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ICI International Curriculum Forum║Professor Mark Bray & Zhang Wei: Learning in and out of Schools: Changing Dynamics in China an Beyond


In order to promote the development of collaborative education inside and outside schools, and the standardized and orderly development of out-of-school training industry, The Centre for International Research in Supplementary Tutoring (CIRIST) of ICI, and Shanghai Training Association held a forum entitled “Comparing Curriculum and Instruction Inside and Outside Schools: Policies and Practices” from Nov. 6 to 7, 2021.

Professor Mark Bray

Distinguished Professor of East China Normal University

UNESCO Chair in Comparative Education, University of Hong Kong

Professor Zhang Wei

Institute of Curriculum and Instruction, East China Normal University

Executive Director of CIRIST

Research Consultant of Private Tutoring, UNESCO

Honorary Professor, Aarhus Universitet, Denmark

Main Content of the Report

CIRIST is world’s first research centre focus on private tutoring. China is exactly where we build a world-class center. In fact, the whole world is looking at China, they’re paying attention to the process of China’s “Shuang Jian”.

Our team builds on two decades of global work. The picture shows a series of books that our team, especially professor Mark Bray, has published, you can see that his first book was actually published in 1999.

You can see that private tutoring is by no means a phenomenon only in East Asian countries or cultures, it is a global phenomenon, and it is becoming more and more intense.

We are pleased to report that we have also done research work in China for more than 10 years.

We now introduce to you the experience of shadow education in world regions. In some countries, private tutoring (shadow education) has a longer history and has been active for a long time, and the governments of these countries have also tried to restrain or regulate private tutoring for many years. These countries have also promulgated policies like “Shuang Jian” in China.

In fact, it is a global phenomenon with a long history. To some extent, China is catching up with the rest of the world. Now we can see that the development scale, speed and governance level of shadow education in our country are catching up from behind.

Thus, private tutoring is not only a unique phenomenon in China, but also a global phenomenon. I’d like to share with you the global data. We need to do better research in this field and find better and more representative data and evidence.

Now you might ask, “what about China?”

The above picture shows the data in China in 2017. In 2021, the story has changed, and the situation is still unclear for the next year.

We can see that there are some differences in the form and nature of private tutoring in different cultures, even in different levels of culture within a country, urban and rural areas. In China, we see that the boundaries of education entities are blurred and even violated, as analyzed by Professor Gao Desheng.

When we realize the diversity of private tutoring, the following step is to know that the normative policy of private tutoring should also respond to the diversity.

Now, you might ask why shadow education is growing so fast around the world. We can analyze this issue from two aspects, on the one hand, enterprises and self-employed people see the market potential; on the other hand, with the economic development, parents’ income level becomes higher, especially in nuclear families, parents may invest a large part of their income on their children, and they also have a strong sense of competition.

What are the implications for our society? We can say that private tutoring promotes economic development, but it also exacerbates social inequality.

So, what are the implications for governance policy? In general, when the government decides to govern private tutoring, it shows national responsibility. However, the implementation pf a governance policy and its effectiveness require the understanding and cooperation of all parties. In fact, many of them can be achieved through cooperation.

Instead of being trapped in anxiety, unease and recrimination, what we really need to think about is how to build and rebuild the ecology of private tutoring.

Now there is a trend that people expect education to solve all social problems, just like a panacea, but in fact, we have to consider that education is largely controlled by the society. Finally, we will see how the vision of collaborative education can be realized. Actually, curriculum and instruction might be the heart that connect different parties.

Finally, let’s talk about the responsibility and mission for academia. We are very grateful for the support of ICI. When we came back to ICI in 2018, we felt our colleagues’ recognition of the value of this research field and the support for our long-term persistence in the study of shadow education. When we began to study shadow education, it was “unpopular”. Now, ten or twenty years later, we are glad that people from all walks of life have realized the importance of this topic as we did at that time. Indeed, we also see that when a topic becomes a hot topic, everyone is flocking to it, and many scholars and researchers are chasing the hot topics, but we think that what scholars should do is not to chase hot topics. Instead, scholars are supposed to find hot topics, predict hot topics, and look deeper and farther.

At the end of the speech, I would like to quote again a sentence from the UNESCO GEMR on accountability: “Stop the blame game, education is a shared responsibility.” Thank you!