BEIJING: CHILDREN as young as three are being enrolled in "chief executive courses" in China as pushy parents become obsessed with giving their offspring an advantage over their young peers.
The toddlers will become qualified in determining "real and fake friendships" and "techniques in dealing with conflicts among friends", according to the website of one such course at the Baoyatu Early Education Garden.
The "little leaders", aged from three to six, will "learn how to make simple dreams come true" during the two-year, twice-weekly course which costs 30,000 yuan (pounds 3,400) a year.
"We teach our children to understand how leaders would behave in certain circumstances," said a staff member at the Beijing-based school.
Parents in the southern city of Guangzhou can enroll children on a "CEO training course" at the "Leederedu" school for 50,000 yuan (pounds 5,700) a year. The twice-weekly course helps develop "leadership abilities" and "competitiveness" in three to eight-year-olds, the school's website said.
The Shenyang Early Education Centre claims it can give babies "self-confidence" with what it calls a "management trainee" course that it offers to newborns aged up to six months.
The centre, which is based in north-east China, also offers a "CEO course" for children who are aged over three, and "presidents" and "directors" courses for younger children.
Extra curricular education is very popular in China, particularly during the school summer holidays when many parents seek summer camps for their children. Extra-curricular classes during term-time are also common, and they can be a burden for Chinese students who begin school at 8am and are given large amounts of homework.
Some Chinese reports have labeled "elite training schools" as "glorified babysitters", but they remain popular.
Zhang Hao, an IT technician in Beijing, enrolled his three-year-old daughter on a leadership course in June. He paid a discounted annual fee of 12,000 yuan (pounds 1,360) for two 40-minute classes per week.
"I am not really sure what they teach in the class, but they promised that after my daughter was trained she would become more confident and would easily become the centre of attention among her friends," Mr Zhang told The Daily Telegraph.
"I don't really see any signs that she has changed - except perhaps she is a little less shy.
"But I doubt the course can really teach a child to be a future leader because they are too young. What more do you expect a three-year old to do? My daughter doesn't even know how to put her own shoes on." Among the schools that have become popular with Chinese parents are those which boost skills deemed more Western or elite.
They often involve sports such as horse-riding or golf, or Western practices, such as a "culture class'"offered by Seatton, one of the top Western culture and etiquette schools in China.
The company's founder James Seatton branded the chief executive courses a "marketing ploy" and said learning should be "fun" for children.
"Children are already under increasing pressure to perform well at school and that means they have less time to enjoy childhood."