Teacher 'king of kids'

Updated: 2012-06-01 07:28

By Liu Xiangrui (China Daily)

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Unlike most of his classmates who rushed into IT or other promising technological businesses, Yin Hongbo went from studying science straight back to kindergarten.

Teacher 'king of kids'

Yin Hongbo teaches children in a kindergarten in Beijing. Provided to China Daily

"They thought I was crazy, but for me, teaching children is just the most meaningful thing in the world," explained the 48-year-old, who has become one of the best-known infant and preschool educators in China.

"Everyone, including my parents, discouraged me from becoming a teacher, since teachers used to have meager incomes," said Yin, recalling the early days.

"I can well imagine them being upset when they knew I chose to become 'a king of kids'."

When he was a junior student, Yin was lucky enough to become an intern at an educational research center in his university led by China's renowned space scientist Qian Xuesen.

Qian inspired him by pointing out that it is too late for children to develop innovative thinking when they are in middle school.

"I was lucky to have Mr Qian as my teacher at a young age," Yin recalled. "He kept saying China needs excellent scientists, but it needs excellent educators more."

Yin agreed.

"When kids should start learning is equally important as what they learn," Yin said. "It saves everyone effort for them to learn at the right time."

Yin has published a score of books about infant and preschool education. The popularity of his books among parents and the recommendation of experts both at home and abroad has quickly made him a celebrity educator.

"But education is not like any other subject. The work is not done with finishing my research paper, I must put the results into practice," said Yin, who opened his first kindergarten in 1997 and a second in 1999. Now the two kindergartens, located in Beijing, have 160 teachers and about 420 children in 18 classes.

Amid colorfully decorated buildings, a group of kids play soccer on the grounds of the kindergarten - the only one among the city's 2,000 kindergartens that provides soccer training with professional coaches.

Ma Yiwen, 36, is one of five physical education teachers who teach the children soccer, tennis and even golf.

"Few kindergartens recruit male teachers, and even fewer hire PE teachers, even nowadays," said Ma, who admitted that he was surprised by the kindergarten's recruitment of PE teachers in 2002.

The stereotype about male kindergarten teachers made him hesitate, but Ma eventually applied out of curiosity.

After landing the job, Ma found it far more challenging than he'd expected, yet he gradually came to agree with Yin that "it's quite important to have male teachers to give a balanced and positive influence on children, especially boys".

Yin often trains the teachers and gives them advice based on years of experience, Ma added.

Yin's educational theories and practices, which emphasize outdoor sports, have attracted quite a number of parents, including Shao Jiayi, a player with Beijing Guo'an Football Club whose two daughters study in Yin's kindergartens.

"Most Chinese kindergartens are leaning too much on knowledge. Rarely have any of them put equal emphasis on sports like Yin's," Shao explained. "As parents, we hope our children have sound physical health the most, rather than expect them to become prodigies."

Besides developing innovative methods in his kindergartens, Yin is eager to improve the overall quality of kindergartens across China. He is busy giving lectures and training teachers around the country, plans to set up a special training college for preschool teachers and will soon open a nonprofit "online kindergarten" with his teaching materials, so parents can use them to teach their children even at home, Yin said.

"Our nation urgently needs quality preschool education, which I've made my lifelong mission. I've been in this for 29 years, and hope I can keep on for another 29 years," he smiled.

Contact the writer at liuxiangrui@chinadaily.com.cn