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The changing pedagogical discourses in China: The case of the foreign language curriculum change and its controversies

Wei Liu (University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada)

English Teaching: Practice & Critique

ISSN: 1175-8708

Article publication date: 3 May 2016




This paper aims to explore the changing pedagogic discourses in China today, using the current wave of English curriculum innovation as a focused case. Given the cross-cultural nature of foreign language education, the change in the English as a foreign language curriculum in China has served as a fertile ground for different pedagogical ideas to emerge and to cross. The new English curriculum in China has endorsed a more communicative and humanistic view of language teaching, encouraging teachers to adopt a task-based approach to organize their classroom teaching. The new English curriculum has aroused a heated debate among Chinese scholars on the suitability of such a Western curriculum idea in the Chinese educational context on the basis of its relation to the Confucian tradition of education, the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) context of China and the danger of post-colonialist imposition.


A critique is conducted on the three areas of controversies by situating the debate in the larger context of the cross-cultural understanding of the Chinese pedagogic discourse in the process of globalization and internationalization.


It is important for China to resist the homogenizing effect of globalization and internationalization in the area of curriculum development; however, being defensive and protective of one’s own and dismissive of others has not been and should not be the attitude of Chinese curriculum reform. The evolution of Chinese pedagogy is not only a result of Western influence but also a result of social change in the process of industrialization (Cheng, 2011). Global trends and national traditions should not be taken as extremes in an incompatible and irreconcilable dichotomy.


The three areas of debates on the new English curriculum can serve as a good lens into the evolving curriculum discourses in China. They reflect the cultural–historical, contextual and critical considerations among Chinese educational scholars in the national curriculum innovation efforts.



Liu, W. (2016), "The changing pedagogical discourses in China: The case of the foreign language curriculum change and its controversies", English Teaching: Practice & Critique, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 74-90.



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