Early childhood curriculum as cultural practice: A comparative study of school-based curriculum development in Hong Kong and Shenzhen

Research output: Other contributionOther contributions


School-based curriculum (SBC) development (SBCD) has become the shared focus of early childhood curriculum (ECC) reforms in Chinese societies since the 1990s. The extensive debate on the cultural appropriateness of ECC reforms and practices deserves empirical study, to understand why and how SBCD has taken place in Chinese kindergartens, and what kinds of products it has yielded. Data obtained from interviews, observations, and documents were triangulated to explore and compare the mechanisms and outcomes of SBCD in Chinese kindergartens in the two neighbouring cities of Hong Kong and Shenzhen, under the umbrella of ‘one country, two systems’. Four linked ECC studies were successively conducted, with a focus on the cultural effects. The preliminary study explored the mechanisms underlying SBCD in a Shenzhen kindergarten. Evidence suggested that it was a dynamic process, undertaken in four main stages: imitation; absorption; integration; and evaluation. The resulting SBC was a comprehensive and sophisticated curricular system balancing child-centred and teacher-directed pedagogies, and hybridising Eastern and Western curricula. SBCD was guided by Chinese philosophy (highlighting balance and harmony), which offers a valuable perspective on recent curriculum changes in Chinese kindergartens. Study 1 examined SBCD in two Hong Kong kindergartens, with a focus on the effects of local culture. The evidence indicated that the SBC in the two cases supported the retention of Chinese cultural values, within the Hong Kong context. The two cases followed the main stages of the expansive learning cycle by learning from diverse models and approaches, to support the inheritance of Chinese cultural values during SBCD. During SBCD in the cases, cultural conflicts and fusion occurred in the learning purposes, learning virtues and curriculum approaches. Study 2 was a comparable, culture-centric examination of SBCD in two Shenzhen kindergartens. It found social change, reflected in value- or culture-based conflicts such as child-centredness versus teacher-directedness, individualism versus collectivism, and imported versus local approaches, played a decisive role in the SBCD. The conflict between and fusion of cultures were also observed throughout SBCD. Aiming for comprehensive comparisons of SBCD between Hong Kong and Shenzhen kindergartens, Study 3 interpreted data from the four cases, from three perspectives: intended curriculum; implemented curriculum; and curriculum ideology. It revealed that the four SBCs were different, but all tended to balance and integrate diverse curricular and pedagogical practices. The commonalities of the SBCs in the Hong Kong and Shenzhen kindergartens were due to shared cultural values, propelled by both ‘modernisation’ and Chinese traditions, while the unique characteristics of SBC practices in each society were shaped by the two cities’ different social contexts. The educational philosophy of progressivism has influenced ECC innovations in Chinese kindergartens to varying degrees, and in diverse ways. This research indicates that ECC is a cultural practice shaped by social context and history. It presents a brand-new theoretical and methodological approach to ECC studies, through unveiling the cultural influences. It also has significant implications for tackling new challenges in ECC reform and implementation, in the era of globalisation. Copyright © 2018 Yang, Weipeng.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2018


Yang, W. (2018). Early childhood curriculum as cultural practice: A comparative study of school-based curriculum development in Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.


Dive into the research topics of 'Early childhood curriculum as cultural practice: A comparative study of school-based curriculum development in Hong Kong and Shenzhen'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.