The Sea of Items Returns to China: backwash, selection and the diploma disease revisited

Lewin, Keith (1997) The Sea of Items Returns to China: backwash, selection and the diploma disease revisited. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 4 (1). pp. 137-159. ISSN 0969-594X

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The Chinese educational landscape has been transformed since the 1970s when The Diploma Disease was first published. At that time, the Cultural Revolution was coming to an end and a process of educational reconstruction was about to start. Much of what Dore described was swept away by the enthusiasm of modernisers intent on re-establishing a competitive, examination-based system that valued competence over ideology, individual rewards, and the virtues of studying `to become a dragon¿. This paper charts the changes that have taken place in assessment, the regeneration of the `key school¿ system, the expansion of private schooling, and the university entrance and job placement system. Some of what Dore valued remains¿Confucian values still permeate learning and teaching, an all-round education is promoted which balances the intellectual with the moral and the physical, and vocational schooling is heavily promoted. Chinese education, and the role assessment plays in it, appears to be converging towards forms common in other East Asian countries. In the increasingly unregulated climate that is contemporary China, this appears to be happening with few checks and balances that might protect educational quality and preserve schooling from the excess backwash on learning and teaching that examinations create in other countries in the region. Dore's general thesis thus retains its relevance and stands as a salutary reminder to what the future may bring.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Depositing User: Keith Lewin
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 20:51
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2021 08:54
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