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Rural children more vulnerable to delayed brain development

By Yang Wanli | China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-17 07:17

The little girl is now learning martial arts and the piano.

Beijing has many ECD services. At Family Box, a well-known ECD center, swimming classes are very popular.

"It's the second year my baby boy has taken the class. The trainers told me that swimming will simulate the development of his brain and can also help to build a better sense of balance. If the only child in the family isn't worth high investment, who is?" said Li Meimei, 32, who has a 3-year-old son.

Lack of funding

Last year, China spent 3.88 trillion yuan on education, about 4.2 percent of GDP.

However, the amount set aside for scientific guidance about infant nutrition and development was negligible, according to Luo Renfu, associate professor at Peking University's School of Advanced Agricultural Sciences.

UNICEF's Flowers said many countries have invested a lot of money in ECD. In Sweden, for example, children can attend preschools run by local authorities from the age 12 months.

Caregivers receive training and the system is underpinned by policies that reinforce the laws that protect maternity leave, spaces in businesses for breastfeeding mothers, equal access to healthcare and the provision of free or subsidized early education centers.

"It's important to stress the high level of government involvement. The Chinese government has made great efforts, but I am concerned about the proliferation of privately-run early childhood centers. The poor need to be supported to ensure that they have the same access, and all the centers-public or private-need to benefit from an enforced national ECD standard," she said.

Contact the writer at yangwanli@chinadaily.com.cn

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