Abstract

Preschool education is the beginning of lifelong learning, an important part of the national educational system, and an important social welfare undertaking. At the same time, as an important public service, preschool education is an important task to realize the adjustment of income redistribution to ensure that its financial investment is in line with fairness. Since 2010, the preschool educational policy in China has clearly been tilted toward rural areas and poverty-stricken areas in the central and western regions. Based on the 2010–2020 China Education Statistical Yearbook data, this study monitors and measures the completion of the formal goals put forward in the policy document and evaluates the effectiveness of the policy based on the comparison of the development levels of preschool education in urban areas, townships, and rural areas in China. The results show that under the effect of preferential policies, preschool educational resources at the township level in China have rapidly expanded and the level of popularization has improved; the number of township kindergarten teachers has been supplemented, and the educational level has been significantly improved. But at the same time, it is found that the advantages of inclusive preschool educational resources in areas with preferential policies are not obvious; inclusive preschool educational resources are obviously insufficient; and the proportion of children studying in private kindergartens is increasing year by year. The number of kindergarten teachers is still in short supply, and the ratio of students to teachers in rural kindergartens is much higher than in urban areas. The gap in teacher levels is still very large.

1. Introduction

Preschool education refers to the education that parents and kindergarten teachers use to develop children’s intelligence and gradually improve the functions of various parts of the children’s brains, using various methods and physical objects. Preschool education can be divided into broad sense and narrow sense. In the broad sense, preschool education refers to the implementation of childcare and education for children aged 0 to 6 years. It means that the preschool education provided by the government is preschool education in a narrow sense, that is, the education that school-age children aged 3–6 years receive in preschool educational institutions especially set up by the society. Preschool education is generally a quasi-public product; more precisely, it is a hybrid quasi-public product [13]. First of all, from the perspective of competitiveness and exclusivity, preschool education is nonexclusive, that is, adding a student to the classroom will not prevent other students from receiving knowledge. At the same time, preschool education is also competitive. From a microperspective, preschool education cannot be supplied without limit. Therefore, teaching resources such as books per student, school building area per student, and the level of attention each child receives from teachers will vary with children’s needs. First of all, high-quality preschool education is conducive to the development of children’s intelligence, so that children can be more independent and better in the future growth process, and gain the respect of others; second, the physical and mental health of children is related to the harmony and happiness of a family, and preschool education not only promotes children’s physical and mental health but also indirectly benefits the whole family. Furthermore, studies have shown that during a person’s growth, education received in childhood has a very high return on investment to society, as high as 7%–17%. High-quality preschool education can reduce crime, stabilize society, and promote social progress and so on, playing a very important role [46]. The public welfare of preschool education is also reflected in the value pursuit of preschool education. Preschool education is the beginning point of all education. Pursuing equity at the starting point of education is the core concept of education. Preschool education should be of public welfare, to accept children of different levels and personalities, and to cultivate their physical and mental health and harmonious development. The main function of educational evaluation is to systematically collect all aspects of information of schools and other educational institutions according to certain educational objectives and standards, accurately understand the actual situation of educational activities, and evaluate the school-running level and educational quality, so as to provide a reliable basis for school improvement work, educational reform, and educational management departments to improve macromanagement.

The balanced development of education is related to the overall strategic issue of China’s basic educational development. The balanced development of preschool education is an important part and initial stage of the balanced development of education. Only by promoting the balanced development of preschool education, there can be a real educational balance. At present, the social contradictions and social unrest brought about by the unbalanced development of urban and rural education in China have caused “school choice fever” and “urban fever.” The root cause of this phenomenon is the unbalanced development of urban and rural education. In order to further ensure the balanced development of preschool education, preschool educators must strengthen and innovate the supervision and evaluation of the balanced development of preschool education [7]. With the reform tide of the education in China, preschool education has rapidly developed in recent years, and problems such as “difficulty in entering kindergartens” are expected to be fundamentally alleviated. At present, there is a big gap between the vision and goals of the development of preschool education, the ideals of parents, and the actual quality of education. It is manifested in the following: there is a big misunderstanding between parents and the goals of preschool education; some kindergartens are affected by social trends, and they apply the concept and management model of primary schools to preschool education and cannot effectively implement the scientific concept of parenting. Before 2010, the excessive “socialization” and “marketization” of preschool education made the problems of “difficulty in entering kindergarten,” “expensive in kindergarten,” and even “scarcity in kindergarten” to strongly reflect in society. It has a lot of debts and a weak foundation, and has become the educational stage with the highest degree of marketization in the entire educational system. Under the urban-rural dual system, rural education has always been a weak link. Not only are the basic conditions relatively weak and regional development unbalanced, but also due to the high mobility of the population and the low availability and quality of public services [8, 9]. The shortcomings of preschool education are more likely to be manifested. Under such circumstances, in order to make up for market deficiencies, the government implements preferential policies and other means to redistribute resources, which has become an important means for many countries to narrow the gap in preschool educational services between regions. Preferential policy refers to the intention of policy-makers to relax or favor certain regions or industrial sectors so that they can enjoy the benefits given by the policy [1012]. The value of big data in educational evaluation is to use the huge educational data collected to predict the behavior trend of various actors in education and teaching activities by improving data quality, presenting data relations, discovering data value, and so on.

In the process of supplying preschool educational policies, in order to make up for the difference in resource occupation caused by the market’s priority in the allocation of preschool educational resources, the preschool educational policy supply is obviously inclined to rural areas in the central and western regions and poverty-stricken areas. This differential treatment is to achieve fairness and justice in the development of preschool education. The value selection of these preferential policies is based on the implementation of weak compensation. The selection behavior shows that the degree of inclination increases with the degree of remote poverty [1315]. The legitimacy level conforms to the principle of educational fairness and emphasizes the public welfare of preschool education. Based on the 2010–2020 China Education Statistical Yearbook data, this study observes and evaluates the long-term trend of the comprehensive development of preschool education in China [1619].

2. Method

Based on the policy requirements of the macropolicy goal of “focusing on the development of rural preschool education” in this book, based on the statistical data of the 2010–2020 China Education Statistical Yearbook and the general domestic and foreign statistics that can reflect and detect preschool education in urban areas, townships, and rural areas, a number of indicators of the level of development that monitor and measure the achievement of formal goals are used to assess the effectiveness of policies. In terms of data sources, the “China Education Statistical Yearbook” is annually released by the Development Planning Department of the Ministry of Education. Its data can comprehensively and systematically reflect the development of various educational undertakings in China. Its authoritative and long-term nature helps to observe and evaluate the long-term trend of the comprehensive development status of preschool education in China. In the selection of indicators, domestic and foreign academic circles and international organizations usually measure the comprehensive development level of education from the dimensions of educational opportunity, educational investment, educational quality, and conditions for running a kindergarten. The completeness, comparability, and availability of the data are obtained. Three first-level indicators of educational opportunity, educational quality, and conditions for running a kindergarten are proposed. Based on the mapping relationship between policy measures and target layers, educational input is no longer used as a primary indicator here. Table 1 shows the specific evaluation indicators selected in this study. Among them, the proportion of primary school freshmen who have received preschool education, the proportion of public kindergartens, the proportion of full-time teachers with a technical secondary school degree or above, and the student-teacher ratio are calculated from the relevant indicators of the China Education Statistical Yearbook. The deep-layered structure of the deep learning algorithm is consistent with the deep-layered characteristics of the human brain cognitive system, and deep learning also emphasizes the characteristics of learnability. Therefore, it is suitable for learning, has good feature expression ability, and then meets the evaluation of the educational quality and policy analysis and research based on it.

3. Results and Discussion

3.1. Statistical Data Analysis

Figure 1 shows the change in the proportion of freshmen who have received preschool education in the rural, township, and urban primary schools in China from 2010 to 2020. The proportion of primary school freshmen who have received preschool education refers to the percentage of the number of students who received preschool education among the first-year primary school freshmen to the first-year enrollment of the primary school. From 2010 to 2020, the proportion of primary school freshmen in China who had received preschool education increased from 91.85% to 99.69%, and the most significant change was in rural areas, which jumped from 87.99% in 2010 to 98.52% in 2020. The proportion of education and the gap between townships and urban areas have narrowed sharply, which on the one hand proves the expansion of rural preschool educational resources and, on the other hand, shows that the fairness of access to educational opportunities is increasing.

Figure 2 shows the change in the number of kindergartens in rural areas, townships, and urban areas from 2010 to 2020. In 2010, there were 150,400 kindergartens nationwide, including 71,600 rural kindergartens and 43,000 township kindergartens. By 2020, the number of kindergartens in the country increased by 134,700 compared with 2010, and the number of kindergartens in rural areas increased by 28,100 compared with 2010, an increase of about 39.25%. The number of kindergartens in townships increased by 52,600 compared with 2010, an increase of about 122.33%, indicating that the preschool educational resources in townships are continuously expanding effectively, and the possibility of school-age children getting preschool educational opportunities is increasing.

Figures 3 and 4 show the changes in the number of full-time teachers and educational levels of kindergartens in the rural, township, and urban areas from 2010 to 2020, respectively. In 2010, there were 681,300 full-time teachers in kindergartens in China, and 62.30% of them had a college degree or above, including 405,500 in townships and 275,800 in rural areas. The percentages of the teachers with a college degree or above in townships and rural areas are 60.13% and 49.36%, significantly lower than the 71.50% of teachers in urban areas. By 2020, the number of full-time teachers in the township and rural kindergartens increased by 684,000 (168.68%) and 208,100 (75.45%), respectively. The proportion of full-time teachers in townships and rural kindergartens with a college degree or above is 80.34% (an increase of 18.46%) and 70.09% (an increase of 28.33%), and the gap between the percentage of urban areas who have a college degree or above is narrowing.

Figures 57 show the changes in the area of dilapidated buildings, the area of new school buildings, and the number of books in the conditions for running kindergartens in the rural, township, and urban areas from 2013 to 2020, respectively. It can be clearly seen that the conditions for running schools in the three types of areas have been continuously optimized. Among them, the area of damaged houses and the area of new school buildings in rural kindergartens have changed nearly twice as much as those in urban townships, and the conditions have improved the most.

As of 2020, private kindergartens still account for more than half of the total number of kindergartens in the urban, township, and rural areas (Figure 8). This shows that although the popularity of preschool education in China has been greatly improved at this stage, the proportion of private kindergartens is too high. Even in areas that enjoy preferential policies, according to national data, although the proportion of rural private kindergartens is always lower than that of townships and cities and has a clear downward trend, the proportion of children studying in rural private kindergartens is the same as that of townships. The proportion of children studying in private schools and urban private kindergartens has shown an upward trend year by year (Figure 9). The advantages of enjoying inclusive preschool educational resources in areas with preferential policies are not prominent.

The student-teacher ratio mainly reflects the level of teacher resource allocation and is an important indicator to measure the adequacy of the number of teachers and the quality of education. Generally speaking, the student-teacher ratio should not be too high or too low. If the student-teacher ratio is too high, each teacher will teach too many students on average, which is not conducive to ensuring the quality of teaching. On the contrary, if the student-teacher ratio is too low, teacher resources will not be available, which is not conducive to improving the efficiency of running a school. Empirical research in developed countries shows that a more reasonable teacher-student ratio in kindergartens is 1 : 15, and the ratio of childcare workers to the number of children in the kindergarten is 1 : 30, that is, each kindergarten class is equipped with two full-time teachers and one childcare worker.

As of 2020, the national average of the student-teacher ratio in kindergartens is 18.43 : 1. According to the 2020 China Education Statistics, the ratio of the total number of children in kindergartens to the total number of full-time teachers is calculated. The student-teacher ratio of kindergartens in various regions was calculated, and it was found that in sharp contrast to the rapid expansion of preschool educational resources, the number of teachers was seriously lagging behind. In 2020, the student-teacher ratio of urban kindergartens nationwide is 14.06 : 1, that of township kindergartens is 19.65 : 1, and the student-teacher ratio of rural kindergartens is 27.23 : 1. Figure 10 shows the changes in the ratio of students to teachers in kindergartens nationwide and in the three types of regions from 2010 to 2020. It can be seen that the ratio of students to teachers in kindergartens in the three types of regions, especially in rural areas, has declined sharply since the beginning of 2011; after 2017, the ratio of students to teachers slowly decreased and tended to be stable. This is because since 2011, the “National Training Program for Preschool Teachers” has been implemented, and the training objects are mainly teachers of public kindergartens in rural areas in the central and western regions. However, the gap between rural and township areas and urban areas is still very large.

3.2. Suggestions

There are still significant differences between rural preschool educational resources and urban preschool educational resources, especially between rural and urban areas. From the perspective of children’s access to kindergartens, the number of rural kindergartens is still insufficient, and the number of kindergartens per 10,000 people is still less than 50% of that in urban areas. Judging from the number of full-time teachers, the number of rural preschool teachers is still insufficient, the ratio of students to teachers does not meet the national standard, and there is still a certain gap between urban and rural teachers’ educational levels. From the perspective of school-running conditions, the area and safety level of rural kindergartens are still lower than those of urban kindergartens, and there are obvious differences in the number of books and books per student between urban and rural areas. Therefore, this study proposes to start from the following three aspects to better promote the balanced allocation of urban and rural preschool educational resources.

3.2.1. Clarifying the Government’s Leading Responsibilities and Implementing Preferential Policies for Preschool Education

In the context of the unbalanced urban-rural dual structure, tilting educational investment is the most direct driving force for optimizing the allocation of preschool educational resources. First, the government needs to clarify that it has a dominant position in the fair allocation of preschool educational resources. It is the consensus of major countries and regions in the world that the government has a dominant role in promoting equity in preschool education. Second, relevant departments must actively implement relevant preschool educational preferential policies. To truly achieve the goal of preferential policies for preschool education in rural areas, local governments also need to actively implement the relevant requirements in the policy and make clear regulations on the financial investment system, the system of running kindergartens, and supervision and evaluation in the process of practice.

3.2.2. Strengthening the Construction of Rural Preschool Teachers, Paying Equal Attention to Both Quantity and Quality

The rational allocation of teacher resources is an important basis for realizing the balanced development of preschool education. The imbalance in the allocation of full-time preschool teachers has greatly affected the development of rural preschool education. First, in view of the number of full-time teachers, we can gradually expand the enrollment scale of preschool educational majors and increase the number of rural preschool teachers trained by vocational colleges. The state can encourage preschool normal students to engage in rural preschool education by implementing special postprograms for rural preschool teachers in the central and western regions. Second, the salaries of rural teachers should be improved, and certain preferential policies should be provided in terms of teacher establishment, professional title evaluation, educational benefits, etc., so as to attract outstanding talents to teach in rural areas and stimulate the enthusiasm of rural teachers to work. In view of the quality of full-time teachers, in the short term, in-service teacher training can be increased to narrow the gap in teacher quality. In the long run, it is necessary to gradually improve the school-running level of preschool education and strengthen the professional ability of kindergarten teachers from the starting point.

3.2.3. Accelerating Preschool Educational Legislation to Ensure Rational Allocation of Urban and Rural Resources

The most fundamental reason for the unbalanced development of preschool education in urban and rural areas is that there is no preschool educational law at the national level in China, and there is a lack of deep-rooted, in-depth understanding of the reform and development of preschool education, such as the nature of preschool education, government responsibilities, investment system, and preschool teacher treatment policies. It can be seen that to solve the problem of unbalanced allocation of preschool educational resources, it is necessary to speed up the process of preschool educational legislation in China. Preschool educational legislation can specify the nature and status of preschool education, clarify the responsibilities of the government and relevant departments, and escort the rational allocation of preschool educational resources.

4. Conclusions

(1)The preschool educational resources at the township level have rapidly expanded, and the level of popularization has improved. The number of township kindergarten teachers has been supplemented, and the educational level has been significantly improved. The conditions for running kindergartens have been significantly improved, and the gap between urban and rural areas has been continuously narrowed. But at the same time, it is found that the advantages of inclusive preschool educational resources in areas with preferential policies are not obvious. Inclusive preschool educational resources are obviously insufficient, the proportion of children studying in private kindergartens is increasing year by year, the number of kindergarten teachers is still in short supply, and the ratio of students to teachers in rural kindergartens is much higher than in urban areas.(2)Preschool education is the beginning of lifelong education and learning, and is the foundational project for the entire national educational system and the goal of building an educational powerhouse. The leap-forward development of preschool education in rural areas and poverty-stricken areas in the central and western regions is the result of the state’s policy inclination to establish a preschool educational preferential policy system, make full use of major projects, and continuously enrich poverty alleviation measures. Preschool education itself is the weakest link in the entire educational system. The deficiencies in the development of preschool education in special areas are actually an enlarged version of the shortcomings of preschool education nationwide. Looking forward to the future, it is necessary to make up for the shortcomings of preschool education in a timely manner from the aspects of accelerating the legislation of preschool education, implementing the main responsibility of the government, establishing a long-term investment mechanism for preschool education, innovating the supply method of preschool educational resources, and taking into account the training of preschool teachers. Only by changing the long-term absence of the government can the cause of preschool education move forward as a whole.

Data Availability

The figures and tables used to support the findings of this study are included in the article.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the financial support from the Nanchang Key Laboratory of Intelligent Manufacturing Electronic Assembly Innovation and Development (Grant No. 2021-NCZDSY-018).