[Japan, China] Training Child Care Specialists in Japan and China: Current Situation and Issues - Projects



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[Japan, China] Training Child Care Specialists in Japan and China: Current Situation and Issues


The article considers the current training of child care workers and related issues with respect to early childhood education in China and Japan. In Japan, since the end of WWII, early childhood education has been divided into kindergarten and child care, with a distinction made between kindergarten teachers and child-care workers (hoikushi, a new term since 1997). In China, since the 1950s, early childhood education has been a social welfare service provided by day nurseries (child care facilities for children under 3 years of age) or kindergartens (educational institutions for 3 to 6 or 7 year olds). Training of child care workers began in the 1990s. Training of kindergarten teachers began in the 1950s; originally considered “teachers” by law, they are now legally called “kindergarten teachers. The training of the child care workers who are responsible early childhood education in the multicultural society of the 21st century is an issue shared by not only Japan and China, but all countries today.

Key words: China, child-care for infants, child-care workers, ECEC, Japan
Japanese Chinese

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Some 100 years have passed since Japan and China first instituted modern early childhood education. The first steps were taken by government. However, after its founding as a socialist state, China eagerly adopted the educational system of the former Soviet Union as a model in the 1950's. This collective child care and education system was deemed essential to enable both genders to participate fully in society. That was also thought to be the best for parents' participation in the labor force and for child development.

However, in the 1990's, China embraced the market economy, and in 1993, the government announced a program of Chinese educational reform and development to encourage educational institutions to diversify management and raise the needed funds locally in line with the conversion to a "socialist market economy." Moreover, various factors, particularly the one-child policy started in the 1980's, encouragement of early retirement for women, and a surplus population of the farming areas lessened the need for group care of infants. Thus, collective child care for infants under one year of age basically disappeared, and babies from 1.5 to 3 years of age (majority are 2.5 years) were included in under-three classes in kindergartens.

Today in China as well as in Japan, under the market economy, competition is introduced into early childhood education in the form of "personal interest classes" ("hobby" class) etc. The significance of early childhood education is recognized everywhere. The purpose of this paper is to clarify the current state and problems of training child care specialists in Japan and China.

I: The current situation of child care workers (child care facilities and kindergartens) training in Japan

Although the idea of unifying kindergarten and the day nursery was discussed in the Imperial Diet after World War II circa 1945, Japanese early childhood education was divided into two separate systems* until the accredited "nintei kodomo-en" system was proposed in 2006, which is combination kindergarten and child care facilities. *Kindergarten is considered to be a kind of school based on Fundamentals of Education Law, and day nursery is a facility based on Children's Welfare Act. Their respective authorities are different, and therefore, the required teaching qualifications are different.

Regarding kindergartens, the Certification of Education Personnel Law was enacted in 1949, and a curriculum for kindergarten teacher training, which had been offered only at private schools, was instituted at eight national teacher training universities in 1967, along with the development of legal systems for teacher training. The revision of the Fundamentals of Education Law in 2006 included kindergartens within the category of "school," stating a "'school' referred to kindergarten, elementary school, junior high school, high school, university, special school (for children with special needs), and vocational school."

After the 1990s, a third category of kindergarten teacher certification was added to the existing two: "Specialized" certification for those having finished graduate study, "Class 1" for university graduates, and Class 2 for junior-college graduates. With revision of the law in 2006, certification must be renewed every ten years in contrast to the previous system in which certification was permanently valid.

On the other hand, the child care facility was under the jurisdiction of Article 37 of the Children's Welfare Act of 1947, which stated that "the purpose of the child care facility was to care for babies or infants entrusted by the parents." Furthermore, according to Article 13, the "female care-giver is called a hobo," which means that care-giver is not considered to be a "teacher," (hereafter, in this paper, "child care worker").

In 1948, a training institution for child care workers, offering a two-year program, was established by notification of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Bureau of Early Childhood Affairs on the installation and the management of child care worker training facilities, and at the same time, left in place the examination system for child care workers. The curriculum to train child care workers was completely revised in 1962, and it became possible to obtain a kindergarten teacher certificate (the second level) and child care worker qualifications at the same time by establishing a child care training program at a junior college. In 1970, due to major changes in society and growing interest in the child care movement, problems regarding the home and children had become diverse. Therefore, staff quality and specialty improvement became important, and the raising the level of child-care training became an issue. Total revision resulted in a new training curriculum called "Child Care I and II."

Revision of the Children's Welfare Act in 1988 allowed men to become child care workers, under the category of hoiku-shi or care-giver, a status that had been used as the equivalent of "female caregiver" since 1977. In the 2001 revision of the Children's Welfare Act, the child care worker qualification was made a national qualification, and in the 2002 revision, the "child care worker" was given the duty of "providing child care guidance to the child's parent" (Article 18.4) as a form of child-raising support against the background of daily problems and mothers who did not feel confident about raising children. The child care workers were required to support parents as a guardian in addition to providing child care.

II: The current situation of child care workers training in China

In 1949 the People's Republic of China was founded as a socialist state In the 1950's immediately after the founding of the country, the government of China established a child care system to both promote women's participation in society and a child care and education system to bring up the next generation in order to hasten the liberation of women from the home and their integration into the workforce. These changes took place chiefly in urban areas. Children, are divided by age into "day nurseries" and "kindergartens". Child care facilities are under the jurisdiction of the Medical Division, which corresponds to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in Japan, and they care for infants from the 0-3 years of years, exclusive, beginning at the end of the mother's maternity leave. Kindergartens are under the jurisdiction of two governmental bodies. Institutional jurisdiction is separated into jurisdiction over educational matters by the Education Division, corresponding to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan, and health matters by the Hygiene Division, with the Education Division taking overall charge. Kindergartens are classified into those for children 3 to 6 and those for 7 year olds, and they are positioned as a basic education institution within the public education system

After the 1980, the need for institutional child care decreased dramatically because of the one-child policy, the influx of baby-sitters from farm villages, and the increase in female early retirees who retired to domestic life. With the advent of the "socialist market economy" in China in 1990's, the need for early education for the only child increased. Individual day care facilities, which are not educational institutions and thus, not trusted by parents, were forced to undergo change. They reorganized themselves into kindergartens by extending the eligible age, faced financial difficulties and went bankrupt, or merged with kindergartens nearby. In most cases, the minimum age to enter a day nursery that is integrated with a kindergarten is 1.5 to 2 years. Nowadays "kindergarten" basically refers to a facility that provides both child care and early childhood education for infants and young children and an institution that integrates child care and education.

Two kinds of child care workers are employed at most Chinese child care facilities: the child care worker and kindergarten teacher. Kindergarten teachers were originally classified as" teachers of infants," until 1989, after which they have been called "kindergarten teachers." "Child care workers" were not recognized as teachers. Up until 1980's, many undertook the job of child care at day nurseries and kindergartens without having received any educational training. There, they were called "nannies," and they had neither high education nor special training. They now usually receive training at a secondary health and hygiene technical college. In some cases, women who have finished raising children or those who have retired from other occupations take a short training course given by the Bureau of Public Health in each municipality. As a whole, compared with the past, the training and qualification of child care workers has become systematized and made considerable progress.

"Kindergarten teachers" have been trained, as a part of the teacher training system since 1950's. They were trained mainly in the teachers college for early childhood education, which was located at the secondary and technical education of high school level up until mid in 1990's, except for the 10year blank of "Cultural Revolution" (1976 -1966). The curriculum of the early childhood teachers college was based on "Three knowledge and six methods" (the psychology, education, hygienic, and teaching method of six subjects), introduced from the Former Soviet Union. In 1990, with the promulgation of a series of laws, including "People's Republic of China Law on Teachers" (1993), "People's Republic of China Law on Education" (1995), and "Teachers' Qualification Ordinance" (1995), the Chinese education system was rapidly reformed. Under this situation, it was deemed necessary to improve the quality and academic background of kindergarten teachers.

Today kindergarten teachers are trained in three different programs as follows:

  1. Teachers college for early childhood education of the secondary and technical educational institution of high school level. (This kind of college does not exist in Japan, because all Japanese technical colleges require graduation from high school.)
  2. Advanced technical teacher's college (Japanese equivalent of junior college or technical college)
  3. Pre-school education program offered at a 4-year teachers university or college.

In 2005, in order to coordinate with the above-mentioned changes, the Chinese Association of Early Childhood Pedagogy developed 5 new training programs that received a commission from the trust of People's Republic of China Education Division.

  1. 3-year training program in preschool education at secondary technical college, starting upon junior-high school graduation
  2. 5-year program in combined preschool education, starting upon junior-high school graduation
  3. 3-year and 2-year training programs in preschool education, starting upon junior-high school graduation
  4. Undergraduate level training program in preschool education at 3-year higher technical college, requiring high-school graduation
  5. Undergraduate core training program in preschool education at 4-year universities, requiring high-school graduation

The curricula of the five training programs mentioned above share common features of structure and content. They cover various specialized educational subjects concerning early childhood education, and courses for handicapped children, for instance, were added for the first time. However, to realize the development target for early childhood education and child care in the 21st century China, a consistent philosophy and methods of scientific education for 0-6 year-old infants and children must be developed, along with programs that not only teach early childhood education in a narrow sense, but also offer courses in social welfare and child welfare to consider the best interests and security of children in line with the global developments in early childhood education and child care and the UN Charter for the Right of Children.

III: Common challenges in child care worker training in Japan and China

As a result of economic globalization since late 20th century, people with different cultural backgrounds in many countries are now educated and live together. The globalization has given rise to social changes that require new models of society. This is all the more reason for the importance of education in society and throughout the individual's life. Especially, the healthy development of linguistic ability in infancy (native language or first language) is believed to influence the learning process afterwards, which is one reason why early childhood education receives worldwide attention. This calls for establishing programs and developing curricula to train child care specialists. The challenge for both Japan and China, where we are aim and grope for multi-cultural societies is to develop an appropriate philosophy and method of early childhood education and to train specialists accordingly.


1. Anthony Giddens, Nihon no aratana daisan no michi [Japan's New Third Way]. Translated by Satoko Watanabe. (Tokyo: Diamond Publishing, 2009.)

2. Mariko Ichimi, "Zenjinmin no shishitsu wo takameru kiso "soki no kyoiku" kyosoryoku to koheisei no kakuho [Early Education as Fundamental to Elevating the People: Competition and Ensuring Equality]" in Sekai no yoji kyoiku kaikaku to gakuryoku [Global Reform in Early Childhood Education and Scholastic Aptitude], ed. Chise Izumi, Mariko Ichimi, Toshiyuki Shiomi (Tokyo: Akashi Shoten,2008), 214-241.

3. Mariko Ichimi, "Chugoku no yoji kyoiku: koko junen no henka to kongo Kyoiku to igaku no kaihen [Past Decade in Early Childhood Education in China and the Future], Kyoiku to igaku no. 51:2 (2003).

4. Xiangshan Gao, "Soki tamen churyoku no shugakumaekyoiku [Early and Diverse Preschool Education] in Ajia no shugakumae kyoiku [Preschool education in Asia], ed. Mitsuhiro Ikeda and Chiaki Yamada (Tokyo: Akashi Shoten, 2006), 36-55.

5. Xiangying Liu, "Chugoku ni okeru hoiku yosei karikyuramu no genjo to kadai: yochien kyoshi yosei puroguram no kento o chushin toshite [ Current Situation and Issues in the Curriculum of Child-care Training in China: Kindergarten Teacher Training]" in Kodomogaku Kenkyuronshu, vol. 2, ed. (Nagoya, Nagoya Management Junior College: Kodomogaku kosodate kankyo shien kenkyu sentaa, 2010), 1-9.

6. Xiangying Liu, "Chugoku ni okeru nyujihoiku no genjo to kadai: zerosaiji shudan kyoiku ni kansuru ishiki chosa no kento wo chushin ni [Current Situation and Issues in Child-care in China: Survey of Attitudes toward Group Child Care] in Fukuyama-shi joshi tanki daigaku (Fukuyama City Junior College for Women)kenkyu kyoiku kokai sentaa nenpo no. 2 (2010), 149-158.

Xiangying Liu
Associate Professor of Child Science, Nagoya Management Junior College. Comparative early childhood education and child care in Japan and China.

Teruko Nakata
Professor of Child Science, Nagoya Management Junior College. International comparative social welfare and child welfare.

Sadanori Hiraiwa
Professor of Child Science, Nagoya Management Junior College. Early childhood education and child care methods.

Masako Niwa
Professor, Gifu Shotoku Gakuen University. Child welfare.

Takeo Shishido
Professor Emeritus, Aichi Prefectural University. History of early childhood education, comparative early childhood education and child care methods in East Asia.