China has a long history of policy borrowing, especially in education. In late 19th century, western ideas and practices were replicated in China to promote modern education. The idea of “Chinese learning for fundamental principles; western learning for use” deeply spread across the nation and was widely adopted (Iacovo, 2009;p.243). This idea continued to contemporary China, but conflicts between western and Chinese cultures were never discussed among researchers and policy makers. NCR was nurtured with the background of education borrowing while inherited the traditional values, however, cultural considerations were not sufficient in the NCR (Tan, 2016; Tan & Chua, 2015).
Tan (2016) argues that a school-based curriculum, formative assessment and student-centred pedagogy have failed during the implementation of the NCR. China’s exam-oriented education culture prohibits schools from developing a curriculum that promotes all around development for students, which is considered the core idea of the NCR. (Tan, 2016). According to an interviewee, “An exam-oriented education is detrimental to the students… (educators) are (only) able to nurture many high scorers in exams but… low in ability” (Tan, 2016;p.200). Therefore, schools with high university entrance rates would develop minor curricular that continues focusing on exams; schools with low university entrance rates lose the momentum to develop school-based curricular and continue operating the traditional national curriculum (Tan, 2016).
The unchanged formative assessment further stopped the development of the NCR (Tan, 2016). Since university admission only or mainly considers Gaokao scores from students, the changeless assessment method discouraged schools, students and teachers to follow NCR policies (Tan, 2016; Tan & Chua, 2015). Furthermore, the paradigm shift from teacher-centred teaching to student-centred teaching was unsuccessful as well (Tan, 2016; Tan & Chua, 2015). Due to time constraints and exam pressures, teachers were not able to fully guide the students and students often failed to engage in critical thinking and in-depth learning (Tan, 2016).
Tan & Chua (2015) agree with Tan (2016) that there is disparity between the ideal NCR implementation and reality in the student-centred learning method. Tan & Chua (2015) take a cultural perspective and argue that the traditional unbalanced relationship between teacher and student is embedded in the education system. Teachers are always in a superior position historically and have concealed power to influence students (Tan & Chua, 2015). As a result, students are incapable and unused to investigating questions by themselves and always rely on the guidance of teachers (Tan & Chua, 2016).
This section intends to explain education policy borrowing in the global context and China specifically. Understanding the framework, contextual considerations and cultural conflicts of education policy borrowing is crucial to examine issues in the NCR in China. As discussed above, cultural considerations were lacking during NCR implementation; however, cultural conflict is not the only reason why the development of the NCR slowed. Social factors, local incapability, and teacher’s support are also major contributors of implementation gaps of the NCR. Therefore, the next section will discuss these two issues of the NCR.