4th Early Childhood Symposium held at Nanjing Normal University
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4th Early Childhood Symposium held at Nanjing Normal University

by Freya Lucas

November 02, 2023

There was a record audience for the recent early childhood education symposium held in China in September, where the key agenda was to “reconnect with key government and education partners” and to lift New Zealand education’s presence in China.


The fourth Early Childhood Symposium at Nanjing Normal University attracted a live audience of 350 attendees and a livestream audience of 100,000, well over the number of attendees in previous years. 


The symposium’s theme was ‘Advancing Inclusiveness in Early Childhood Education’, with the event being a joint initiative between Education New Zealand Manapou ki te Ao (ENZ) and China Center for International People to People Exchange (CCIPE), a sub-agency of China Ministry of Education (China MoE).   


The symposium provides a platform for New Zealand Early Childhood Education (ECE) institutions, academics, practitioners, and policy experts to engage in a cross-cultural dialogue, and leverages New Zealand’s expertise in ECE teacher training programs.  


This was the first year that a delegation of government representatives and ECE experts from New Zealand travelled to China to present at the symposium in person, which sent a positive signal to education partners in China about New Zealand’s strong focus on reconnecting and strengthening the country’s education credentials in the China market.  


The symposium’s live presenters from New Zealand included Dr Jane Ewens, Manager Early Learning, Ministry of Education and Fiona He, Director and Founder, TuiTui Educare/Universal Kids Early Education Centre. 


Dr Ewens presented an overview of the New Zealand Government’s policy focusing on advancing inclusiveness in early childhood education.  


ENZ’s General Manager International, Lisa Futschek, who provided opening remarks, said the symposium highlighted the special education relationship between New Zealand and China and the long and fruitful dialogue between the two countries in a variety of education areas.   


“2023 has already been an exciting year for rebuilding face-to-face connections for New Zealand and China, and the symposium just helped us build on that so wonderfully,” she said. 


CAO Diefeng, Deputy Director General, China Centre for International People-to-People Exchange indicated in his opening remarks that the China-New Zealand Early Childhood Education Symposium has received extensive attention because of its scale and influence. 


It is highly welcomed by the education sector from both China and New Zealand and is becoming a key platform for early childhood education communication.  


“The symposium exemplifies the sound education cooperation between our two countries and plays an important role in deepening substantive cooperation by both sides,” CAO Diefeng said. 


Dr Jane Ewens said the information exchange was valuable to all audiences and demonstrated there are opportunities for the Ministry of Education to learn from its Chinese partners. 


“We can create stronger educational ties and foster ongoing cooperation with China, aligning with government priorities. This could include exploring attracting Chinese teachers and students to New Zealand’s early childhood education teaching workforce,” she explained. 


“There is also an opportunity for New Zealand practitioners and policy makers to consider and possibly integrate how China implements their curriculum as we develop curriculum resources for New Zealand Early Childhood Education kaiako (teachers).” 


The symposium generated good visibility for New Zealand, with 45 media articles (accounting for almost four million views), which included reporting from top tier Chinese media. Many connections and leads for New Zealand participants were created during and after the symposium – one New Zealand speaker reported being approached by 50 Chinese counterparts after their virtual presentation. 


Aside from the symposium, the New Zealand delegation’s key objectives included supporting a bilateral education initiative linked to the New Zealand-China Arrangement on Education Cooperation and Training, while showcasing New Zealand’s expertise in early childhood education practices and curriculum to audiences in China.  


The visit also provided a chance for the delegation to understand best practices in early childhood education from a Chinese cultural perspective that they could put into practice in New Zealand to better support learners from Chinese backgrounds. As part of the program in Nanjing, the delegation visited two kindergartens and presented a panel session with academics and students at Nanjing Normal University. 

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