A cross-cultural study of contemporary early childhood arts curricula

Author: Yan Jin

Jin, Yan, 2017 A cross-cultural study of contemporary early childhood arts curricula, Flinders University, School of Education

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This thesis presents a cross-cultural study of young children’s arts education. A comparison of the intended arts curriculum for 5-6 year old children in Beijing and Australia portrays a snapshot of the similarities and differences of these arts curricula. The examination of the contemporary literature revealed a perceived creativity gap between China and some Western countries. Early childhood is particularly important in bringing about change to this situation, as children of 5-6 years of age are believed to be in a critical period for the development of their creative thinking skills. This research seeks to enhance the understanding of the arts education among a cohort of Chinese 5-6 year old children in this era of globalisation; it aims to contribute to current education philosophy and practices of childhood arts education in Beijing.

Underpinned by an overarching social constructivist epistemology and using the theory of governmentality as a critical lens, this thesis investigates the intricate power– knowledge system in relation to curriculum, arts and pedagogy in Chinese Beijing children’s arts education. Constructivist grounded theory is the primary research methodology that guides the analysis of sequential qualitative research phases of this study. These phases include a comparative curricula analysis, followed by a survey study involving 88 EC teachers among 12 public kindergartens in Beijing. These first phases of the research inform a collective case study across three kindergartens.

This study reveals that the arts represent a significant learning area both in Chinese Beijing and in Australian ECE. However, evidence from the study demonstrates that in the contemporary Beijing context, the main pedagogical approach to children’s arts learning continues to be teacher-directed and teacher-initiated, and collective teaching remains the predominant pedagogical organisation form. The findings of this study reiterate results in the literature reviewed and further confirm a gap between Chinese ECE policies and implementation, and between Chinese EC educators’ espoused beliefs and enacted practice.

This thesis challenges and problematises some of the claims and understanding of this research field, for example, the discourse on child-centredness in the contemporary Chinese EC curriculum. The data provided evidence that the participant EC educators possessed a diverse range of knowledge of the potential benefits of globalisation from an EC perspective. It is argued that in this particular field, the forces of globalisation interact and interplay with local powers in the emergent practice of Chinese ECE.

This research highlights the potential for early childhood arts education to cultivate enhanced creative and critical thinking skills for children in Beijing. This study indicates the need for new policy to address the importance of emergent technology in Chinese children’s arts education. In addition, Chinese EC educators’ professional learning requires further and continuing development, to incorporate the contemporary views of children, the disciplinary knowledge and skills, and a more open understanding of the optimal pedagogy for children’s arts learning.









在社会建构主义认知理论的支持下,运用治理理论作为一个批判性的视角,本论文 探寻在当代北京儿童艺术教育中的课程,艺术和教学法之间的错综复杂的权力和知识体 系。使用建构主义实地理论作为该研究的基本方法论促进了一系列连续的定性研究的方 法。这些研究方法包含一个跨文化的艺术课程的文本比较,和一个由来自北京地区 12 个 公立幼儿园的 88 位学前教师参与的调查问卷。这些初始的研究方法为接下来由三个幼儿 园参与的一个集体性的个案研究奠定了基础。















Keywords: early childhood education, creativity, contemporary arts curriculum, pedagogy in the early years, China, Australia, cross-cultural study, governmentality perspective

Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2017
School: School of Education
Supervisor: Associate Professor Susan Krieg