Institutionalizing educational ideologies: Curriculum reform and the transformation of teaching practices in rural China

Tanja Carmel Sargent, University of Pennsylvania


My dissertation analyzes a case study in educational policy reform: the implementation of China's national curriculum reforms at the start of the 21st century, as played out in rural primary schools. I argue that China, like other nation-states, engages in educational reform for three main reasons: economic development, social justice and sociopolitical control. I assert that, contrary to the established wisdom that educational policy and classroom practice are unavoidably decoupled, it is possible for curriculum reform policy to influence teachers' beliefs and teaching practices through the purposeful institutionalization of new educational ideologies. My research makes use of survey data from Wave 2 of the Gansu Survey of Children and Families, qualitative field work, and content analysis of policy documents. My analysis of policy documents indicates that, while all three educational goals of economic development, sociopolitical control and social justice are present in current Chinese educational policy rhetoric, the predominating emphasis is on economic development. The main manifestation of the goal of economic development in the policy rhetoric is the emphasis place on the cultivation of a creative and innovative workforce capable of enhancing China's global competitiveness. The cultivation of creativity and critical thinking is to be achieved through the transformation of teaching practices from a traditional focus on texts and teachers as the sources of knowledge, to a focus on students as co-creators of knowledge. Results from the analysis of classroom observation and teacher in-depth interview data suggest that teachers' beliefs and teaching practices are different in classrooms that have begun implementation of the reforms. My analysis of the survey data suggests two main organizational mechanisms that are related to teachers' beliefs and teaching practices: participation in programs of professional development, and norms of teacher professional interaction and exchange.

Subject Area

Educational sociology|Curricula|Teaching

Recommended Citation

Sargent, Tanja Carmel, "Institutionalizing educational ideologies: Curriculum reform and the transformation of teaching practices in rural China" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3225538.