The relations between a ‘push-down’ and ‘push-up’ curriculum: A cultural-historical study of home-play pedagogy in the context of structured learning in international schools in Malaysia

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    Historically, ‘free play’ in many European heritage communities has been a valued practice. However, political imperatives have challenged these beliefs and necessitated a more academic curriculum to raise standards, resulting in a ‘push-down’ curriculum. By contrast, many Asia-Pacific communities have increasingly included play in their curricula and discussed the benefits of imagination and creativity. Contradictions and tensions associated with the differing perspectives on the value of play present themselves when families move countries. This is evident in some international schools, where a diversity of families and differing play and academic practices interact. In order to understand this complex problem, cultural-historical theory was drawn on to investigate three expatriate families as the children transitioned into a Malaysian international school context. An analysis of digital video recordings (90 hours) of everyday life of the children at home and in school, and interview data of parents and teachers, found that an increase in a child’s academic competence was associated with a change in motive orientation in the family home from play to learning. Unexpectedly, play practices in the home turned into academic learning
    activities, which the authors have termed a ‘push-up’ curriculum, supporting the learning agenda of the international schools.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)328-342
    Number of pages15
    JournalContemporary Issues in Early Childhood
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


    • transition
    • motives
    • pedagogy
    • play
    • push-up curriculum

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