“I went to kindergarten for 7 years”

One day in the fall of 2013, I listen to two co-workers talking. One is a guy from Northeast China who’s 24, the other one is a woman in her mid-30s who has a 3-year-old child. She tells us how hard it is to find a place in a kindergarten in Shenzhen. The guy says:

“I went to kindergarten for 7 years.”
She: “7 years?”
He: “Yes, no one really cares about how long you attend kindergarten where I’m from. Also, my parents knew some people who work at kindergartens, so they took me on and I just stayed there during the day. But I did change kindergarten almost every half to every year. I think I attended every single kindergarten in my hometown.”
She: “What do your parents do?”
He: “They own a small restaurant. When I was little, they had just opened it – there was a lot of work and no time to look after me. There was no one in my family who could look after me, so they put me in kindergarten when I was really little.”

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16 thoughts on ““I went to kindergarten for 7 years”

    • He did, after staying in kindergarten for so long. In Northeastern China, it’s common to start elementary school when you’re 6 or 7, so I guess he was put in kindergarten right after birth. If people pull each others legs, they usually don’t do it in this kind of way (they sometimes do exaggerate things though).

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  1. Ha that’s random. Did the guy go to kindergarten when he was very young as a baby (but kindergarten already starts very young here, what would be called preschool where I’m from), or this seems to mean he stayed in kindergarten too many years later. Strange. I’d imagine he’s not the most educated sort. But most don’t think the Chinese education system of decades back was the best.

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    • I agree. In China many of the kindergartens are all day long and often kids start going there when they are about 2 1/2 years old. Except for kindergartens, there’s also daycare for kids who are younger than that.

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  2. I’ve taught at kindergartens before where there were “baby classes” with children less than a year old and some classes that had children as old as 5 or 6, so I have no doubt that some of the kids spent several years in kindergarten before moving up.

    People don’t use day care in China, so if a family doesn’t have grandparents available to watch the kids while the parents work, they just send them to kindergarten. Even some families who do have grandparents that could watch the kids, they still send them to kindergarten for 2 or 3 years, instead of just 1 like in the west, so that the kids can get a head start before going to elementary school.

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  3. I also know that a lot of parents work in the city and leave their children in hometown with grandparents and not seen their children years. I think people live in city would send their children to kindergarten at an early age, rural area families would send their children to school a little bit later than city families.

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    • This seems to be really common with migrants. Many parents in Chinese cities will also have the grandparents take care of the children while they go to work – but in that case, they do see their children on a daily basis.

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  4. Since the original topic of the conversation was how hard it is to get one’s child into kindergarten (daycare), it seems that the man was describing how easy it was for his parents. They were able to find a daycare for him almost as soon as he was born and keep him in daycare until the day he started first grade. Not so surprising when you look at it that way.

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    • I agree, didn’t think of the story as that weird, actually. It totally makes sense to look for a different support network than family if you don’t have any family members who can help you take care of your child while you try to make a living. He’s not from one of the big cities and it probably was easier to get a place in a kindergarten when he was younger too (especially since his parents knew people working there).

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  5. Pingback: “I went to kindergarten for 7 years” | Shenzhen Writers Circle

  6. Át least his parents could afford a kindergarten. I know of some friends who were sent as children to their grandma so they could go and work in some other cities to earn money.

    Back to being long time in kindergarten, here in Finland many people put their children to daycare (used to be only called kindergarten years back) from the young age of a bit over 1 year onwards till they turn 6-7

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      • I was not going particular into how much they had to pay or how big the city was/is, more into how much families often suffer when they have to give there child to relative or similar when working in other cities.
        From this is was basically a transition from how lucky he was to go to kindergarten back in the day even though his parents were so busy 🙂

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