Curriculum reform with a school-based approach: Intellectual, structural and cultural challenges

Tai Hoi Theodore LEE, Yin Cheong CHENG, Yue On James KO

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Curriculum reform with a school-based approach is often assumed to offer schools and teachers autonomy at the site level, thus enabling them to develop a school-based curriculum and pedagogies to better fit the needs of students. Over the past decade, school-based curriculum development in Hong Kong has encountered issues that deserve worldwide attention and discussion. By reviewing the experiences of two schools in Hong Kong and drawing on international evidence, this study identifies key challenges and difficulties in school-based curriculum reform in three areas. Intellectually, there is a lack of a strong and broad shared knowledge base for curriculum development. As a result, most school-based curriculum initiatives have been piecemeal, fragmented and shallow. Structurally, many teachers have wasted time ‘re-inventing the wheel’ when developing school-based curricula. This effort has left them without sufficient time and energy to be effective in teaching. Culturally, reliance on school management to steer school-based reforms has prevented the development of a new culture in which teachers have the autonomy to make changes in their daily practices. Without cultural changes, curriculum reforms are not sustainable or effective. This study proposes a cooperative platform that integrates the strengths of central intelligence and school-based initiatives to maximise support for curriculum development at the teacher, school-site and system levels. Copyright © 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)278-301
JournalSchool Leadership & Management
Issue number3
Early online dateOct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018


Lee, T., Cheng, Y. C., & Ko, J. (2018). Curriculum reform with a school-based approach: Intellectual, structural and cultural challenges. School Leadership & Management, 38(3), 278-301. doi: 10.1080/13632434.2017.1386647


  • Curriculum reform
  • Curriculum development
  • School-based management school autonomy


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