Globalisation and Education Development
Globalisation has stimulated economic trades and education innovation on a global scale. Globalisation may impact states’ decision- and policy-making by bringing in contemporary problems and solutions (Ball, 2013). States not only trade goods but also import and borrow ideas and policies from each other (Ball, 2013). Thus, “(e)ducation is very particularly implicated in the discourse and processes of globalisation through the idea of the knowledge economy” (Ball, 2013:p.28).
The idea of the knowledge economy was brought back to the global agenda in the 1990s and was quickly adopted by most developed countries. It means that intellectual capabilities will incentivise technological innovation, which will implicate and generate new economic value (Ball, 2013). The key idea of the knowledge economy is to increase intellectual capabilities through education. Therefore, economic growth and education are tightly bound in the global agenda.
In response to the knowledge economy, developed countries established policies to increase their competitiveness. For example, the United States formed the Council of Competitiveness to boost innovation in information and communication technology (Wang, 2011). The council “urged the reform of the U.S. educational system to produce ‘talents’ who … can create ‘new ideas and innovative technologies’ and ‘keep the economy strong and growing stronger'” (Wang, 2011:p.6). International organisations, such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), were also created to reform and rebuild education systems in developed countries (Wang, 2011). Since China was seeking opportunities to skyrocket its economy, participating in the global agenda by reforming its education system would be the first step on the road to further sustainable economic success. Therefore, education reform was brought to the table in the late 1990s.
Education Borrowing in China and the Development of the NCR
The Ministry of Education brought the National Curriculum Reform for basic education in 1999. Two years later, the official document was released to the public. The idea for the new curriculum is to reshape the aims, beliefs and practices of basic education in China. Many of the ideas and policies are borrowed from ‘the West’ (Wang, 2011; Iacovo, 2009; Li & Ni, 2012; Tan & Chua, 2015; Tan, 2014); for example, developing extracurricular programs in schools and focusing on student-centred learning processes are included in the NCR. However, the Chinese government did not adopt foreign or western education policies entirely. The NCR also keeps some Chinese education traditions such as formative assessment. As China tries to establish a unique education system with Chinese characteristics, the NCR is designed to be a product of balancing foreign and Chinese traditional education values, which caused problems in implementation later.
The core concept of the NCR is under the term Suzhi Jiaoyu, which can be translated as “‘competence education’, ‘quality education’, ‘essential qualities oriented education’, or ‘character education'” (Iacovo, 2009:p.242). “The multitude of translations reflects the inability of a few English words to convey the broader connotations the term Suzhi conveys in contemporary Chinese” (Iacovo, 2009:p.242). The goal for Suzhi Jiaoyu is to promote quality education for more educated and well-rounded Chinese youth so that they will help China to compete globally. This is no clear definition of Suzhi Jiaoyu in the policy paper; however, four practical directions are displayed to achieve Suzhi Jiaoyu in the reform (Iacovo, 2009).
1. Educate all youths. The reform emphasises on nine-year compulsory education, and the aim for compulsory education is to promote development for each student (Li & Ni, 2012).
2. Create diversity for student development. The aim for education is to develop students’ all-around abilities, not only the ability to take the test but also the ability of critical thinking and analysing (Li & Ni, 2012).
3. Include extracurricular activities in school. “The new curriculum seeks to reinforce the links between the curriculum content and the students’ real lives, as well as the connection between modern society and scientific and technological advancement” (Li & Ni, 2012:p.10).
4. Self-learning experience. The new curriculum devoted to promote students’ abilities to “engage in self-regulated participation, exchange, and exploration, as opposed to the previous methods of receptive learning, rote memorisation, and mechanical drills” (Li & Ni, 2012:p.11).
Based on these four values, further policies were also promoted to ensure the process/performance of the reform. For example, schools are given the autonomy to design part of its own curricula in the national-based and local-based contexts. The flexibility of curricula design provides schools more autonomies and responsibilities to execute the new education policies (Iacovo, 2009).
Consequently, the NCR was gradually implemented across China. It was first implemented in Beijing as a pilot. “By 2004, 81% of primary schools and 56% of junior secondary schools were participating the NCR projects (in Beijing)” (Iacovo, 2009:p.244). Then, four more provinces then followed the adoption of the NCR: Guangdong, Shandong, Hainan and Ningxia (Yan, 2015). By the end of 2009, The NCR has been executed in all provinces in China (Yan, 2015). Even though the NCR was fully executed in China, there are implementation gaps such as insufficient funding and teacher training during the process (Yan, 2015; Li & Ni, 2012; Tan & Chua, 2015; Tan, 2014; Wang, 2011). As this section has provided general background of the NCR and policy borrowing in China, the next section will discuss education policy borrowing literature.