2015 Asia-Pacific Conference on Business & Social Sciences

November 18-20, 2015
ChingMai, Thailand


Topic " Child-centredness in pre-primary curriculum - A case study from China"

Does child-centred practice really exist, or is it nothing more than an espoused philosophical position? This is the question posed by O’Laughlin more than two decades ago (O’Laughlin, 1991). Is the conception of child-centredness a mere theoretical concept that highlights the direction of reform in teaching and learning? The child-centred approach to teaching and learning, which is contrary to the teacher-centred approach, has been regarded not only as an essential solution to the enhancement of students’ learning effectiveness but also a panacea to the quality of education (UNICEF, 2009). Teachers in kindergartens always perceive their curriculum as child-centred since there are always activities designed for children’s bodily involvement. Is children’s bodily involvement in their learning experiences sufficient to support the teachers’ claim that their approach/curriculum is child-centred?

What are the key features of a child-centred curriculum? Child-centredness is characterized by the active participation of children in the process of learning and teaching. Children are active learners and they enjoy autonomy in the conception of things/construction of knowledge. The curriculum/learning and teaching needs to be designed in the ways that cater for individual needs and respect for the uniqueness of each child in addition to addressing children’s developmental characteristics. Such conception of child-centredness is based on the epistemological assumption of constructivism that meaning is imposed by learners instead of being transmitted by others. Each child will have his/her own conception of things so that knowledge is constructed through learners’ authentic participation rather than being instructed in the process of learning (Duffy & Jonassen, 1992). The understanding of how children encounter things and ideas is vital to teachers in designing a child-centred curriculum apart from engaging children in activities physically. Children are not simply expected to play and learn through handling toys, blocks, coloured pictures and objects, but their emotions should also be taken into account in the experiences of learning. Children have to master not only skills but also to make sense of the materials and to construct ideas for themselves. Deep bodily and emotional engagement of children needs to be sought in a child-centred approach (Doddington & Hilton, 2007).

Kindergarten education has been perceived as a foundation stone for the education of children. It has long been regarded as a kind of child-care service in traditional Chinese societies. Providing care-taking to children perhaps was the most important responsibility of the people working in pre-primary education settings. Parents, however value pre-primary education very much as it can help pave the way for their children’s further study. So, subject-bound and skill-based curriculum has been emphasized in kindergartens. The Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) published two policy documents on early childhood education in 2012 in the hope of enabling kindergarten education better to cater for the needs and developmental characteristics of children. In Hong Kong, the Curriculum Guide of kindergarten education stipulates that kindergarten education aims to nurture children’s all-round development, to develop their curiosity as well as to stimulate their interest in learning. The respect of children as individuals and children’s active participation are essential to the success of child-centred curriculum/approach. Is the curriculum implemented in the kindergartens of China (including Hong Kong) child-centred?

The handful of studies about the approaches adopted in the kindergarten curriculum of Hong Kong indicate that there has been a greater emphasis on teaching academics to children in kindergarten and their teaching style is still didactic (Cheng, 2012; Cheuk & Hatch, 2007; Fung & Cheng, 2012). The pre-primary curriculum in Hong Kong is therefore still far from child-centredness. In this presentation, the findings of a study on the pre-primary curriculum/approach adopted in kindergartens of China will be reported. Both teachers and principals of the kindergartens claimed that their curriculum has taken account of the developmental needs of children and is child-centred. Is their curriculum really child-centred or just a pseudo-child-centred approach (Stanworth, 2014)? on a wide variety of government documents and on 22 semi-structured, in-depth face-to-face interviews with key stakeholders involved in Hong Kong 334 educational reforms between February and March 2016. The evolution of Hong Kong 334 educational reform has been critically reviewed. Academic and managerial implications of the study are also given.


Prof. Chi-Wai Chan
School of Education and Languages , The Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK)

Chi-Wai Chan is an Assistant Professor of the School of Education and Languages of the Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK). Before joining OUHK, he had been the principal of a secondary school in Hong Kong and a School Development Officer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Now he is the leader of the programmes of Postgraduate Diploma in Education and Bachelor of General Studies in OUHK. He also served as the Quality Monitor of PISA (Hong Kong) in 2009 and 2015. His research interests include educational leadership, economics of education, educational policies and early childhood education.

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