The Parenting the Future (PTF) program, which provides early childhood development support and interventions to infants aged 3 or under and their families, rose to prominence as one of 625 rival projects at the 2020 World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) on Oct 28.
As China's first early childhood development project to win a WISE award, the project offers free early education to infants aged 3 or under as well as free parenting training, striving to support the development and growth of children living in poverty-stricken areas.
Thanks to the project, the involved families have had a "facelift" and villagers' concept of parenting their children has been changed.
Fan Yao is one of the participants of the project. She serves as a parenting tutor and team leader at the project's parenting center in Ningshan county, Ankang city, northwest China's Shaanxi province, a pilot area of the project.
The PTF project began to recruit teachers in Ningshan when Fan's child was about 6 months old. She signed up and passed the exam.
After completing the project training, Fan started to work with another teacher, serving more than 30 children in the parenting center. She spent her time practicing and studying, and gradually became one of the best parenting tutors in the county.
In October 2019, Fan, on behalf of other excellent parenting tutors in Ningshan, participated in an event held in Beijing, and shared her experiences with her peers in the early childhood development.
As one of the first group of beneficiaries of the PTF program in Ningshan, Fan's daughter is growing up well. Her husband and mother-in-law both value her opinions because she knows how to raise child in a scientific way.
Li Jiemei, 30, has to raise her two sons on her own because her husband works away from home all year round. After the PTF came to Ningshan, she regularly took her sons to attend classes.
With the teachers' guidance, they worked together on the parent-child curriculum, which is designed to develop children's skills in language, cognition, movement, social interaction and emotional expression. A year later, her elder son was able to sing and her younger son was able to express himself in an appropriate way.
Li also found herself improving. She began to be able to control her emotional response to crying babies, and learned how to deal with negative moods.
More than 28,000 people, including over 9,500 children and 18,400 parents, have benefited from the program since it began in 2012.
The PTF was jointly launched and promoted by the Hupan Modou Foundation founded by 13 women Alibaba partners, the Administrators Training Center of the National Health Commission (NHC) and the Center for Experimental Economics in Education at Shaanxi Normal University, as well as local authorities.
Supported by the Department of Population Monitoring and Family Development of the NHC, the county-wide promotion of the PTF was rolled out in 2017. It has been implemented in Ningshan and Qingjian counties in Shaanxi province and Xunwu county in east China's Jiangxi province, with 30 parenting centers and three service stations.
Peng Lei from Alibaba, an initiator of the project, who has been on the Forbes List of Top 100 most powerful women in the world since 2013, recalled that her parents subscribed children's comics for her when she was about 3 years old.
"My mother wouldn't tell bedtime stories, but I could read by myself. I am grateful to my parents for sending me those books," Peng noted.
"I was deeply involved in this project," she said, adding that she will continue to spur its development by engaging more social forces and people.
According to the needs of children aged 3 and under and their families in underdeveloped areas, the project designed a parent-child curriculum and provided integrated services such as setting up parenting centers and conducting family visits. This has helped parents become aware of the importance of parenting, improved their parenting skills, encouraged children to develop their abilities, and reduced the risk of early developmental delays.
According to evaluation data and observations, the project's participants are more extroverted. They have better ability to express themselves than children not involved, and their cognitive abilities are also significantly improved, said Cai Jianhua, Party secretary and deputy director of the NHC Administrators Training Center.
Cai noted that these changes have created a more harmonious atmosphere throughout the rural community. After being trained, young mothers will work as parenting tutors with a stable income and social security, so that they can take good care of their own children and take an active role in the program, he explained, adding that rural women who join the PTF become more confident and deliver positive energies to their children.
The project is a good example of the cooperation between government departments and social institutions, the WISE Award committee commented.
The NHC Department of Population Monitoring and Family Development also signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Hupan Modou Foundation this July under which the PTF's progress in more underdeveloped areas will be accelerated and a service model of child care suitable for local conditions will be explored.