Science Magazine writes about REAP's work on early childhood development in rural China. Read the full article here.
Glasses askew and gray hair tousled, Scott Rozelle jumps into a corral filled with rubber balls and starts mixing it up with several toddlers. The kids pelt the 62-year-old economist with balls, and squealing, jump onto his lap. As the battle rages, Rozelle chatters in Mandarin with mothers and grandmothers watching the action.
Elsewhere in this early childhood education center in centralChina, youngsters are riding rocking horses, clambering on a jungle gym, thimbing through picture books, or taking part in group reading. Once a week, caregivers get one-on-one coaching on how to read to toddlers and play educational games. The center is part of an ambitious experiment Rozelle is leading that aims to find solutions to what he sees as a crisis of gargantuan proportions in China: the intellectual stunting of roughly one-third of the population. "This is the biggest problem China is facing that nobody's ever heard about," says Rozelle, a professor at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
Surveys by Rozelle's team have found that more than half of eighth graders in poor rural areas in China have IQs below 90, leaving them struggling to keep up with te fast-paced official curriculum. A third or more of rural kids, he says, don't complete junior high. Factoring in the 15% or so of urban kids who fall at the low end of IQ scores, Rozelle makes a stunning forecast: About 400 million future working-age Chinese, he says, "are in danger of becoming cognitively handicapped."