Focusing on childhood development

01 Jun 2022

Children’s Day is a day to honour and celebrate children, and in China, International Children’s Day has been celebrated on 1 June since 1949.

Beyond treats like a day off school and fun events, it’s also a time to reflect on what is being done to ensure a good life for all children.

One crucial part of a child’s development is education, but that extends far beyond the walls of a school. This is why last year, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University's Academy of Future Education launched a masters programme that places the emphasis not only on a child’s development but also on family education.

Dr Rong Yan, programme director for the MA Child Development and Family Education, says: “Parents can be their children’s best teachers. We know family education directly affects a child’s physical and mental development.

“Right now, professionals who understand both the theory and law of children's development and are familiar with practical and theoretical underpinnings of family education are relatively scarce.

“This is the only childhood development and family education MA programme that combines educational and developmental psychology with family educational therapy,” he says.

“We planned this MA around four essential relationships that shape a child’s growth: the relationship between children and their teachers, children and their families, children and their peers and children and the virtual world. By understanding these, an educator can enhance all-around healthy development.”

Home life and growth

Ying Yan, a current full-time student in this programme, says: “I chose this programme because I wanted to learn more about mental health, family education, and pedagogy. “

The module that impressed me the most was Developmental Psychology. It was the first time I had studied child development systematically. Through this module, I had the chance to reflect on my own growth experiences and development characteristics, which was very interesting.”

This masters programme is aimed at helping educators, especially those focusing on early childhood, become better equipped to help children in all stages and to help parents as well.

Dr Yan says: “We want to help educators enhance communication with parents, to positively impact a child’s home life.”

Putting theory into practice

This programme is aimed at both teachers and administrators who intend to continue their studies through to a PhD and those who plan to go straight into work. “We have two tracks,” Dr Yan explains. “For students who want to further their studies, we have an optional module on advanced educational research methodology. For students who want to go straight to work, we have practical internship-based modules, as well as some on social/emotional counselling and family education design.”

The programme has partnered with a number of schools to provide students with practical and employment opportunities. The schools include Dulwich International High School Suzhou, Soochow Foreign Language School, Ulink College of Suzhou Industrial Park, Suzhou Industrial Park Foreign Language School, XJTLU University Affiliated School, and XJTLU Affiliated Taicang Experimental School.

“I am doing an internship at Suzhou Industrial Park Foreign Language School. This internship opportunity adopts the dual-tutor system jointly guided by the school and the internship module leader. The experience I’ve gained from the internship has improved my research ability, and will help my future employment,” says Ying Yan.

The programme is offered both full time and part time, allowing teachers and administrators to get their masters while working a full-time job.

By Patricia Pieterse, Xiaoyan Jin and Wei Zhang

01 Jun 2022