Shadow Education SIG Meeting

The CERC will host the next SIG meeting on November 19, Friday, 3:30 pm HKT. This time we will listen to Ms. Gwen Zeng from the Education University of Hong Kong. Gwen is a PhD student under the supervision of Dr. Kevin Yung.


Gwen is in the process of collecting data for her doctoral study, and would like to present her ongoing work and get feedback from the SIG members. The title of her PhD study is:  “Tutoring or not tutoring: Understanding parents’ agency in children’s early English learning in China”. You can find a short abstract below.


Zoom information:

Meeting ID: 929 5002 1763

Password: 707318



With the spread of ‘English fever’ and the controversial belief ‘earlier is better’, there is a tendency of lowering children’s start age of English learning as a foreign language in East Asian countries. However, in Mainland China, early English education for preschoolers is not encouraged by the government and English education is forbidden in all public kindergartens since 2018. An increasingly number of Chinese parents still enrolled their children in various modes of early English Private Tutoring (EEPT) during the past decade. In July 2021, the Ministry of Education (MOE) in Mainland China issued a tougher-than-expected policy named “Double Reduction” to ease the burden of excessive homework and off-campus tutoring for young students. According to the policy, English is defined as an academic subject which should not be taught to preschoolers. Both online and offline EEPT for kindergarten children are violating the policy. Some EEPT institutions closed their business or experienced a struggling transition soon after the promulgation of the policy.

Chinese parents are exercising their agency to support (or not support) their children’s English learning at this critical moment in the complicated context. They constantly make choices and carry out practices toward children’s early English learning (EEL), especially through engaging children in EEPT. Parents are the most important social actors and stakeholders in children’s EEL, but there is a dearth of research on parents’ agency in the particular context of Mainland China. This study will fill this gap by providing the knowledge of parents’ agency in their children’s EEL, expanding research on parents’ language ideologies, management and practice, and helping parents, language educators, educational administrators and policy makers understand early English education and policy issues in the context of China.

Informed by the ecological model of agency, this study employs narrative inquiry to examine Chinese parents’ agency in children’s EEL through three dimensions: the iterational (parents’ past experiences), the projective (parents’ future aspirations on their children) and the practical-evaluative (parents’ present cultural, material resources and social structures) dimensions. It also investigates how parents’ agency dynamically develops within the situated context.

The study starts in April 2021 and is still being conducted in Nanchang, a second-tier city in Mainland China. Thirteen families with children aged 3-6 years old have consented to participate in this one-year longitudinal study. The parents from these families have different socioeconomic backgrounds with various education levels, occupations and income. They will participate in three rounds of interviews throughout a year (the second round has just been completed). They also provide video clips of their children’s English learning activities (ELA), record their arrangements of these ELA in log sheets and keep on-going conversations with the researcher on their choices and practices toward children’s EEL. Through snowball sampling, the tutors and kindergarten teachers of their children are invited to attend interviews for a more comprehensive understanding of parents’ agency in the situated context.

As the data collection of this study is going on, I would like to introduce the background, theoretical framework, research questions, research methods and my current data collection during the presentation. I would be grateful to have SIG members’ feedback and suggestions on my study.