Transmission of cultural values in the production of EFL textbooks for the Chinese primary curriculum
In the global world, cultural issues relating to the subject of English as Foreign Language (EFL) have become important. This is especially the case when considering the EFL curriculum for Chinese Primary Education. Many writers have addressed the nature of curriculum design as knowledge and cultural reproduction, but usually in the North American and European literature. This research takes these debates and relocates them in the context of China as it enters a new market economy, embedded in its own version of ‘internationalism’. The 2001 national curriculum marked the beginning of China’s educational reform. From a reading of this literature, two main questions emerged: 1) what cultural values are transmitted through EFL textbooks for Chinese Primary Education?; 2) how do curriculum-making processes impact upon textbook production? The findings provide an important insight into knowledge and cultural reproduction in Chinese Education, especially in the subject of EFL. Two volumes of EFL textbooks, which were used in primary schools, were selected to examine the delivery of cultural values. Based on these initial findings, the researcher conducted a series of interviews and focus groups in order to trace the process of textbook production and curriculum creation. Participants included educational administrators in the Ministry of Education in China, curriculum designers, textbook editors from both Chinese and foreign publishers as well as classroom teachers. Research findings suggest that, the production of EFL textbooks should be recognised as a part of curriculum-making processes in the context of Chinese Primary Education. The ‘textbook’ can be seen as the ‘official’ interpretation of the Chinese culture. Indeed, the EFL curriculum is recognized as a vehicle for moral education by policy makers and educators. EFL textbooks include many moral messages promoting expected behaviour in contemporary China – ‘diligence, independence, respect and obedience, patriotism and collectivism’. The processes of generating this ‘production’ have spaces for less ‘official’ and more ‘hidden’ curriculum messages. Indeed, ‘lacunae’ – hidden spaces – in EFL curriculum design and textbook production have been identified. Various key players are involved in the curriculum-making process, including the State, its agencies, and intellectuals. However, instead of being a straight top-down structure led by the political elites, the strict control of the State over curriculum policy-making is finely nuanced. In fact, it was found that the practices of curriculum-making involve a complicated State-intellectuals partnership. Further, it is mainly the culture of the intellectual group which is reproduced through the EFL subject in Chinese Primary Education. Textbook editors and censors, inherently part of the intellectual elites, and key players in the curriculum designing process, rely heavily upon their own version of ‘common sense’. This thesis therefore concludes that the ‘hidden spaces’ through which curriculum design, development and delivery take place, generate a more nuanced understanding of Chinese cultural reproduction, than has previously been thought.