Childhood bypassed in race to be first in the boardroom


Oversupply ? China has too many graduates.

Oversupply ? China has too many graduates.
Photo: Reuters

Peter Simpson in Beijing
January 8, 2007

WHEN Qiao Qian sits down to dinner with her parents after another hard day's study at college, she can discuss everything from economics to astronomy.

The four-year-old from Shanghai is one of more than 3000 Chinese children aged from three to six studying for an "early" MBA, as the country's one-child policy and rising middle class incomes put pressure on parents to produce a genius.

An exceptional early education and an early introduction to the world of business are seen as the best ways to ensure a child stands out from the millions of graduates who annually make up a huge oversupply of job applicants.

At the FasTracKids Academy, toddlers attend life-goal and earth science classes and are taught the management skills needed to secure a boardroom seat and fat bonus.

"The children participate in an imaginary marketing survey and create an advertising strategy to better understand their daily economic impact," the academy's chief executive officer, Chris Justice, said.

There is no room for such traditional Western childhood staples as nursery rhymes and finger painting. Instead of Baa Baa Black Sheep, the young students are given a computer screen and an animated sheep farm on which they learn to make the business of sheep shearing profitable, building a business structure from the pen to the market place.

Thanks to the creative literature segment of the two-year higher education program, children like Qiao Qian can offer several multi-syllable adjectives to describe her progress.

"The course is very popular among Chinese parents. We are about to open nine more schools across the country," said Mr Justice, who has been running the course since 2004 and oversees five academies.

"There are no right or wrong answers in the learning program," he said. "The children are taught to be creative and confident. There are two students to every teacher and the learning environment allows young minds to explore their potential in their own way."

The courses, known as EMBAs, have annual fees of 12,000 yuan ($1975), but most parents believe it is money well spent.

Telegraph, London