Journal of Educational Change

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 287–302 | Cite as

Teacher agency and school-based curriculum in China’s non-elite schools

  • Charlene Tan


Mainland China has been embarking on a nation-wide education reform as part of its modernisation project for the past few decades. A relatively under-researched topic is teacher agency in non-elite schools where educators critically shape their reactions to new situations brought about by the reform. Focussing on the introduction of school-based curriculum in China, this article discusses how some educators from non-elite schools respond strategically to new opportunities and resources by promoting indigenous knowledge via engaging teaching methods. The essay illustrates, through two examples, how non-elite schools seek to provide the best kind of education available to their students by integrating Confucian and ethnic cultures into the formal curriculum. China’s experience demonstrates the exercise of teacher agency that arises from the interplay of human efforts, available capital and contingent factors. It also highlights the potential of utilising indigenous sources and synthesising them with non-local sources as part of implementing education reform.


China Education reform Non-elite schools School-based curriculum Teacher agency 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Policy and Leadership Studies, National Institute of EducationNanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore

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