China’s response to Covid-19 built on the distinctive foundations of its existing education political economy, in particular
High levels of pupil performance with low achievement gaps (as measured by PISA); highly centralised school system decision-making, governance and development processes (although this may be gradually evolving); a political culture that is generally less encouraging of debate about education practices; and a professional culture in which teachers are open to change and finding new ways to solve problems.
China appears to have a high level of ‘education technology maturity’ in terms of coverage, investment, usage and attitudes.
It has made significant progress in improving access, major Chinese technology companies are rapidly increasing their focus on education, and China is the world’s largest investor in machine-based personalised learning. The prioritisation of education technology already appears to have impacted on school policies, professional skills and attitudes. According to 2018 PISA data, over 90% of Chinese students are enrolled in schools that have an effective online learning support platform, significantly higher than the OECD average. In the four major Chinese cities, over 90% of school principals agreed or strongly agreed that teachers have the necessary time, technical and pedagogical skills to integrate digital devices into their instruction. However, despite this positive enabling environment, national restrictions prevent the availability of much of the content that many other teachers around the world use to support teaching and learning.
From its work with EdTech hub, K4D, governments around the world and its own large-scale programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa, Education Development Trust has created a draft diagnostic framework that includes key components of effective Covid-19 policy response. Although this framework remains subject to change as new evidence emerges, this review has adapted six key components of the framework to categorise China’s responses.