The Right to Choose What to Learn: High School Curriculum Reform in China
While the US is pushing for common standards and a more uniform curriculum, China has been working to infuse more flexibility. According to a report by China Education(the report is in Chinese), the national daily education newspaper, Hubei, a province in central China, just unveiled its new high school curriculum implementation plan. Beginning this fall, the 400,000 high school freshmen in the province will be following the new curriculum. Unlike their predecessors, who took the same courses and used the same text books for all three years of high school, these students will need to construct their own curriculum from a broad range of courses in 8 macro areas: language and literature, mathematics, humanities and society, science, technology, arts, physical education and health, and integrated practices. Multiple courses will be offered in each area for students to choose from. Schools will also be able to decide what textbooks to use.
The essence of the new curriculum is to grant students “a fundamental right to a self-determined curriculum.” Under the new curriculum framework, high school students will belong to two “classes:” administrative group and course group. Students in the same administrative group will have different timetables and courses.
The new curriculum is such a dramatic departure from the past in China that it has become national news but in fact, but it is basically what has been the traditional practice in the U.S..
Hubei is actually one of the last few provinces to implement the new curriculum reform plan, a national education reform efforts in China that began piloting in 2004. After this year, there will be only 5 provinces/autonomous regions out of 31 that have not implemented the new policy.