Engaging with China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Perspectives from universities in Hong Kong and Kazakhstan

On November 30, 2021 (9pm HKT), please join us for a webinar at Comparative Education Research Centre hosting William Yat Wai Lo, Education University of Hong Kong and Jack Lee, University of Edinburgh, who will share and compare their most recent findings on Kazakhstan’s and Hong Kong’s academic engagement with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Please see more details in the poster, and use this Zoom link for registration: https://hku.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJ0vdOqvqTMrHtywS7Z0n1ysXbtZC9CnEZ0j

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: https://hku.zoom.us/j/92950021763

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.


A Crisis of Opportunity at English Universities: Rethinking Higher Education through the Common Good Idea

CERC will host a webinar by Dr. Lili Yang, a postdoctoral researcher in Department of Education, the University of Oxford, and Dr. Thomas Brotherhood, an Assistant Professor at the Rikkyo University College of Business, who will speak on “A Crisis of Opportunity at English Universities: Rethinking Higher Education through the Common Good Idea“. The webinar will take place on November 8, 2021 (19:00-20:15 HKT) and you are welcome to register via the link shorturl.at/buxER.

Below is the abstract and poster for your information.


The ongoing pandemic has affected all aspects of human life globally. Universities have faced significant challenges in continuing their educational and research activities while at the same time becoming more visible due to their work on identifying treatments, developing vaccines, understanding the impact of the pandemic and exploring the ways of recovering from the crisis. English universities have been at the forefront of these global efforts and have had unique opportunities to contribute, and demonstrate their contribution, to the common good. In this seminar, new empirical materials on how English universities have dealt with the pandemic from the perspective of the common good will be reported.


International Conference “The University purpose and Institutional Autonomy: Challenges and their impact on Georgia”

On October 29 and 30, 2021, Dr. Anatoly Oleksiyenko, CERC’s Honorary Director and Dr. Nutsa Kobakhidze, CERC’s Management Committee member, presented respectively at the virtual conference organized by East European University & Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University。

The conference explored the challenges of institutional autonomy and academic freedom in Georgian higher education which directly bear on social, cultural, economic and political developments of the country. The conference addressed the following questions:

  • What should be the purpose of higher education in Georgia?
  • What are strengths and weaknesses of higher education in contemporary Georgia?
  • What are the solutions to the existing problems?
  • How higher education can promote the social, cultural, economic and political development of the country?
  • What is the economic environment within which the higher education system in Georgia functions and what are main challenges in this regard?
  • How autonomous are higher education institutions in Georgia?
  • What is the degree of academic freedom in higher education institutions in Georgia?

Does Conflict of Interest Distort Global University Rankings?

On October 28, 2021, CERC hosted a webinar by Dr. Igor Chirikov, a Senior Researcher and SERU Consortium Director at the Center for Studies in Higher Education, University of California, Berkeley. His presentation addressed the challenges of avoiding the conflict interest in the global university rankings. As Dr. Chirikov argues, “Global university rankings influence students’ choices and higher education policies evaluate universities but also provide them with consulting, analytics, or advertising services, rankers are vulnerable to conflicts of interest that may distort their rankings. The study assesses the impact of contracting with rankers on university ranking outcomes using difference-in-difference research design. It matches data on the positions of 28 Russian universities in QS World University Rankings from 2016 to 2021 with information on contracts these universities had for services from QS. It compares the fluctuations in QS rankings with data obtained from the Times Higher Education (THE) rankings and data recorded by national statistics. Results show that universities with frequent QS-related contracts experienced much greater upward mobility in both overall rankings and in faculty-student ratio scores over five years in the QS World Rankings. These findings suggest that conflicts of interest may produce significant distortions in global university rankings.”

The “Looming Disaster” for Higher Education: How Commercial Rankers Use Social Media

Dr. Riyad A. Shahjahan, an Associate Professor of Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education (HALE) at Michigan State University, Dr. Ryan M. Allen, an Assistant Professor at Chapman University’s Donna Ford Attallah College of Educational Studies and Coordinator of the joint doctoral program with Shanghai Normal University, and Dr. Adam Grimm, currently a postdoctoral researcher in the College of Education at Michigan State University spoke at the CERC’s webinar on October 14, 2021. According to the presenters, “Despite the ubiquity of global university rankings coverage in media and academia, a concerted attempt to investigate the role of social media in ranking entrepreneurship remains absent. By drawing on an affect lens, we critically examine the social media activities of two commercial rankers: Times Higher Education (THE) and Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd (QS). Based on an analysis of THE’s Twitter feed and QS’s Facebook page between January to June 2020, we illuminate how rankers use social media for affective storytelling to frame and sell their expertise within global HE. First, we demonstrate how THE uses Twitter to engage an audience of institutions, governments, and administrators, reinforcing universities’ increasingly aggressive behavior as market competitors. Next, we show how QS engages a student-oriented audience on Facebook, furthering the role of students as consumers. Before and during the COVID pandemic, we observed that both rankers amplified and mobilized precarity associated with performance and participation, selling hope to targeted audiences to market their expertise as solutions – a strategy that remained amidst the global pandemic. Based on our observation of the front stage of rankers’ social media activities, we argue that rankers’ development of social media as a form of affective infrastructure is conducive to further sustaining, diffusing and normalizing rankings in HE globally.”

Academic Mavericks in the Global Marketplace

On invitation of the Centre of Higher Education Studies, Institute of Education, University College London (UCL), Dr. Anatoly Oleksiyenko, CERC’s Honorary Director spoke on the topic of ethical dilemmas of the professoriate constructing international partnerships for research and development in the context of competitiveness and performative anxiety. His presentation titled “Academic Mavericks in the Global Marketplace” explored a diversity of tensions across organizational and epistemological domains amid questions on what shapes meaningful collaborations and intellectual leadership in global academia. The webinar took place on October 13, 2021.

How Can We Ensure Effective Blended Learning

Dr. Anatoly Oleksiyenko, CERC’s Honorary Director, was invited by the Global Citizenship Foundation to join the scholarly panel discussing the challenges of ensuring effective blended learning during the pandemics and beyond. The presentation took place on the 16th Online Educational Leadership Forum (Online) on September 14, 2021.

The recorded webcast is available at https://www.globalcitizenshipfoundation.org/event/panel-discussion-0016/

Private Tutoring and Mainstream Education Linkages in India: A Political Economy Approach

On July 12, Shadow Education SIG members gathered on Zoom to listen to a presentation by Miss Shalini Bhorkar on Private Tutoring and Mainstream Education Linkages in India: A Political Economy Approach. 

Currently, Shalini is a doctoral candidate at the Institute of Education, UCL. She is also an HKU graduate from the Comparative and Global Studies in Education and Development (CGSED) MEd program.

Attendees included the SIG members from Hong Kong, Mainland China, the UK, Uzbekistan and Japan.

Admission Olympics: Expanding Tutoring Market for Kindergarten Interviews in Hong Kong

Date: July 15, Thursday, 2021
Time: 10 am to 11:30 am HKT 

Zoom Registration link: https://hku.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJItcOyrqDooHt2ffGWUwg-kxJGnlfcohtSK

Dr Alfredo Bautista, Associate Professor and Associate Head, Department of Early Childhood Education, The Education University of Hong Kong

Dr Nutsa Kobakhidze, Principal Investigator, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong
Ms Janice Chui, Research Team Member, Former Primary School teacher, MSc. Candidate in the Department of Education, Oxford University, UK
Janisa Hui, Ed.M. Research Team Member, Former Playgroup Teacher. Pursuing PhD Degree in the College of Education, University of Maryland – College Park, USA

Hong Kong is a fast-paced city where busy parents with high aspirations could be under immense pressure. To improve their children’s chance of success in the highly selective process of kindergarten admission, some parents outsource admission preparation to tutorial companies. Over the past decade, interview classes i.e. classes which prepare children for kindergarten interviews have grown in popularity among parents.

This session presents the findings from a qualitative study conducted in mid-2020, which examined the processes and mechanisms involved in kindergarten admission, with a particular focus on understanding the interview class market. The study covered a diversity of views from 78 participants including parents (local and non-local), kindergarten teachers, interview service providers, policy-makers and early childhood educators.

The Knowledge Exchange seminar invites non-academic communities such as parents, teachers, tutors, school leadership and policy-makers. The speakers will discuss implications of the study findings for child development, well-being and education. Special attention will be paid to how the COVID-19 pandemic changed the nature of kindergarten admission preparation services in Hong Kong.