BEIJING, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- This summer vacation, Guo Qile, a third-grader in east China's city of Shanghai, attended classes almost every day. Despite this, Guo enjoyed it a lot.
"The teachers are so nice, and I have many friends here to play with. I'm having so much fun!" Guo said.
What Guo attends is actually a daycare program initiated by a local community. In Shanghai, these programs are offered in the entire city this summer vacation.
In 2021, with the support of the Chinese government, summer vacation daycare is booming. Many students went back to school during this summer vacation - not for regular classes but for activities such as watching films, group games, and painting.
Summer vacation daycare, a new option for busy parents, became a trend this year after Chinese education authorities mobilized to offer more choices for school-age students during their summer vacation.
In early July, the Ministry of Education issued a notice asking local authorities to encourage qualified schools to provide these childcare services.
Solid progress was made in many places, including Shanghai, for example. From July 5 to Aug. 13, 543 daycare programs were set up across the municipality, benefitting nearly 40,000 students. Among the programs, 407 were held on school campuses.
Similar programs have been in place for years in many areas with encouragement from local education departments.
Since 2017, the Jiyang District of Sanya, south China's Hainan Province, has set up public welfare summer childcare courses. The courses have been well received by parents, many of whom are migrant workers with no time to look after their children, said an official with the district's education bureau.
ADDRESSING PARENTS' NEEDS
"Small children aren't able to look after themselves, and we parents find it unnerving to leave them alone at home," said Li Yan, a parent from Shandong Province.
From Li's perspective, daycare programs provided by schools are a great solution for parents who have such worries.
To meet the needs of more parents, the scale of the childcare program in the Jiyang District has expanded year by year, with the number of students participating increasing from 600 in the first year to more than 2,600 this year.
The country's education authorities have stipulated that daycare programs ought to be, in their nature, a public service that doesn't create financial burdens for parents. Organizers across the country have strictly adhered to this principle.
For instance, in Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi Province, a summer vacation daycare service is provided at a reasonable price of 50 yuan per day. Students from families with financial difficulties can attend daycare courses for free.
POOLING EFFORTS OF SOCIETY
With daycare programs gaining popularity, daycare program organizers are pooling society's efforts to boost the quality of the services they provide.
In Shanghai, this summer, more than 12,000 college student volunteers were recruited, and each of them attends to no more than five children. Thus, all children can receive adequate attention and care.
For the future development of vacation-time daycare services, there is still room for improvement, experts said.
"Organizers of daycare programs should be familiar with the traits of students at different ages and understand what they need most," said Yao Zongling, the headmaster of a middle school in Tai'an, Shandong Province.
Yao proposed dividing children into different groups based on their age and abilities and design courses accordingly, instead of organizing one-size-fits-all activities.
In the meantime, having their children attending daycare programs doesn't mean parents are free of responsibilities, said Lyu Yugang, an official with the Ministry of Education. He called on parents to balance their children's daycare hours and leisure hours. Enditem