Appropriating or hijacking creativity? Educational reform and creative learning in China

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


‘Creativity’ has become a buzzword throughout educational debates and strategy papers worldwide. By linking creativity to innovative capacity, it is commonly associated with the challenges and opportunities as generated by the knowledge economy. While the importance of creative approaches to learning is generally accepted, it has proven much more difficult to define and potentially assess skills and competences related to creativity. For instance, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has hitherto largely neglected aspects of creativity. In classroom practices, curricular demands for creativity are often difficult to reconcile with examination pressures and pedagogies that are adverse to student creativity.This paper will investigate how ‘creativity’ has become part of educational policies and practices in China. The Chinese education system has been undergoing reforms since the late 1990s, aiming for an education that is less exam-oriented and more focused on genuine, holistic learning experiences. ‘Creativity’ plays a paramount role in this reform process. From a global perspective, China’s educational reform path can be seen as signifying the country’s increasing engagement with the international community, including its commitment to educational quality benchmarks as defined by important international organizations such as the OECD.However, the implementation of curricular approaches to creativity does not only show how globally circulating ideas of ‘creative learning’ become integrated into the Chinese educational context, and hence appropriated by educational actors at various levels. Creative learning approaches as used in Chinese classrooms also display characteristics of abuse: that is, approaches originally intended to empower learners are turned into their exact opposites, constraining learners’ spaces even more than with conventional approaches. The paper argues that by including ‘creativity’ in the Chinese (micro-)political context, it becomes hijacked by actors pushing for stronger moral and ideological control. ‘Creativity’ thus attains normative connotations that differ considerably from those described in the international literature. This may require us to reconsider our own ideas of ‘creativity’ as something inherently good.The paper draws on an analysis of policy documents as well as on fieldwork conducted at schools in Beijing, Chongqing, Kunming, and Zhejiang Province. Particular emphasis is placed on how school principals and teachers conceive of ‘creativity’ in education; how these conceptions materialize in classroom practices; and how again principals and teachers reflect upon these practices. Theoretically, the paper is grounded in concepts developed with regard to educational borrowing and lending (e.g. Steiner-Khamsi, 2004), and micropolitical literacy (Kelchtermans & Ballet, 2002).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventAustralian Association for Research in Education (AARE) Conference 2018 - University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Duration: 2018 Dec 22018 Dec 6


ConferenceAustralian Association for Research in Education (AARE) Conference 2018

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Educational Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Appropriating or hijacking creativity? Educational reform and creative learning in China'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this