Teachers, policymakers and project learning: The questionable use of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ policy instruments to influence the implementation of curriculum reform in Hong Kong

Ping Kwan Fok, Kerry J. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kin Sang Chan


Following the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region developed wide-ranging curriculum reforms, including project learning. A recent survey has indicated that over 80% of Hong Kong primary and secondary schools have adopted project learning as a curriculum task. Such an outcome is hard to reconcile both with the culture of Hong Kong schools and the generally bleak picture that pervades the literature on educational change.

In seeking an explanation for this apparent success we focus attention on the policy instruments that were used by government agencies to facilitate the process of implementation. Our analysis revealed that teachers were caught in a pincer movement that involved voluntary activities promoting project learning and coercive measures that monitored and evaluated successful implementation. Teachers’ views of these policy instruments differed markedly from those of policymakers. This confluence of mixed approaches, while apparently successful, is also shown to be problematic. Finally, the paper is located in a theoretical framework with its origins in recent policy theory that to date has not been applied to educational contexts.


Curriculum policy; curriculum implementation; policy instrument; project learning

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22230/ijepl.2010v5n6a198

Copyright (c) 2015 Ping Kwan Fok, Kerry J. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kin Sang Chan

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