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Since the early 2000s, qualitative research (QR) emerged as an interpretive approach and has gained increasing interest in education in China, while it is deeply rooted in Chinese intellectual history. Indigenously, the concept of QR methodology sought to explore the richness, depth, and complexity of phenomena, which was a way to gain insights through discovering meanings by improving the comprehension of the whole overall. In the 1920s, pioneering intellectuals promoted Western education or new education in the New Culture Movement (around the time of the May 4 Movement in 1919), led by Hu Shih, Chen Tuhsiu, Li Tachao, and others. They actively advocated democracy and science. The May 4th Campaign dealt a heavy blow to the traditional rituals that ruled China for more than 2,000 years. It has inspired people’s democratic consciousness and promoted the development of modern science in China. Quantitative research, like statistical methods, was introduced in the field of education. With the development of theories and methods of probabilistic statistics for studying randomness, small sample theory, statistical estimation, and statistical tests were widely introduced in the 1940s. In the upcoming decades, for many, quantitative research evoked a strong allegiance in academia, particularly in education, since it was considered to be based on a belief in science, perhaps more so than what many considered qualitative research in China. Actually, the relationship between qualitative and quantitative research in education has been fraught with misunderstanding, confusion, and tension in China. After the 1990s, QR, which has been primarily advocated by Western researchers, has also grown in importance in educational and cultural studies in China as a methodological approach to research that aligns in important ways with quantitative research. Thus, internal tensions within the field of education have also emerged. Yet, though both approaches vary and have distinct genealogies and commitments, QR may be seen as a broad methodological genre in which open-ended interviews, participatory and non-participation observation, literature analysis, case studies, and other methods of social phenomena engage in long-term, in-depth, and meticulous studies. Such critically oriented QR has important implications for educational research.

Article

In 2013, the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China initiated fundamental reforms of the Matriculation English as a Foreign Language Tests (the Matriculation EFL Tests hereafter) in order to solve problems in college admissions and K–12 education. Under the guidance of the Ministry of Education, provinces announced their specific reform plans. This round of reforms features holding the Matriculation EFL Tests multiple times per year and involving nongovernment testing companies in test development and administration. This indicates China is on the way to aligning with international educational assessment standards and practices. Meanwhile, some proposed reforms are unexpectedly deviating from the longstanding English fever and have triggered heated debates and disputes in China. Proposed reforms of the Matriculation EFL Tests reflect China’s current language policy and the trend of de-Westernization. These reforms will have both positive and negative influences on test development, the K–12 EFL curriculum, instruction, and learning. Social impacts and potential influences on social justice caused by this round of reforms also deserve attention.

Article

Despite the fact that Mandarin is not accorded official language status in Malaysia, and that ethnic Chinese communities accounted for less than 30% of the country’s overall population, Malaysia is the only country outside China and Taiwan with a comprehensive and complete Chinese education system. It is also the only country in Southeast Asia that has perpetuated the Chinese education system established during the colonial era. The prolonged endurance of the Chinese education system in Malaysia is the result of many factors: heavy brokerage and lobbying efforts by ethnic Chinese political leaders; incorporation of vernacular schools into the Malay-dominated national education system in the backdrop of the Malayan nation formation stage; social mobilization of the Chinese education movement in Malaysia; and the increasing significance of Mandarin proficiency in the world. In particular, the assimilation policies for nation building by the Malay-dominated regime have threatened the cultural distinctiveness of the Chinese-speaking communities. Resistance from the Chinese speaking minorities is manifested through their support of the Chinese schools. Moreover, the elimination of English schools during the 1970s has unintentionally favored the Chinese primary schools. Despite their standing at that time as the “second-best” option after the English school, Chinese schools that offered the benefit of trilingual education, stricter discipline, and more competitive academic performance enjoyed an accelerated boost in student enrollments. More importantly, many parents who do not speak Chinese began to appreciate the quality of Chinese schools, and the enrollment of non-ethnic Chinese students has continued to rise ever since. Above all, China’s rapid economic ascendancy and growing political influence since the 1990s has enhanced the importance of Mandarin as a global language. This has added value to the importance of Chinese schools as language and cultural learning institutions for Malaysian. Such opportunity has enabled the Chinese school model to become one of the most successful and inclusive educational institutions for multicultural Malaysians.

Article

The theme of social justice appears to be central in education research. A polysemic and sometimes empty notion, social justice can be defined, constructed, and used in different ways, which makes it a problematic notion to work with intra- and interculturally. Global education research has often relied on constructions of the notion as they have been “done” in the West, leaving very little space to constructions from peripheries. This problematic and somewhat biased approach often leads to research that ignores local contexts and local ways of “discoursing” about social justice. Although some countries are said to be better at social justice in education (e.g., top performers in the OECD PISA studies), there is a need to examine critically and reflexively how it is “done” in different contexts (“winners” and “losers” of international rankings) on macro- and micro-levels. Two different educational utopias, China and Finland, are used to illustrate the different constructions of social justice, and more specifically marginalization and belonging in relation to migrant students—an omnipresent figure in world education—in the two countries. A call for learning with each other about social justice, and questioning too easily accepted definitions and/or formulas, is made.

Article

Guofang Li, Zhuo Sun, and Haoyun Li

Metalinguistic awareness is a cognitive process that allows a person to explicitly think about structural features of language such as phonological, morphological, and orthographic features and use this knowledge base to monitor and control his/her use of language. Metalinguistic awareness is strongly associated with monolingual children’s early literacy skills. The concept of metalinguistic awareness has also been used to explore the possibility of any paralleled mechanism that metalinguistic awareness operates in predicting bilingual children’s early literacy learning, especially between two languages that are orthographically distant such as Chinese and English. Research on Chinese-English bilingual children in both Chinese as a first language context (e.g., Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan) and Chinese as a heritage language context (e.g., Canada, United States, and the United Kingdom) confirms some cross-language facilitation of early literacy skills mediated by metalinguistic awareness in general, but overall research findings reveal a variance in terms of the directionality of transfer and aspects of transfer in predicting literacy skills in the two languages within the respective phonological, morphological, and orthographic awareness domain. Several linguistics-external factors such as individual children’s language proficiencies in the two languages and their exposure to formal language instruction mediate patterns of metalinguistic transfer in phonological, morphological, and orthographic awareness across the two different language contexts.

Article

Liang Du, Huimeng Li, and Weijian Wang

Rural education has received considerable attention from researchers and policy makers in their attempts to understand the deep-rooted rural/urban dichotomy in China. Most debates surround how to improve the “quality” of rural education and to “rebalance” the level of educational development between rural and urban regions. For this purpose raising the “quality” of teachers across rural schools is highlighted as the key element in many policies and studies, and the focus has shifted from addressing a teacher shortage to the recruitment and retention of quality teachers, especially in those remote regions. Issues in China’s rural education are not only reflections of rural–urban differences but also reproduce these social differentiations. Those who pay the price of the entrenched rural/urban dichotomy in China are the increasing number of “left-behind” children in the rural villages as well as the “floating” students in the urban schools whose numbers have also increased in the past decades. Most members of both groups tend to undergo a social reproduction process in the school systems and eventually become workers in the manufacturing and service industries in urban centers. Meanwhile, rural education in China is also abundant in culturally meaningful processes. While many scholars and policy makers view the rural school as a critical site for passing on the cultural inheritance of “rural China,” rural students themselves nevertheless creatively make meaning of their daily experiences and produce rich cultural forms. Some of them develop certain forms of “counterschool” culture as they experience educational failure, while others take up cultural traits valued by their rural families and turn them into a form of cultural capital, which consequently plays a pivotal role in the educational and social mobility of rural students.

Article

China has a long history of education, and its institutionalized educational leadership and administration can be traced back more than 2,000 years. Since then, educational leadership and administration systems have evolved with the development of society, politics, economy, and culture, and an educational leadership and administration system with significant Chinese characteristics has been formed. The current educational leadership and administration system in China is stipulated by different laws and regulations of the country. The State Council and the local people’s governments at various levels are responsible to guide and administer educational work under the principles of administration by different levels and a division of responsibilities. This educational leadership and administration system in China is related not only to the history of the centralized culture but also to the administration system of the country. At the beginning of the 21st century, the world is undergoing significant development, profound change, and major adjustments, while China is currently at a key stage for reform and development. World multi-polarization, globalization of the economy, development of the knowledge economy, dramatic changes in science and technology, competition for talent worldwide, and the trend toward industrialization, informatization, urbanization, marketization, and internationalization in China pose a severe challenge to education and its administration. At the same time, some serious problems in educational leadership and administration remain to be solved. Facing these challenges and problems, the government called for reforms to promote the educational governance system and modernization of the educational governance capability to educational administration. The new educational governance system emphasizes empowerment, autonomy, shared governance, social participation in policymaking, and administration.