Evolution of the early childhood curriculum in China

the impact of social and cultural factors on revolution and innovation

Hui Li*, Jennifer J. Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

21 Citations (Scopus)


During the last century, early childhood curriculum (ECC) in China has undergone a series of monumental transformations, shaped by the interaction between local cultural and global forces. In this case study, we critically analyse three major waves of ECC reform in China, with a particular emphasis on the social and cultural forces that have shaped the evolution and revolution of ECC in China. Our analysis reveals the effects of these different forces in inducing change and how they propelled innovative reform of ECC. Furthermore, we deconstruct Chinas history of adopting and adapting curriculum ideologies and models from other cultural contexts with the opposite concepts of cultural relativism and cultural universalism. The findings suggest three important lessons we could learn from China: (1) teacher education is critical; (2) top-down model does not work; and (3) changing ideas does not necessarily mean changing practices. Last, the implications and suggestions are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1471-1483
Number of pages13
JournalEarly Child Development and Care
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • China
  • early childhood curriculum
  • curriculum reform
  • local culture
  • global influences

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