Curriculum reforms as a productive force for the development of new play practices in rural Chinese kindergartens

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There is increasing evidence of the fusion of Western and Eastern early childhood philosophies and programmes within China. Although research has paid attention to this change, less attention has been directed to how culturally different beliefs and practices are experienced by children and teachers. This paper reports on a study of play-based practices in the context of the Guidelines for Early Childhood Education (Trial Version) in mainland China. Sixteen teachers from 6 rural preschools in Shaanxi province were interviewed about their play and learning practices and 205 children were observed participating in these teachers’ play-based programmes. Thirty hours of digital video observations, 989 photos, 252 children’s drawings, and 20 h of focus group interviews were gathered and analysed. The study found that whilst teachers struggled against the effect of Western individualist maturational views of play, the children demonstrated high levels of self-regulation in group oriented play. In the context of Confucian values, new forms of expressions of play were found suggesting new directions for early childhood education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-78
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Early Years Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Children’s perspectives
  • Chinese teachers’ beliefs
  • kindergarten education reform
  • play-based curriculum
  • self-regulation

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