Early childhood curriculum reform in China

perspectives from examining teachers' beliefs and practices in Chinese literacy teaching

Hui Li*, X. Wang, Jessie Wong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

36 Citations (Scopus)


Two waves of reform have been conducted in China since the 1980s to transform its early childhood curriculum into a Western-style, progressive model. Western curricula and programs such as the Montessori method, the project approach, the Reggio Emilia method, and the high/scope method have been imported and adopted all over the country. But the top-down reforms and these "imported" ideas have been challenged by scholars and practitioners. Aiming to understand how practices in kindergartens measure up with the reform objectives, the present study investigated the teachers' beliefs and practices in five Shenzhen kindergartens' literacy instruction.Altogether, ten early childhood classrooms were observed for one school week, and the ten classroom teachers were interviewed about the observed Chinese teaching practices. The teachers and teaching assistants of the ten classes (N = 20) were also surveyed about their teaching beliefs and practices. The results indicated a remarkable belief-practice gap as well as a policy-practice gap. Most of the curriculum reform ideas were expressed by the teachers in their self-reported beliefs but had not been implemented in their teaching practice. The traditional Chinese model with the teacher directing the whole-class session was still dominating. Slight differences were also found among the ten classes, which reflect the cascading effects of curriculum reform. These findings suggest that curriculum reforms should take into consideration the culture, language, teachers, parents, resources available, and the prevailing education system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-23
Number of pages19
JournalChinese Education and Society
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes

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