Culture encompasses the shared beliefs, customs and artifacts of a group or society, shaping the way of life of a community. Local culture refers to the specific cultural practices unique to a geographic region. In Hong Kong, a recent study by Yang and Li (2022) utilised cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) to explore how local culture impacts early childhood curriculum development in kindergartens. This study highlights the crucial role of culture in shaping early childhood curricula.
One of the most critical contributions of the study was the concept of ‘curriculum hybridisation’, which refers to the assimilation of different curricular approaches and retaining fundamental cultural values in curricula. The study found that school-based curriculum development in the two Hong Kong kindergartens was rooted in Chinese cultural values, including utilitarianism, elitism and a strong desire for upward social mobility. To promote children’s learning, teachers acted as ‘agents of change’ (Priestley et al., 2012, p. 191) to inherit the traditions, resolve the contradictions, achieve curriculum hybridisation and innovate.
‘One of the most critical contributions of the study was the concept of “curriculum hybridisation”, which refers to the assimilation of different curricular approaches and retaining fundamental cultural values in curricula.’
The study’s findings are consistent with recent research that has explored the evolution of curricula in Chinese kindergartens. For instance, the study by Yang (2019) indicated that a school-based curriculum might evolve through the steps of imitation, absorption and integration. Just like another study (Yang & Li, 2019) described in a 2019 BERA Blog post, Yang and Li’s (2022) study also revealed that the historical transformation of school-based curricula in the two Hong Kong kindergartens went through a period of negotiating the contradictory motives to achieve a status of balance, which is consistent with the Confucian philosophy of the Doctrine of the Mean (Tsze-sze & Legge, 1893) that seeks to maintain balance and harmony by directing the mind to a state of constant equilibrium.
Based on these findings, Yang and Li (2022) propose the model of curriculum hybridisation (see figure 1), which refers to the process of assimilating different curricular approaches and retaining fundamental cultural values while developing a harmonious curriculum.
Figure 1: The model of curriculum hybridisation (Yang, 2021, p. 24)
The curriculum hybridisation model for early childhood education recognises cultural conflicts that arise from the clash between imported and local culture. Hong Kong kindergartens provide an example, where imported Chinese traditional and British colonial cultures collide with the local culture and contextual settings. Yang and Li’s (2022) research shows that early childhood professionals, parents and formal schools are the key actors in this process. The curriculum is developed by importing curricular approaches influenced by the imported culture, while traditional pedagogical practices are retained to preserve local culture. For instance, early childhood educators in Hong Kong have a holistic expectation for children’s development, encompassing social (moral), life skills and academic dimensions. The educators aim to nurture self-regulated and socially adept children who are active learners. This expectation is reflected in the curricula’s activity arrangements, which are designed to promote children’s development in all these areas. Negotiation and balancing of different values and approaches lead to a harmonious and culturally appropriate curriculum, culminating in cultural fusion that reflects both local context and values and global perspectives.
In summary, the model of curriculum hybridisation provides a framework for developing culturally responsive early childhood curricula that balance the demands of imported culture, local context and diverse stakeholders’ needs. By recognising the importance of cultural inheritance and cultural development, early childhood professionals can create curricula that promote children’s learning while also preserving and honouring local cultures and traditions. The model of curriculum hybridisation is a valuable tool for developing early childhood curricula that reflect the cultural diversity and complexity of today’s world.
Priestley, M., Edwards, R., Priestley, A., & Miller, K. (2012). Teacher agency in curriculum making: Agents of change and spaces for manoeuvre. Curriculum Inquiry, 42(2), 191–214.
Tsze-sze, & Legge, J. (1893). The doctrine of the mean. Clarendon Press. http://nothingistic.org/library/confucius/mean/details.html
Yang, W. (2019). Moving from imitation to innovation: Exploring a Chinese model of early childhood curriculum leadership. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 20(1), 35–52.
Yang, W. (2021). Glocalisation, digitalisation & curriculum hybridisation. Research Intelligence, 148(3), 24–25.
Yang, W., & Li, H. (2019). Changing culture, changing curriculum: A case study of early childhood curriculum innovations in two Chinese kindergartens. Curriculum Journal, 30(3), 279–297.
Yang, W., & Li, H. (2022). The role of culture in early childhood curriculum development: A case study of curriculum innovations in Hong Kong kindergartens. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 23(1), 48–67.