Zhima Jie used engaging live action, animation, and colourful characters in an effort to meet the educational needs of young children in China.
This version of Sesame Street drew on the knowledge of local Chinese experts in child development, education, and media to identify the most important developmental needs of children in China and the best ways to address them. To generate culturally appropriate education goals, the advisors participated in a seminar in which they presented suggestions and - through group discussion - reached a consensus on the educational objectives of the series, which included:
- Symbolic representation - goals related to literacy, such as learning Chinese characters, and numeracy, such as counting and identifying geometric forms
- Cognitive organisation - skills such as auditory and visual discrimination and classifying quantity and shapes
- The child's world - goals such as identifying body parts, learning about emotions, and problem solving
- Family and society - goals pertaining to family structures, family activities, social relationships, and the child's environment
- Aesthetics and arts - the senses, artistic expression, and creativity.
After the seminar, an educational advisor summarised the specialists' recommendations in a document stating the educational objectives of the series; the document addresses each of these 5 curricular areas in detail and served as a guide for developing the series' studio, live action, and animation segments. Also key to this process was formative research carried out with different groups of Chinese children. This research provided information on the programme's appeal, the comprehension of the educational messages, and the types of images and activities Chinese children liked in the programme.
Through the above-described process, organisers developed several animated colourful, quirky Muppet characters to entertain and educate young Chinese viewers through the televised programmes. For example, "Hu Hu Zhu" is an ageless, furry, blue pig with many siblings and relatives who are all the same unique colour; he pretends to be brave for the sake of helping others, but is actually afraid at heart. "Little Plum" is a bright red, 3-year-old monster who loves to read books and listen to stories. The tall, 6-year-old yellow bird "Big Bird (Da Niao)" is willing to try again, to correct his mistakes, and find solutions to problems through persistence.
Early Childhood Development, Education.
A study conducted by Jin Li and Jimei Li (published in Early Education & Development, Vol. 13, No. 4, October 2002, pps. 379-394) found that Zhima Jie's purpose to reach Chinese preschool children through television "corresponded to their needs and desires for learning. The program's educational goals met overwhelming love and appreciation from those children studied." One reason for this impact, they speculate, is the fact that "Zhima Jie's goals were a product of Chinese educators' thoughtful design, not a transplantation of US Sesame Street materials."
Sesame Workshop, STV.
Sesame Workshop website; "'The Cow Loves to Learn'": The Hao-Xue-Xin Learning Model as a Reflection of the Cultural Relevance of Zhima Jie, China's Sesame Street", by Jin Li and Jimei Li. In Early Education & Development, Vol. 13, No. 4, October 2002, pps. 379-394; Sesame Workshop Press Release, August 20 2003; and email from June Lee to The Communication Initiative on January 19 2006.