Curriculum reform and the social class achievement gap

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review


Purpose – Through the study of the Liberal Studies reform in Hong Kong, this paper aims to investigate to what extent the curriculum reform makes a difference in the achievement gap between middle-class and lower-class students. Specifically, it examines the variation of the “class gap” between Liberal Studies and other traditional, core subjects in terms of the public examination results, and the major mediators underlying the class effect on the results.
Design/methodology/approach – Data from a survey of 1,123 students from 15 schools who studied the new curriculum between 2009-2010 and 2011-2012 in Hong Kong were analyzed using the hierarchical multiple regression models.
Findings – Students’ class backgrounds, mainly indicated by parental education, continue to make a substantive contribution to the achievement gap.
Practical implications – Given that Liberal Studies’ examination is compulsory for university entrance, the sensitivity of this reform to existing educational inequalities has a significant impact on students’ chances of entering local universities.
Originality/value – Sociologists have long observed the class gap in education, and this paper adds an important exogenous source, a curriculum change, to the analysis. The Liberal Studies reform has provided a unique opportunity to examine the potential effect of a curriculum change on the class gap. In addition, in view of the absence of empirical evidence in this topic, this paper is an effort to build the evidence base for understanding the outcomes of the reform. Copyright © 2016 Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-165
JournalSocial Transformations in Chinese Societies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016


Lee, T. T.-L., & Chiu, S. W.-K. (2016). Curriculum reform and the social class achievement gap. Social Transformations in Chinese Societies, 12(2), 148-165. doi: 10.1108/STICS-05-2016-0002


  • Hong Kong
  • Achievement gap
  • Social class
  • Curriculum reform
  • Liberal Studies


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