countryside central kindergartens in recent years, at a total expenditure of more than 140 million Yuan.
Personnel wages at kindergartens are covered by mainly two sources: fiscal allocation and care and management fees paid by the parents. Generally speaking, the wages of publicly hired teachers come from the national coffers, while self-hired teachers are paid from care and management fees. Therefore, in the case of the kindergartens in Suzhou, the larger number of publicly hired teachers results in lower care and management fees, and conversely, greater government funding. Now there are 7,798 kindergarten teachers in Suzhou. Among them, 4,294 ones are public-hired teachers, accounting for 55% of the total. If the average annual revenue is 35,000 Yuan, the Suzhou needs to pay 150 million Yuan a year from its treasury for publicly hired teachers of kindergartens.
In order to guarantee government funding in preschool education, when making "the Goal Responsibility Book" at the beginning of every year, the first-level people's city/county governments of Suzhou always lists preschool education in the government-working-plan. Setting preschool education as an independent item, the government raises the funds uniformly. Finally, some special persons are made responsible for carrying out the projects. When the leader departments at the upper level carry out the examination of the village/town's work at the end of each year, they examine the preschool education item listed in the "Goal Responsibility Book," and pursue the responsibility of persons in charge for any work that did not meet qualifications.
2. Rational cost sharing and standardizing private kindergartens
In order to make preschool education the kind of social welfare service that all families can enjoy, all levels of governments are engaged in policy-making and guarantee the high-quality and low-cost pre-school education resources of Suzhou. As for the enrollment expense, the government and family bear the education cost together. The present fee standard for Suzhou kindergartens was set according to "the special report on the average cost of raising kindergarteners" in the first half of 2006, which was headed by the educational department with the participation by the industry and commerce department and the finance department. The new fee standard is slightly lower than that in Nanjing and equal to that in Wuxi, Changzhou and Zhenjiang, which is entirely based on the principle of cost calculation and rational sharing. Taking the model kindergartens at the city/provincial level in Suzhou as the example, the average cost of raising a kindergartener is 750 Yuan/month. Parents bear 480 Yuan, accounting for 64% of the education cost, and the government bears 36%. Taking the model kindergartens at the city/provincial level in Zhangjiagang as another example, the average cost of raising a kindergartener is 490 Yuan/month. Parents bear 200 Yuan, accounting for 41% of the education cost, and the government bears 59%.
The part to be borne by the government is derived from fiscal allocation, which is directly allocated to kindergartens for projects and personnel wages. On the other hand, it is indirectly allocated by reducing the enrollment expenses of low income family children or giving the city staff partial allowances for their children's enrollments.
The Sufuban  No.65 File issued by Suzhou People's Government in 2006 stipulated that the city staff (conforming to the Family Planning Policy, and having a registered permanent address in Suzhou) can obtain 200 Yuan/month for child care and management fees in kindergarten. In addition, the present kindergarten charge policy of Suzhou does not involve the issues of transient students or school selecting, and the enrollment fee is same for all of children, fully embodying the welfare and equality of preschool education.
Private kindergartens emerged to compensate for the lack of public kindergartens. In order to guarantee that parents of private kindergarteners can similarly enjoy government subsidies, all levels of governments have implemented a series of related policies based on continual practices. For example: 1. Waive the building and land rent. Some kindergartens in residential areas are authorized to enter the private-kindergarten market through open auctions. In order to reduce the cost of private education and support it, some local governments have a preferential policy of waiving 3 years' rent on the condition that good service is provided to parents in the residential area, and a high-quality kindergarten is established in three years. 2. Define the service range. In order to guarantee the benefits of parents living in residential areas, some cities/districts have stipulated in detail in the contract that the range of services and the fee standard should conform to that of public kindergartens. When the children in residential areas and those in kindergarten account for certain ratio, the government will reduce or waive the rent to subsidize the private kindergartens. 3. Guarantee teachers' salary and benefits. In order to guarantee the benefits of teachers working in private kindergartens, some cities/districts stipulate that each street must allocate 200 Yuan/child to kindergartens to keep the wages of kindergarten teachers increasing every year; A requirement that their wages should be in line with those of teachers in local public-kindergartens is imposed upon the bidders of kindergartens in residential areas. The minimum wage for teachers in rural non-public kindergartens has been established, and the insurance issues have also been gradually solved. Furthermore, many villages and towns have set a special wage standard for teachers of non-public village kindergartens to take examinations to obtain the teacher qualification to enable them to receive the same economic treatment as teachers of public kindergartens.
3. Coexistence of multiple models under the Educational Department
According to File  No. 13 of Office of the State Council, the preschool education of Suzhou is managed by the local region and the relevant administrative department. For kindergartens above central kindergartens of countries/towns, operation and management and teacher training are under the education departments and directly administered by them. Village kindergartens, which are large in number, small in scale and decentralized, are totally managed by the central kindergartens of countries/towns. This sort of system promotes early childhood education and ensures its overall improvement at the village level.
Generally, there are several management models for village kindergartens managed by central kindergartens of towns as follows: 1. Merger Management. As a branch of the central kindergarten, all affairs of the village kindergarten are placed under the charge of the central kindergarten, including staff, finance, property, teaching, organization construction and so on. The exchange of teachers between the central kindergarten and the branches is allowed. This model is widely used in the Zhangjiagang. Among the total 21 kindergartens, 9 are branches of central kindergartens, a ratio of 43%. 2. Dispatch Model. The deputy director or the management official of a central kindergarten is dispatched to a village kindergarten to take charge as its director (affiliation and salary remains the same). This model is suitable for towns with fewer village kindergartens and with a central kindergarten that can act as a parent kindergarten. 3. Radiation Model. The town central kindergarten serves as the center from which management of village kindergartens is conducted. The director or the deputy director of central kindergarten is responsible for the management of village kindergartens, including evaluating the quality of teachers. The operational instruction and management of village kindergartens by the central kindergarten is carried out through activities such as open teaching and volunteer teaching in villages. It is now recognized by all, regardless of the entity providing funds, that the central kindergarten should manage the teaching and teachers at the village kindergartens in Suzhou. In the past when teachers were hired by kindergarten, it was difficult to guarantee quality of the teaching staff. Education and pedagogy were unstructured and each teacher was left to his or her own resources. This change in policy has remedied this situation and improved education at village kindergartens and conditions of learning for children.
As seen above, the practices implemented by Suzhou City demonstrate that an economically developed district is equipped with the conditions and capacity to offer preschool education for the social wellbeing of its residents whose welfare actually improves due to high funding from the government. Without the great support of government, preschool education will not develop healthily and successfully.
Note 1. All data here were provided by Education Department of Suzhou City.
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Studies in Preschool Education, 2007.1