Academic Counselling in Private International Schools in China

By Wang Xiaokun (Alex)

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Background 

3. Role of Educational Counsellors

4. Establishing of a Multi-Perspective Approachto School Counselling

5. Potential Challenges

6. Conclusion

7. References

8. About the Author

1. Introduction

Fornearly a decade the need for Chinese students to study overseas facilitated the establishments of a new type of international schools in mainland China. Those schools aim to recruit Chinese local students at the upper-secondary level and became more popular by providing English-medium curricula which makes students eligible to pursue their undergraduate studies abroad after gaining globally recognised qualifications such as GCE A-levels, International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement, and others. Parents therefore choose to send their children to study international curricula, and the development of this type of schools reflects the upwelling demand of the society for a more diversified secondary schooling system (Wang, 2012).

This entry describes this new type of international schools and their importance for providing Chinese families with alternative choices for education. It then examines the significance of setting up school academic counselling systems in such schools. In this context, school academic counselling focuses on guiding students throughout their study at schools andpreparing them to apply to overseas universities. Having an effective school academic counselling system can enable private fee-charging schools to survive in a competitive market and help students to be more competent in pursuing future goals. The entry then explorespotential challenges for setting up counselling systems in new schools by discussing the current situation in Chinese international education. 

2. Background

Since 2010, the number of Chinese students going to study abroad has increased significantly. According to the statistics of the Ministry of Education of the Peoples’ Republic of China (2017), the number reached 544,500 in 2016 and, compared with 144,900 in 2012, it has increased over three times. Of the total number of students, 30% are studying undergraduate courses and 35% are studying at the postgraduate level. 70% of students are studying in countries where the instruction language is English. Over 90% of the students are supported by private finance.

Students who pursue overseas postgraduate degrees could gain admissions after they graduate from universities in China. The university diploma issued by Chinese Tertiary Education institutions is recognised and accepted as admission requirements, and students will not experience many obstacles in the process of admissions. However, for students who receive a Senior High School Diploma from Chinese local high schools or take Chinese University Entrance Examinations (‘Gao Kao’), their qualifications cannot always meet direct entry requirements for undergraduate admission at top universities overseas. The Chinese Senior High School Diploma is not listed as an accepted qualification for admission to Imperial College London (Imperial College London, 2017), and University of Oxford states that the qualification is not sufficient to make candidate competitive in the application process (University of Oxford, 2017). If they wish to gain entry to study an undergraduate degree abroad, students have to take different routes to meet the university entry requirements. 

One of the routes is to attend schools that run international curricula, especially to cover the period of Grades 9 to 12. However, Chinese local mainstream public schools are not allowed to provide international courses without government permission, and traditional international schools only admit students who hold non-Chinese passports. The new type of international schools - institutions running international curricula - are mostly privately owned or in limited cooperation with local mainstream public schools. This type of institution is often regarded as a new international school (‘Guoji Xuexiao’ or ‘Guoji Banin Chinese) by Chinese parents and students. The student body of these institutions are mostly Chinese nationals. There is no way for students to gain entry to Chinese universities if they are not studying under Chinese High School curriculum. When students are enrolled to study under international curriculum for Grades 9 to 12, the expectation for them is to successfully gain overseas university admission (IEdu China, 2017). 

Newly emerged schools are positioned in the fee-charging market place and, therefore, their first priority is to attract more students so that they could develop sustainably. The school recruitment work is facing severe competition in the educational market, and the attractiveness of the school is largely dependent on university admission statistics of their students. However, many schools focus on students’ academic performance and set school academic counselling as a low priority. The imbalanced strategic approach provides insufficient support for students to understand the curriculum and establish their educational goals. Parents having only little information unquestionably follow profit-oriented external educational consulting agents who claim to provide guaranteed university admissions abroad. The imbalanced school setup, the uninformed students, the anxious parents, and the insatiate service market form a vicious cycle to impede the development of school and students. 

3. Role of Educational Counsellors

School educational counsellors should mainly focus on guiding students to achieve their academic goals, including the major goal of gaining overseas university entry. Setting up good practice for school educational counselling will then have a positive impact. First, 

most of the students studying in these international schools previously studied at Chinese local lower secondary schools. In Chinese secondary schools, the role of school educational counsellors is ambiguous, and few schools have designated education counsellors to provide information or consultations for student future planning. This is due to the linear way of educational progress within the Chinese schooling system. As students canadvance into higher levels by taking entranceexams accepted foruniversity admission, most of them do not need much information about their future study. They canalways get admitted to some tertiary institution as long as they perform well in national college entry exams(Gaokao). 

When students shift to study in an international school, they unavoidably face the challenge of applying to overseas universitieswith different admission requirements. Although admission requirements vary from country to country or even differ from one university to another, students could be helpedinthe application process if theirpreparation starts earlier with the assistance of educational counsellors. Good university admission results will in turn be beneficial to the private schools for marketing and student/teacher recruiting. This isoneessential role of school educational counsellor.  

Second, the schools claimto be international because they provide international qualification courses and students graduate to attend overseas universities. International schools often make certain curricula adjustments to fit their needs, which are often affected by the admission information from universities (Teng, Hu, and Li, 2016). At this point, school counsellors will act as an information crux to help collect and share information and in this way help schools and students understand the significance of that information. Take English language requirements as an example: Chinese students need to pass English language tests in order to study at universities in the UK. Before 2013, many UK universities could consider the qualification of IGCSE English as a Second Language as a valid proof for English ability, such as University of Oxford, Imperial College London, and University of Warwick. Some international schools in China considered this qualification as a compulsory part of their course design if they provide IGCSE qualifications. However, when the UK Boarder Agency (UKBA) was replaced by UK Visa and Immigration in 2013, the student visa policy was subsequently changed to a new point-based system (GOVUK, 2013). Many universities no longer accepted IGCSE English as a valid test for visa application (Imperial, 2017b; Oxford, 2017a; Warwick, 2017). International school counsellors can stay up-to-date with such information to inform school administration about any changes to make alternative course design in time. 

Third, school educational counsellors could act as a nexus between school and family. Counsellors are able to follow the academic progress of students and to communicate with their family about their expectations. Many students and parents feel anxious because they are unaware of how student progress matches their expectations (Sina Education, 2016). For newly established schools, the trusting relationship between parents and school is often problematic. Credibility of private schools could be gained if parents truly believed that the educational service is worth paying for. 

4. Establishinga Multi-Perspective Approach toSchool Counselling

The primary goal of schools should be empowering students through education. School educational counselling could perfoma key role in the balanced long-term development of students. Imbuing students with knowledge could help them attain certain academic achievements short-term, which fits the short-term goals of both school and students. But empowering students with the will and ability to learn in future has a far-reaching significance. In the context of new international schools in China school educational counselling could take a two-stage approach to foster the sustainable growth of students. 

Stage one is the phase of guiding students with knowledge, where students are taught and guided by counsellors to understand current curricula, establish achievable goals, and become familiarised with overseas educational systems. The significance of this training is not only to provide information or knowledge, but also to establish the initial trust and bond between counsellors and students. Stage two is the phase of empowerment, where a counsellor no longer teaches students detailed skills. Instead of giving them static written-down information, counsellor’ involvement should be minimised by gradually encouraging students to explore information by themselves. The external authority from schools should diminish and be replaced by students’ self-driven learning and exploration. In this way, students could be able to face future challenges with a mature mindset. 

5. Potential Challenges

The significance of establishing a counselling system in newly established international schools have been discussed above. Several aspects, however, will challenge the implementation of such practices. 

From the perspective of schools, it is more sustainable to establish a stable counselling system than to simply guide students through the routine university application process. However, the system cannot be built in one day, it needs constant adjustments and perfections overtime. Cost is an issue for schools that are reluctant to implement a whole school counseling approach. Many prefer to employaminimum number of school counsellors to cover the university application guidance process for their Grade 12 students. In the long run, fostering abilities ofstudents from lower grades will be more beneficial. 

As most counsellors are initially subject teachers, training will be required. Teachers often consider their current position/workload before shifting to an unfamiliar role. For many schools, teaching workload ranges from 14–20 periods per week. In China, there is no formal/official way for counsellors to be trained to fit the job description ofan international school counsellor. In most cases, schools need to establish a system to train their school teachers to be school counsellors.

Guidance provided by school counsellors is alsochallenged by off-the-shelf educational service providers. The rapid expansion of the international educational service sector has attracted more profit-oriented organisations and individuals. A unique ecology is forming and various educational services label themselves as key-holders to students’ dreams. They use previous successful cases to make a sale of their commercialised counselling packages such as expensive English coaching courses, extra-curricular activities, and application essays editing(JJL, 2017).

6. Conclusion

Schools should prioritise the practices of systematic school counselling so that students receive comprehensive and extensive training for overseas university application while they study at school. This will not only benefit students in attaining their educational goals, but also various abilities could be developed to enable students to face future challenges. It also helps private schools to formalise the processes to train teachers professionally, and more importantly, to serve students better. 

7. References

Guoji xuexiao jiazhang: gai ruhe yingdui zhongguoshi jiazhang jiaolv [Parents Anxieties vs International Schools]. (2016). Sina Education. Retrieved from

JJL Overseas Education. (2017). Yingguo G5 LSE chenggong anli [UK G5 London School of Economics and Political Sciences Successful Cases]. Retrieved from

IEdu China. (2017). Guo Nei Xue Ji Dui Guo Ji Xue Xiao Xue Sheng You He Ying Xiang[How does the education registration status affect students from international schools].   Retrieved from

Imperial College London (2017a). Academic Requirements for Undergraduate Study.   Retrieved from

Imperial College London (2017b). English Language Requirements.   Retrieved from

Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. (2017).Yu bacheng liuxue renyuan xuecheng hou xuanze huiguo fazhan, 2016nian chuguo liuxue renyuan zongshu chao 54wan [Over 540 Thousands Chinese Students are studying overseas in 2016]. Retrieved from

Teng, J., Hu, J., & Li, M. (2016). International Curriculum in China: Status, Reflection and Value. Comparative Education Studies (12), 54-60. 

GOVUK. (2013). Guidance on Application for UK Visa as Tier 4 Student. UK: UK Visas and Immigration. Retrieved from

University of Oxford. (2017a). English Language Requirements.   Retrieved from

University of Oxford. (2017b). International Qualifications for Admission Requirements.   Retrieved from

University of Warwick. (2017). English Language Requirements.   Retrieved from

Wang, F. (2012). The Review of the Development of High School International Course in Shanghai. Journal of Schooling Studies, 9(4), 66-71. 

About the Author

Wang Xiaokun (Alex)

MEd, The University of Hong Kong

Sex Education in China After the Open Door Policy

By Peng Baiwen (Michael)

Table of Contents

1.    Introduction

2.    Before the Open Door Policy

3.    Key Sex Education Policies After Open Door Policy

4.    Problems with Sex Education and Social Consequences After Open Door Policy

5.    Conclusion

6.    References

7.    About the Author

1.    Introduction

The International Conference on Population and Development Program of Action affirms that the path to sustainable development is based on five pillars, one of which is good health with recognition of the centrality of sexual and reproductive health (United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), n/d). In other words, sexual and reproductive health is essential to achieving sustainable development. Sex education, therefore, plays an irreplaceable role in facilitating sustainable development. Sex education, according to Mehlman-Petrzela (2010), is curricula that consist of social hygiene, courtship, marriage, pregnancy, sexuality and contraception, sexually transmitted diseases (STD), and other topics. 

This entry focuses on sex education in China with its population of 138 million (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2016). The entry tracesthe development of China’s sex education from the 1920s to the present day with an emphasis on the period after theOpen Door Policy, which boosted China’s economy to a great extent and imported foreign cultures that liberated people’s minds. Such liberation, which is manifested in liberal attitudes towards sex, became problematic in the context of inadequatesex education (see Li et al., 2009). Itis argued that inadequate sex education is threatening Chinese population and the country’s pursuit of achieving sustainable development (UNFPA, n/d). 

In the following sections, background information is provided on the Open Door Policyand the provisionof sex education before the Open Door Policy. After that, sex education policies after the Open Door Policy, challenges with sex education in the 21stcentury, and resultant social consequences are discussed. By examining sex education in China over the last century and presenting current social problems related to sex education, the author seeks to inspire readers who can then build on this entry and develop means to enhance the current state of sex education in China to facilitate sustainable development.

2.     Before the Open Door Policy

China underwent economic depression during the Cultural Revolution(1966-1975). In response to this, in 1978 China’s Open Door Policy was created (Quach and Anderson, 2008). As an economic policy, by importing foreign technology and sciences, it helped alleviate poverty across the country and provided access to better employment as well as goods and services (Deci, 1996). In addition, improved living conditions were accompanied by the import of an ‘influx’ of foreign cultures (Quach and Anderson, 2005) which demystified sexuality, which was taboo during Culture Revolution (Honig, 2003). This enabled sex education and science to overcome long-standing barriers and keep up with modern times (Zhu et al., 2005).

Sex education in 1920s played a ‘modernizing role,’ as revolutionaries such as Liang Qicha saw it as a means to ‘improve population quality, strengthen the Chinese race and liberate the country from its state of semi-colonialism’ (as cited in Aresu, 2009, p. 533). Knowledge on sex was mainly provided by family (mothers in particular) and schools were used tocomplement family sex education (Liang, 2000). However, despite the lofty goals, sex education at the time was a ‘completely normative fantasy’, because it didn’t trickle down to the general public and remained accessible only to the elite (Aresu, 2009, p. 534). During the 1950s, sex education was recognized as a method to ‘do away with deep-rooted taboos and superstitions’ (Aresu, 2009, p. 535), a change reflected by a speech by Premier Zhou Enlai delivered in 1963. This speech also signified that young people’s interest in sex-related issues was legitimized. However, only a limited number of schools launched sex education curriculum, because of a general attitude to sex as forbidden, and a fear that sex education was a potential threat to young people’s moral integrity (Aresu, 2009; Song, 2010; Yao, 1992). During the Cultural Revolution, discussion of sex was considered ‘bourgeois and hence taboo’ (Honig, 2003, p. 143). In such an atmosphere, there was little room for sex education to flourish, as evidenced by Aresu (2009), who argues that ‘the Cultural Revolution silenced official and unofficial discourses on sex education’ (p. 535).

3.     Key Sex Education Policies After theOpen Door Policy

‘The structure and themes of many sex education discourses [in the 1980s] have resembled aspects of those in the 1920s’ (Aresu, 2009, p. 536), a period of time when, as previously mentioned, sexual knowledge and the science of sex were emphasized. In this period of time, the theme of sex education shifted from birth control (jieyu) which originated from 1950s, to sexual health (xingjiankang) (Zhang, 2015). Zhu et al. (2005) divide policymaking regarding sex education after the Open Door Policy into several stages. The first is 1978-1987, a period when adolescents’ sexual rights were protected and paid attention to, yet sex education was not initiated. The first legislation regarding sex education was the Middle School Syllabus for Physiological Hygiene (Trial Draft)issued in 1978. This syllabus pointed out that emphasis should be placed on puberty hygiene, deferred child birth (wanyu), and family planning. 

The second stage spans from 1988 to 1993. Zhu et al. (2005) argue that in this stage schools were required by law to teach adolescents classes on sex physiology, sex psychology, and sex morality. The emphasis on sex morality was meant to ensure that sex education was employed ‘as a means of maintaining social stability’ (Aresu, 2009, p. 536) at a time when sex-related crimes increased. Aresu (2009) believes that 1988 was a milestone, because in that year ‘preliminary stages of preparation [for sex education] ended’ (p. 537), and two important documents regarding sex education were issued: Notification on the Development of Adolescent Education in the Middle Schoolsand Regulations for Work on Hygiene in Schools. The former required that schools function as the major channel for imparting knowledge about sexuality and that sex education be officially incorporated into the middle school curricula nationwide. Therefore, sex education was formalized and granted an official status. The latter prescribed that knowledge about sexuality be taught in universities. In the following years several other legislation actions were established including Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of the Minors(1990) which laid a legal foundation for sex education in schools (Zhu et al., 2005). According to Zhu et al. (2005) the second stage marks the beginning of the development of sex education policies, one aspect of legislation that had been widely ignored since the Cultural Revolution. However, despite all efforts, there was no clear syllabus for sex education. Also, as Aresu (2009) observes, implementation of sex education was slow, and therefore the goals of the 1988 Notificationwere largely not achieved, which he attributes to ‘a lack of financial resources and little coordination on a national level’ (p. 537).

The next stage as proposed by Aresu (2009) commences in the second half of 1990s, when HIV/AIDS become a public concern. It was estimated that in 2000, there were about 30 thousand Chinese people with AIDS (Kaufman and Jing, 2002). The situation stimulated ‘a more coordinated and systematic development of middle school sex education programmes’ (Aresu, 2009, p. 537). A relevant policies is Medium and Long Term Planning for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control in China (1998~2010)(Zhu et al., 2005). Also, in this period of time, Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Developmentwas issued, which had a great impact on policymaking regarding population issues in China (Zhu et al., 2005). In response to the Program, a milestone law, Population and Family Planning Law of the People's Republic of Chinawas issued in 2002, guaranteeing the rights and possibility of young people to receive sex education (Zhu et al., 2005). In addition, there were two key occasions where specific definitions of ‘comprehensive sex education’ were proposed: The First Asian Academic Conference on Sex Education, and the Sino-British Conference on Sex Education for Adolescents, held in Beijing in August 2001 and February 2002 respectively. However, noticeably, safe sex was not taken as a component of ‘comprehensive sex education’ because self-discipline and sexual morality were emphasized at the time (Aresu, 2009, p. 538).

4.     Problems with Sex Education and Social Consequences After the Open Door Policy

As Song (2015) points out, schools are still reluctant to provide sex education despite the government’s requirement. This is probably because the educational system only places emphasis on curricular subjects that are assessed in entrance exams. Therefore, class time devoted to sex education, as far as entrance exam score is concerned, is useless. In fact, as Lin et al. (2011) argue, sex education in China does not inform students of sex-related issues; instead, it aims to protect young people when they are physically and psychological vulnerable, by teaching only physiological and biological courses. In addition, teachers of these courses are mostly not professionally trained to deliver sex-related courses. These flaws of sex education in China, among others, bring forward negative social consequences: unintended pregnancies (and resulting abortion) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Flaws of China’s sex education are magnified in the post-reform era thanks to rapid economic development and the wide use of the Internet. According to Xu and Cheng (2008) the significant improvement in diet and nutritional status brought about by economic reforms has led to earlier sexual maturation. And this sexual ‘pre-maturation’, as Li et al. (2009) observe, ‘has led adolescents into an earlier exploration of their sexuality through a range of sexuality-related behaviors, including viewing pornography, masturbating, and having their first non-coital and coital sexual contact’ (p. 470). In addition, with the popularity of the Internet, young people have easier access to sexual information than in the past (Li et al., 2009; Song, 2015; Zhang, Li, & Shah, 2007), which accelerates sexual maturation to some extent. 

5.    Conclusion

Sex education in China was emphasized by modernizing elites in the 1920s who saw it as a means to strengthen population health; however, such importance diminished from the 1950s to the late 1970. Noticeably, during the Cultural Revolution, anything related to sex was forbidden from public discussion, with no mention of sex education in schools. In the late 1970s, with the promulgation of the Open Door Policy, the importance of sex education regained attention, although it was not high on the government’s agenda until the late 1990s, when AIDS cases increased rapidly in China. After the Open Door Policy, Chinese society has been undergoing tremendous changes, including changes in attitudes towards sex, improved nutrition, and use of the Internet. Young people now hold a relatively liberal view towards sex and consequently, without proper sex education, more and more cases of sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy are reported. In addition, the Internet contributes to easy access to sexual information. Flawed sex education is threatening Chinese population, whose importance to achieving sustainable development is undeniable (UNFPA, n/d). Therefore, the government and educators should pay more attention to this field and make efforts in teacher education, curriculum reform, etc.

6.    References

Aresu, A. (2009). Sex Education in Modern and Contemporary China: Interrupted Debates Across the Last Century. International Journal of Educational Development, 29(5), 532-541. doi: 10.1016/j.ijedudev.2009.04.010

Deci, Z. (1996). The Open Door Policy and Urban Development in China. Habitat International20(4), 525-529.

Honig, E. (2003). Socialist Sex: The Cultural Revolution Revisited. Modern China, 29(2), 143-175. doi: 10.1177/0097700402250735

Kaufman, J., & Jing, J. (2002). China and AIDS-The Time to Act is Now. Science296(5577), 2339-2340.

Li, L., King, M. E., & Winter, S. (2009). Sexuality Education in China: The Conflict between Reality and Ideology. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 29(4), 469-480. doi: 10.1080/02188790903309066

Liang, J. (2000). Sex Education in the Period of the May-Fourth Movement. The Journal of Shanxi Teachers University, Social Science Edition, 27(3), 89-93.

Lin, S. S., Liu, L., Jiang, L.L. and Huang, X.R. (2011). Six Decades’ Sexuality Education: An Exploration in the Darkness and Embarrassment. Southern People Weekly, 29, 74-76.

Mehlman-Petrzela, N. (2010). Sex Education. In T. C. Hunt & C. James, (Eds.).The Encyclopedia of Educational Reform and Dissent(pp. 821-825). SAGE Publications.

National Bureau of Statistics of China. (2016). National Population as of 2016. Retrieved from

Quach, A.S., & Anderson, E. A. (2008). Implications of China's Open-Door Policy for Families: A Family Impact Analysis. Journal of Family Issues29(8), 1089-1103.

Song, S. (2010). Mortality Consequences of the 1959–1961 Great Leap Forward Famine in China: Debilitation, Selection, and Mortality Crossovers. Social Science & Medicine, 71(3), 551-558.

Song, Y. (2015). The Sexuality Education and Attitudes of College Students in China. Health Education, 115(1), 93-104. doi: 10.1108/HE-01-2014-0002

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). (n/d). The Five Themes of Population & Development. Retrieved from

Xu, J., & Cheng, L. (2008). Awareness and Usage of Emergency Contraception among Teenagers Seeking Abortion: A Shanghai Survey. European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 141(2), 143-146. doi: 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2008.08.002

Yao, P. (1992). The Study and Practice of Adolescent Sex Education in China. Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Papers, 4, 443-456

Zhang, L., Li, X., & Shah, I. H. (2007). Where do Chinese Adolescents Obtain Knowledge of Sex? Implications for Sex Education in China. Health Education, 107(4), 351-363. doi: 10.1108/09654280710759269

Zhang, Q.H. (2015). Sex Education for Teenagers Since the Establishment of China and Implications. Technology, Economy and Market, 12, 165

Zhu, G.R., Gi, C.Y., Yi,W., & Ma, L. (2005).Review of China’s Policy on Sex Education. Chinese Journal of Human Sexuality, 14(3), 1-15  

About the Author

Peng Baiwen (Michael)

MEd, The University of Hong Kong


Teacher Training for Education for Sustainable Development in China

By Wang Qian (Bonnie)

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Background to Teacher Training for Education for Sustainable Development

3. Status of Teacher Training for ESD in China

4. Experience from Germany and the United Kingdom

5. Recommendations

6. References

7. About the Author

1. Introduction

United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD, 2005-2014) indicates that education should serve to enable sustainable economy, society, and environment (Shi, 2008). The key function of education is forming sustainable awareness and behavior among people, which is good for future generations. To some extent, this statement shows that sustainable development includes individual development and is related to complex social contexts. Thus, it is indispensable that governments, schools and teachers should examine how to implement Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). Strengthening teacher training is an effective way to help teachers supply valuable theoretical knowledge and practical activities to students for their understanding and practicing of sustainable development. This entry aims to explore the status of teacher training for ESD in China, and consider China’s application of teacher training models from Germany and UK for China.

2. Background to Teacher Training for Education for Sustainable Development

Based on the core value of sustainability, ESD focuses on systematic causes for environmental issues by using comprehensive analytical methods; that is, environmental issues are related to economic, social and cultural issues. ESD is beneficial to the continued development of the world and next generations. It expands from ESD1 to ESD2, with the former mainly focusing on instant environmental protection methods which are useful in a short-term, while the latter leads the public to critically review experts’ ideas, which reinforces that we can make change for sustainable development ourselves rather than following policies only (Vare & Scott, 2007). From China’s official guidelines, it is certain that China values ESD1 and ESD2.

Teacher training for ESD implies that the government or schools provide lectures, courses, and guidelines to teachers and student-teachers for them to acquire knowledge and skills relevant for teaching about sustainable development issues. It serves two main functions; on one hand, it aims to help teachers and student-teachers possess sustainable awareness and take sustainable actions, and on the other hand, it enables them to give ESD courses to students or add ESD concepts into various courses for the formation of students’ sustainability education. Thus, teacher training for ESD can be provided to pre-service and in-service teachers.

3. Status of Teacher Training for ESD in China

In China, teacher training for ESD has been influenced with the introduction of ESD and DESD. China has made efforts to reinforce teacher training for ESD with students. However, many actions are minimal rather than comprehensive, and practice is limited. For example, teacher training includes lectures, where teachers may find it difficult to participate positively and subjectively to know how to deal with their specific teaching challenges. In the context of the main aims of teacher training, which are to introduce theories or practices from schools or teachers, opportunities for teachers to learn particular practices for how to implement ESD are not a major focus.

At the national level, the Chinese National Commission for UNESCO (CNC-UNESCO) holds workshops (jiangxiban) each year for principals and in-service teachers. These workshops last approximately three days, inviting experts who come from academic fields to give lectures or seminars about ESD. Some principals or teachers will be given chances to share their successful experience on practice of ESD. Apart from this, international forums are also held. Some representatives from international organizations or non-government organizations (NGO) and academic experts are invited to discuss new issues and challenges of ESD. In addition, the government or universities cooperate with international organizations or companies to provide short-term training for in-service teachers, focusing on theories of ESD and reforming of teaching methods (Wei, 2007). As can be seen, the country provides training on ESD in different ways, but most formats aim at presenting a nationwide view of development of ESD for in-service educators, but no systematic methods and long-term plans for how to make change are provided. Furthermore, quite limited training is provided to pre-service teachers.

At the local (province/city) level, different districts set up their own plans for teacher training for ESD under guidelines of the national government. They spend much time reforming courses through discussions among policy-makers, educational experts, principals and teacher representatives. The results of that, such as new teaching materials, teaching guidelines, and examination systems, are taught to in-service teachers by short-term training, but practical processes are limited. Training for ESD is not provided to all teachers, but only those teachers who will teach relevant courses about sustainable development.

At the school level, some detailed training is provided to pre-service and in-service teachers, including theoretical study and practical opportunities. As in the district training, short-term training is offered to teachers thought short-term courses that do not demonstrate a systematic training process. The universities and vocational schools have the most potential to provide systematic courses about ESD for students who want to be teachers in the future, but most do not. Concepts of ESD have not permeated into teacher education, and courses about ESD are in shortage.

Thus ESD teacher training in China faces certain challenges. The training mostly targets in-service teachers and does not cover pre-service training. This may lead to teachers’ limited knowledge of and skills in ESD. Second, universities and vocational schools have not taken responsibility in fostering ESD skills and knowledge in students who will become teachers. Third, training includes such methods as lectures or discussions and neglects the importance of including practical process for teachers. As a result, most teachers’ practical abilities in ESD are limited. Finally, most training does not provide teachers with skills in how to introduce ESD themes into other subjects.

4. Experience from Germany and the United Kingdom

China can learn what other countries in this context. Germany and UK both comparatively perform well in teacher training for ESD. Pre-service and in-service training are both provided, with theoretical and practical contents. And the two countries emphasise teachers’ formation of awareness of sustainable development, which may help them understand ESD well and put it into any courses. Because China, Germany and UK are multinational countries with economic capabilities and good educational research institutions and universities, China can learn something from these two countries.

Universities take responsibilities for teacher training for ESD in Germany, so whoever wants to be a teacher must obtain relevant degrees and do internships, and then they can obtain teacher certificates. The federal and state governments introduce new standards of teacher education into educational policy, and sustainable development concepts are added into teacher education courses in universities, which is beneficial for student-teachers’ individual development (Yu, 2014). Different states in Germany can also develop special courses for teacher education in universities, so ESD can be complemented by a focus on local experiences. In addition, each state decides their own financial policies, holding different types of forums and establishing cooperation with other counties and institutions to spread ESD.

Although there are four different nations in UK, they all have reviewed their ESD curricula within the last decade (Bamber et al., 2016). Students should receive environment education in courses during compulsory education, so there are specific teacher training goals about teaching ESD. There are standards required of student-teachers related to awareness and behavior in sustainable development before they start their careers. Additionally, before teachers start careers, they must complete environmental education courses in universities, which helps them develop critical thinking, sustainable awareness and behavior which can help them in teaching students. In-service teaching training is provided by schools, NGOs or ministries of education, including short-term and long-term-training. Apart from these, some professional groups or companies provide courses or teaching materials to schools for training.

There are four similarities of Germany and the UK: firstly, universities or vocational schools take responsibilities for pre-service teacher training, which enhances student-teachers skills for ESD; secondly, the contents of teacher training for ESD focus on how to help teachers combine concepts of ESD with other courses; thirdly, there are teaching standards and much in-service training for teachers; and fourthly, different districts can put forward their own special courses under the guidelines of the federal government.

5. Recommendations

Based on experience from Germany and the UK, China can pay more attention to both pre-service and in-service teacher training for ESD. Universities or vocational schools should take responsibilities for pre-service teacher training, and ESD courses and concepts should be provided to students who want to be teachers in the future. If student-teachers have awareness of ESD, they will be better able to teach ESD courses. For in-service teacher training, different types of training should be held with more cooperation with communities and/or companies, and practical processes should be added into training. Furthermore, standards for in-service teachers should also be emphasized, which encourage teachers to improve their teaching capacity and enhance their skills in ESD. The national government should have guidelines and goals, but different districts and schools should have the capacity to make their own training plans, which can be better matched with local experiences for the training to be useful. Finally, the most important core idea of teacher training is that teachers themselves can make changes to become people who model sustainability in various aspects. Thus, students will know how to achieve sustainable development by imitating good models.

6. References

Bamber, P., Bullivant, A., Glover, A., King, B., & Mccann, G. (2016). A Comparative Review of Policy and Practice for Education for Sustainable Development/Education for Global Citizenship (ESD/GC) in Teacher Education Across the Four Nations of the UK. Management in Education, 30(3), 1-9. Doi: 10.1177/0892020616653179.

Liu, L. (2006). The Research on Teacher Training for Sustainable Development in Middle and Primary School in UK. Capital Normal University.

Mckeown, R. (2014). The Leading Edge of Teacher Education and ESD. Journal of Education for Sustainable Development, 8(2), 127-131. Doi: 10.1177/0973408214548366.

Shi, G. (2008). Innovational Characteristics of Education for Sustainable Development in China-To Commemorate the project on ESD in China for Ten Years. Education Research, 12, 80-83.

Summer, D. (2013). Education for Sustainable Development in Initial Teacher Education: From Compliance to Commitment - Sowing the Seeds of Change. Journal of Education for Sustainable Development, 7(2), 205-222. Doi: 10.1177/0973408214526490.

Summers, M., Childs, A., & Corney G. (2005). Education for sustainable development in initial teacher training: issues for interdisciplinary collaboration. Environmental Education Research, 11(5), 623-647. Doi: 10.1080/13504620500169841.

Vare, P. & Scott, W. (2007). Learning for Change: Exploring the Relationship between Education and Sustainable Development. Journal of Education for Sustainable Development, Vol. 1(2):191-198. Doi: 10.1177/097340820700100209.

Wei, D., & Wang, M. (2007). The Research on the Status Quo of Teachers’ Training on ESD in China. Essays of Professional Regional Center International Forum on Education for Sustainable Development.

Yu, Z., & Qu, T. (2014). New Development of the Reform of German Pre-service Teacher Education under Education for Sustainable Development. Teacher Education Research, 26(1), 97-102.

About the Author

Wang Qian (Bonnie)

MEd, The University of Hong Kong


Preservation of China’s Intangible Cultural Heritage

By Xie Fan

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Definition of Intangible Cultural Heritage

3. The Significance of Preserving Intangible Cultural Heritage

4. Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage: Global Perspective

5. Intangible Cultural Heritage Preservation in China

6. Intangible Cultural Heritage and Cultural Sustainability

7. Conclusion

8. References

9. Key Terms and Definitions

10. Notes

11. About the Author

1. Introduction

Over its history, China has created a great treasure of intangible cultural heritage. However, while some countries have done an extraordinary job to preserve intangible cultural heritage, the accelerated pace of industrialization and urbanization in China has had some negative effects on the country’s heritage. Chinese citizens are aware that their cultural heritage is in danger, as it faces a difficult future if not properly preserved. Thus it is important to understand how to preserve China’s intangible cultural heritage. This entry explains the process of preservation of intangible cultural heritage in China. It details effective ways to draw attention to the issue by government and other organizations, encourage participation of the public, and further develop cultural sustainability in China.

Key Terms: Chinese culture, cultural sustainability, intangible cultural heritage, preservation

2. Definition of Intangible Cultural Heritage

Cultural heritage is composed of the products and processes that belong to a particular culture/society that are preserved and passed on from one generation to another. Cultural heritage can be tangible (historical relics, historical buildings, and human cultural relics) and intangible (practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills, instruments, objects, artifacts, and cultural spaces) that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage (UNESCO, 2003). Stefano, Davis and Corsane (2012) point out that intangible cultural heritage can represent nearly everything to some extent, including the immaterial elements that influence and surround all human activity.

3. The Significance of Preserving Intangible Cultural Heritage

Many are familiar with the understanding of heritage as being something material, monumental, and aesthetic. Some struggle, however, with the new paradigm of cultural heritage established by the UNESCO Convention for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage in 2003 as, in some cases, people do not realize the importance of its safeguarding (Srinivas, 2008).

Preservation of intangible cultural heritage, in contrast to what some may believe, has many important benefits. First, intangible cultural heritage has a cultural value. Recording and showing the lifestyle and the historical and cultural track of different nations, intangible cultural heritage can effectively help people understand the social and cultural fabric of a particular time (Smith & Akagawa, 2008). Second, it has an economic value , which is often related to tourism. If a region makes full use of the intangible cultural heritage resources to develop tourism, it can derive a number of social and economic benefits from it (Deng & Ma, 2014). Third, cultural heritage has an aesthetic value (Ahmad, 2006). Such kinds of non-material cultural heritage as embroidery or traditional opera have both aesthetic and artistic value and are a great treasure for human beings.

4. Preservion of Intangible Cultural Heritage: A Global Perspective

Prior to the UNESCO Convention, a number of states had made efforts to safeguard their intangible heritage (Deacon, Dondolo, Mrubata, & Prosalendis, 2004). After the Second World War, cultural heritage in a large number of countries around the world was destroyed. This prompted many societies to pay more attention to the protection of their cultural heritage.

Four countries have done an extraordinary job in this area. They are Japan, South Korea, France and Italy. Japan, with its 1950 Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, was the first to introduce legislation to preserve and promote intangible ands tangible culture. Important Intangible Cultural Properties were designated, and “holders” recognized these craft and performance traditions, that were earlier known as Living National Treasures (Kurin, 2004). South Korea’s protection of cultural heritage and intangible cultural heritage began to develop towards commercialization and tourism. Both North Korea and South Korea recognize the intangible values of cultural heritage, and use heritage tourism as an effective means to re-imagine Korea as one national entity (Park, 2011). From the French Revolution to the present day, France has used cultural heritage as a means of nation-building (Vecco, 2010). Italy has not only well-preserved historical and cultural heritage but also developed intangible heritage protection via such projects as rural eco-tourism and food cultural tours (Maggi, 2012).

5. Intangible Cultural Heritage Preservation in China

In the early 1950s, the Chinese government set up departments and prepared experts to investigate minority cultural heritage in China. It then took measures to protect a large number of traditional arts and crafts and named 200 people as national arts and crafts masters (Wen-zhang, 2008). This was the beginning of heritage protection in China.

On one hand, China has made some remarkable achievements in cultural heritage preservation. China has issued a series of laws in order to protect intangible cultural heritage that include The ICH Law[i], acts of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs)[ii] and Contract Law[iii]. In 1982 the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Cultural Relics was passed by the twenty-fifth meeting of the Standing Committee of the Fifth National People’s Congress. This law plays an important role in protecting cultural heritage. Additionally, China has set up intangible cultural heritage protection institutions that operate at all levels, from the state to the local, and related corresponding agencies. The expert committee of national intangible cultural heritage protection was officially established in 2006 in Beijing. Furthermore, China has done a large-scale census of the intangible cultural heritage. In 2013, the national non-material cultural heritage census work achieved initial results. According to the statistics of the Ministry of Culture, they collected 29 million precious objects and data (Benling, 2013). Finally, China has applied various components of intangible cultural heritage for the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists. China’s Kunqu Opera was listed as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2001 (Zhongguo Kun qu yi shu, 2004).

However, there are still many problems with protection of intangible cultural heritage in China. First, a profit-driven society and rapid changes in public life issue formidable challenges to the survival, protection, and inheritance of intangible cultural heritage. Tourism is a typical example. In order to gain higher economic profits, intangible heritage is traded as a commodity, which eventually can erode local cultures (Rodzi, Zaki, & Subli, 2013). Next, a relatively sound legal system has not yet been formed to protect cultural heritage in China. To optimize intangible cultural heritage legislation, China can study and borrow definitions of key terms, procedures of law enforcement, effective supporting systems, and explicit legal liabilities from other countries. Furthermore, lack of professional educational institutions and professionals in relevant areas also hinder the development of Chinese intangible cultural heritage. The number of majors related to non-material cultural heritage at Chinese universities that is very small. Only Central University for Nationalities, Hebei Normal University, Nanjing University, Southeast University, Zhongshan University, and a few others have any courses related to folk art (Shanshan, 2014). Another issue is that the government has paid little attention to promotion of folk art and support of folk artists. In this context, preservation of ethnic cultures cannot be guaranteed as there are few professionals in this field. Finally, the economy is another essential factor. China is a developing country. Yet protection of intangible cultural heritage requires a large amount of funding.

6. Preservation of China’s Intangible Cultural Heritage for Cultural Sustainability

The concept of sustainable development was introduced in 1987 by the Brundtland Commission, formally known as the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), as part of the report Our Common Future. In the report, sustainable development was specified as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ (Brundtland, 1987). Culture was mentioned as an aspect of social sustainability and occasionally as an aspect or dimension on its own. During the UNESCO Decade of Culture and Development (1988–1997), the inter-relationship between culture and development was discussed, resulting in the WCCD Report Our Creative Diversity (Wilson, 1997). Since that time, the connection between sustainable development and culture has been discussed in some international policy documents and conventions, such as In From the Margins (COUNCIL, 1997) and Convention on the Protection and Promotion of Diversity of Cultural Expressions (UNESCO, 2005).

The meaning of cultural sustainability is associated with and organized around a story line of cultural heritage. The basic assumption is that cultural heritage comprises a stock of cultural capital that has been inherited from previous generations and can be handed onto future generations (Throsby, 2008). Thus, the discussion of preservation of China’s intangible cultural heritage can be tied to the discourse on cultural sustainability. In order to develop China’s intangible cultural heritage sustainably, three main methods can help.

First, a better environment for strengthening public awareness about sustainability can be created through public campaigns. People in Japan, South Korea, France, and Italy have strong awareness of the need to protect their intangible cultural heritage. They devote a lot of attention to the protection and development of traditional cultures. They are eager to join efforts because they believe their national cultures enhance public pride. By contrast, when it comes to intangible cultural heritage in China, many Chinese citizens know little about it, which makes it difficult to call upon them to contribute. The Chinese government can use the internet and spread the message by conducting public activities, such as celebrations. Education is an effective and meaningful way to improve the overall awareness of students and the whole society. More courses related to intangible culture heritage should be arranged in universities and other educational institutions.

The experience of protection of historical and cultural heritage Japan, South Korea, Italy, and France shows that laws on cultural heritage protection could also be developed and implemented in an efficient way. The common methods of these countries include legislative protection, legal protection system, and legal supervision. Therefore, as a second step for China, the legal system can be improved and strengthened. China can establish a legislative model based on Chinese characteristics while using best practices of the international legislative system. Since China has national minority autonomous areas, it can make a breakthrough in these areas. Some initial law can be tried in those areas and then be applied in other areas, if the law is feasible. In addition, China should take legal protection system and legal supervision into consideration.

Third, there are ways to develop protection work. The first way is training and supporting successors, by providing them with favorable development conditions. If China wants to pass its cultural heritage from one generation to the next, it should focus on successors who play a vital role. South Korea is a great example of a society that effectively cultivates and protects successors. In 1964, the country started the Living National Treasure project for individuals and groups who have high levels of mastery in certain skills. They were subsequently designated as preservers of cultural heritage by the government in order to ensure continuity (Yang & Yang, 2003). By implementing these methods, Chinese protection of intangible cultural heritage has potential to make great progress.

In addition, the implementation of such projects should be systematically evaluated by educational and research communities. As briefly mentioned, courses related to intangible cultural heritage should be arranged. When teaching such courses it is necessary to promote the concept of cultural sustainability. An ideal model would have a special organization in schools that is responsible for these issues. To better understand the challenges and feasibility of this approach, further research is needed. Further research can explore such questions as: How can courses be arranged to effectively transmit awareness of preservation of China’s intangible cultural heritage? Who should be in charge of these courses? Where should funding come from?

7. Conclusion

This entry provided background information on intangible cultural heritage and the significance of preserving it, the status of preservation of intangible cultural heritage in China, and lessons China can learn from other countries. With the development of the society, the protection of intangible cultural heritage in China has made many achievements. However, there are still a number of problems related to cultural protection in China. These problems can impede further development of Chinese civilization. Increasing the effectiveness of preservation of intangible cultural heritage is not only a requirement for sustainable development, but also for the development of the country, international society, and world civilization.


Ahmad, Y. (2006). The Scope and Definitions of Heritage: From Tangible to Intangible. International journal of heritage studies, 12(3), 292-300.

Benling, D. (2013). "Fei yi" bao hu zhong guo shi nian jing yan. [Chinese Experience of Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection for Ten Years.]   Retrieved from

Brundtland, G. H. (1987). Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development:  "Our Common Future". United Nations.

Council of Europe. (1997). In from the Margins: A Contribution to the Debate of Culture and Development in Europe: The European Task Force on Culture and Development. Estrasburgo: Council of Europe.

Deacon, H., Dondolo, L., Mrubata, M., & Prosalendis, S. (2004). The Subtle Power of Intangible Heritage: Legal and Financial Instruments for Safeguarding Intangible Heritage. HSRC Press.

Deng, T., & Ma, M. (2014). Resource Curse in Tourism Economies? An Investigation of China's World Cultural and Natural Heritage Sites. Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, 19(7), 809-822. doi:10.1080/10941665.2013.806943

Kurin, R. (2004). Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage in the 2003 UNESCO Convention: A Critical Appraisal. Museum international, 56(1‐2), 66-77.

Maggi, M. (2012). Conversation Piece: Intangible Cultural Heritage in Italy. Woodbridge, England: Boydell.

Park, H. y. (2011). Shared National Memory as Intangible Heritage: Re-imagining Two Koreas as One Nation. Annals of Tourism Research, 38(2), 520-539. doi:10.1016/j.annals.2010.11.013

Rodzi, N. I. M., Zaki, S. A., & Subli, S. M. H. S. (2013). Between Tourism and Intangible Cultural Heritage. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 85, 411-420. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.08.370

Shanshan, W. (2014). Research on Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage in China. Jinan, China: Qilu University of Technology.  

Smith, L., & Akagawa, N. (2008). Intangible Heritage. New York/London: Routledge.

Srinivas, B. (2008). The UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. Le Patrimoine Culturel de L’humanité—The Cultural Heritage of Mankind. Leiden, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.

Throsby, D. (2008). Linking Cultural and Ecological Sustainability. The International Journal of Diversity in Organisations, Communities and Nations, 8(1), 15-20.

UNESCO. (2003). Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.   Retrieved from

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Vecco, M. (2010). A Definition of Cultural Heritage: From the Tangible to the Intangible. Journal of Cultural Heritage, 11(3), 321-324.

Wen-zhang, W. (2008). Overview of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Beijing: Education science press.

Wilson, R. A. (1997). World Commission on Culture and Development (1995). Our Creative Diversity. Paris: UNESCO.

Yang, J., & Yang, C.-s. (2003). Cultural Protection Policy in Korea: Intangible Cultural Properties and Living National Treasures (Vol. 3): Jimoondang.

Zhongguo Kun qu yi shu. [Kunqu opera-China.] (2004). Nanjing Shi: Jiangsu jiao yu chu ban she. [Nanjing City.] Jiangsu Education Press (in Chinese).

Key Terms and Definitions

Chinese Culture: the culture that reflects customs and traditions of China.

Cultural Sustainability: a concept that human beings should maintain their cultures and carry on various forms of the cultures from one generation to another.

Intangible Cultural Heritage: a form of cultural heritage that is made up of all immaterial manifestations of culture.

Preservation: the belief that people should preserve something for its value.


[i] ICH Law. Intangible Cultural Heritage Law of the People’s Republic of China. Adopted at the 19th Session of the Standing Committee of the 11th National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China on February 25, 2011.

 [ii] Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) have been acknowledged and protected in the People's Republic of China since 1979. After the reshuffle of the State Council in March 1998, the Patent Office became part of the State Intellectual Property Office.

[iii] Contract Law. Promulgated by the 9th NPC on 13th March 1999, came into force on 1st October, 1999.

About the Author

Xie Fan

MEd Student, The University of Hong Kong