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  Little Learners  

  The Chinese often refer to children as their xiao bao bei, or "little precious ones," which is what inspired the name of our documentary, Precious Children.

caligraphy In China and in the United States, parents and educators are faced with the challenge of laying the best foundation so their young can succeed in the next century. While children are valued in both of our cultures, the Chinese have the interesting challenge of melding their Confucian and socialist beliefs of focusing on the group with the desire to treat each child as a "little emperor"- truly a precious entity given China's one-child-per-family policy.

classroom What we saw was astounding. Five-year-olds creating beautiful calligraphy and paintings at the Beijing Children's Palace, while 4-year-olds flawlessly performed complicated, synchronized dance routines. Three-year-olds living in boarding kindergartens in Shanghai. Abandoned, often disabled, newborns awaiting unknown fates at the Nanjing Children's House of Welfare. Up to 50 students crammed into each small yet astonishingly well-behaved classroom at the Sanpailou Primary School in Suzhou.

dancing kids While we realized we were seeing the best China has to offer, we were still amazed by the levels of ability and concentration displayed by the children. Like the delegates, I was concerned that these children were under too much pressure to achieve, and had little time to just be kids.

Over the course of our visit, the delegates questioned Chinese teachers and school administrators about discipline and teaching styles, gaining ideas about how to incorporate a wider range of cultural lessons into their own curriculum.

Narrated by Mona Lee Locke, Precious Children captures our often emotional, eye- opening visit, and brings viewers new insights into the value our own culture places on preparing children for life in the next century. Our hope is that this documentary is a starting point for discussion. It is an opportunity to see how one large culture values and implements early education, and may challenge your expectations of what young children are capable of achieving.

- Susan Han

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