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ISSN: 0305-7925 (Print) 1469-3623 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ccom20

International education policy transfer – borrowing both ways: the Hong Kong and England experience Katherine Forestier & Michael Crossley
To cite this article: Katherine Forestier & Michael Crossley (2015) International education policy transfer – borrowing both ways: the Hong Kong and England experience,
Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 45:5, 664-685, DOI:
10.1080/03057925.2014.928508
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03057925.2014.928508

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Vol. 45, No. 5, 664–685, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03057925.2014.928508

International education policy transfer – borrowing both ways: the Hong Kong and England experience

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Katherine Forestier* and Michael Crossley
Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
This paper analyses how the impact of international student achievement studies and the recent economic crisis in Europe are influencing the development of educational policy transfer and borrowing, from East to
West. This is contrasted with education reform movements in East Asia, which have long legacies of borrowing from so-called ‘progressive’ discourses in the West. England and Hong Kong are used as case studies.
Since 2010, England’s coalition government has prioritised its determination to look to jurisdictions like Hong Kong to inspire and justify reforms that emphasise traditional didactic approaches to teaching and learning. In contrast, Hong Kong’s reforms have sought to implement practices related to less pressured, more student-centred lifelong learning, without losing sight of strengths derived from its Confucian heritage culture. Conclusions highlight factors that underpin English interest in Hong Kong education policy, values and practice and point to the need for further attention to be given to these multidirectional and often contradictory processes by researchers concerned with the study of policy transfer.
Keywords: policy borrowing and transfer; Hong Kong; England; education reform; international student assessment

Introduction
In the era of Western colonialism and economic dominance, education borrowing tended to flow from the so-called West to the East and South. Models were imposed or imported from colonial powers, ensuring the flows of policies, practices and discourses relating to curricula and pedagogy were
‘uni-directional’, from the more developed West to the Rest (Nguyen et al.
2009; Yang 2011), even if these flows were purposefully adapted to local needs. However, the high levels of economic growth and educational achievement in East Asian countries and systems as measured by studies such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the International
*Corresponding author. Email: Katherine.forestier@gmail.com
© 2014 British Association for International and Comparative Education

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Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) Trends in
Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), have prompted a passionate interest in some Western countries to learn from East Asian societies that have scored well (Nguyen et al. 2009; Sellar and Lingard 2013). In the wake of this phenomenon, a trend of reverse borrowing, from East to West, is intensifying.
Stevenson and Stigler (1994) were among the pioneers of this interest when they called for Americans to learn from the strengths they had observed in their study of Japanese, Chinese and Taiwanese approaches to education, while interest among British policymakers dates to the Ofstedcommissioned study by David Reynolds and Shaun Farrell of primary school effectiveness in East Asian countries that had excelled in the IEA studies (Reynolds and Farrell 1996). That interest has escalated with the growth of the PISA studies since 2000 and the strong performance of East
Asian systems, such as Hong Kong, to the point that this has become a key influence on policy decisions elsewhere, notably in England1 under the Conservative-led coalition government that came to power in 2010.

Research methodology
This article draws upon the application of theoretical and conceptual work on educational policy transfer and borrowing. The analysis is informed by involvement of the first author in the interface between the UK and Hong
Kong. From 2007 to 2012 she was employed by the British Council as
Director of Education in Hong Kong and in this role was involved in organising roundtable discussions for UK politicians visiting Hong Kong to explore the sources of its success. This first-hand engagement is supplemented by an analysis of contemporary policy documents and related debates in the media in both jurisdictions and the analysis of cultural and contextual differences.
Phillips and Ochs’ (2003) four-stage dialectical model for understanding policy borrowing is used as a framework for analysing the two-way flow of borrowing between England and its former colony. The four stages focus attention upon (1) the motivation behind cross-national attraction, (2) the decision to borrow, (3) the implementation process and (4) the internalisation and indigenisation of change.
Within each of these stages Phillips and Ochs (2003) identify a number of concepts, processes and responses, such as the impulse for change, externalising potential of what is to be borrowed, guiding philosophy behind it, and enabling structures to facilitate change. We apply these terms to help structure our analysis of two-way borrowing and italics are used in this article to indicate Phillips’ and Ochs’ terminology.

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The emergence of borrowing both ways
The Hong Kong context is one of the most revealing where two-way borrowing has occurred. In colonial times, Hong Kong’s educational system was modelled on that of England and reforms were initiated by reports and reviews of visitors from the UK. From around the late 1960s, Hong Kong became more autochthonous but the basic features of both the structure and curriculum remained unchanged. Under the One Country Two Systems model underpinning the Basic Law, its mini-constitution from 1997, Hong
Kong has a high degree of autonomy from the rest of China and education policy is under its control. This has given it a licence to retain features of its education system ‘borrowed’ from the UK, as well as to innovate through a radical programme of education reform. The latter has involved a new wave of international borrowing or transfer, some with input from the
UK.
The high performance in studies such as PISA of Shanghai, Singapore,
Hong Kong and other East Asian systems, along with their economic growth, has fuelled increasing international interest in their policies and practices. This has coincided with a period of economic realignment and challenge for the West following the onset of the global financial crisis in
2008. President Barack Obama’s nervousness that nations that ‘out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow’ (BBC News article, 9 May, 2012) is a sentiment shared by policymakers in England and Australia (Sellar and
Lingard 2013).
It is ironic that the UK government has become so eager to emulate its former colonies, Hong Kong and Singapore, which it has done in addition to its interest in mathematics teaching in Shanghai and intermittent referencing of Nordic countries such as Finland and Sweden. The East Asian systems are described as ‘restless improvers’ and ‘top performers’ in policy discourse in England, including in the 2010 Case for Change (Department for Education 2010a) accompanying the 2010 White Paper (Department for
Education 2010b) and in speeches and media articles (Gove 2010a, 2010b,
2011, 2012), culminating in the revised National Curriculum published in
July 2013 (Gove 2013b). The UK Secretary of State for Education told the
Parliamentary Select Committee on Education: ‘I have been to Singapore and Hong Kong, and what is striking is that many of the lessons that apply there are lessons that we can apply here’ (Gove 2010a).
In unveiling the revised National Curriculum, he again cited Hong Kong as a model and one of ‘the world’s most successful school systems’ (Gove
2013b). He explained: ‘I want my children, who are in primary school at the moment, to have the sort of curriculum that children in other countries have, which are doing better than our own.’ Only if they received an education ‘as rigorous as any country’s’ could they compete for college places and jobs with ‘folk from across the globe’ (The Guardian, 8 July, 2013).

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Underlying these statements is an assumption that high levels of pupil achievement are a function of the nature of the curriculum.
Mr Gove has repeatedly turned to PISA studies and the McKinsey reports on high-performing systems to inform and justify his reform agenda
(Gove 2010a, 2011). Indeed, he told the World Education Forum in January
2011 that ignoring PISA and McKinsey studies was ‘as foolish as dismissing what control trials tell us in medicine’ and that the White Paper was designed to ‘shamelessly plunder’ from policies that have worked in highperforming nations (Gove 2011).
Following the release of the 2012 PISA results, the Secretary of State again referenced the systems that topped the league table to justify his reforms. This included Hong Kong, positioned second in science and reading literacy and third in mathematics, after Shanghai and Singapore (OECD
2014). He argued:
In Shanghai and Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong – indeed even in
Taiwan and Vietnam – children are learning more and performing better with every year that passes, leaving our children behind in the global race. …
There is a strong correlation in these league tables between freedom for heads and improved results. … That is why we have dramatically increased the number of academies and free schools, and given heads more control over teacher training, continuous professional development and the improvement of under-performing schools. (Michael Gove, quoted in The Guardian,
December 3, 2013)

The message is clear: if rigour is restored to the National Curriculum and public examinations, if principals have high levels of autonomy and if teachers can teach like those in Hong Kong and other high-performing jurisdictions, then England’s children can achieve similar academic success, regardless of social background. Ultimately, this will contribute to future economic success (DfE 2012; Gove 2013b).
Yet in Hong Kong, policymakers’ explanations of its high ranking and improved mean scores, as described in the Education Bureau’s press release after the OECD announced the results, centred on its reform advocating progressive approaches to teaching and learning, including ‘learning to learn, rather than traditional textbook-based teaching’, ‘project work and exploratory activities’ in mathematics, a new science curriculum that ‘emphasises scientific literacy and generic skills (e.g., critical thinking and problem-solving skills)’ and ‘reading to learn’ for reading literacy (EDB 2013b).
The Hong Kong media, however, was lukewarm in its response to the rankings. Coverage in the South China Morning Post focused on the deficits:
… compared with their counterparts in Singapore – second in maths, and third in science and reading – Hong Kong pupils improved less, gaining only
11 points more in reading and six in maths and in science from the 2009 assessment. … The assessments also showed that just 12 per cent of pupils in

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Hong Kong were top achievers in maths, well below the 30.8 per cent for
Shanghai and 19 per cent in Singapore. (South China Morning Post,
December 4, 2013)

Other articles questioned the results and their relevance, with headlines
‘Grades and scores are not everything’ (South China Morning Post,
December 4, 2013), ‘Pisa “politics” of no concern to parents’ (South China
Morning Post, December 10, 2013) and ‘Are Chinese students smarter or is testing system rigged in their favour?’ (South China Morning Post,
December 18, 2013).
The director of the Centre for International Student Assessment in Hong
Kong stated: ‘We need to work on how to nurture more bright students, as our exam-orientated system tends to focus on high achievers’ performance in exams but does not help them learn more than that’ (South China
Morning Post, December 4, 2013). The centre issued a measured press release to explain the results, including the more nuanced findings from the test data and contextual surveys. While it noted that ‘Hong Kong 15-yearold students again stand in the top tier among 65 countries and regions’, differences between students of different socio-economic backgrounds remained unchanged and there were greater within-school differences than in the previous PISA study. Students’ ‘self-concept’ in mathematics remained below the OECD average (CUHK 2013).
The lukewarm reception to the 2012 PISA results in Hong Kong reinforces questions as to whether its education system really is as good as it is understood to be in England; what lies behind its high position in the overall ranking, both inside and outside the classroom; and what are the Western motives in looking to systems such as Hong Kong? These are issues pursued in this article.
Before looking at the rise of international tests and an analysis of the
Hong Kong and English experience, it is helpful to revisit the research on education policy borrowing and transfer.
Education policy borrowing revisited
Among the longstanding purposes of comparative education is ‘learning from others’, to help understand and improve the home system and counter provincialism and ethnocentrism (Crossley and Watson 2003). But this comes with an important caveat. Many comparativists have warned of the dangers of simplistic borrowing and uncritical international transfer that are insensitive to local contexts and more likely to end in policy failure
(Crossley and Watson 2003; Steiner-Khamsi 2010).
Some academics employed as investigators for PISA and TIMSS are cautious about how their results are used. During the Hong Kong–UK policy roundtable ‘International Studies on Student Performance: What They

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Really Mean and What We Can Really Learn from Each Other’, organised by the first author of this article, Frederick Leung, who leads the TIMSS study in Hong Kong, echoed the warning of Michael Sadler. In his presentation, he stated that ‘simple transplant of policies and practices from high to low achieving countries won’t work. One cannot transplant the practice without regard to the cultural differences’ (Leung 2012).
Yet numerous education policies, practices and ideas have been transported across borders. As Alexander (2001) states:
Cultural borrowing happens; it has always happened. Few countries remain hermetically sealed in the development of their educational systems, and for centuries there has been a lively international traffic in educational ideas and practices. (508)

Moreover, the speed of transfer appears to be increasing as part of the process of globalisation. A more nuanced understanding of borrowing is emerging as a result, with transfer becoming more fractured through multiple agencies and levels involved (Rappleye, Imoto, and Sachiko 2011).
There is also increased understanding that at the policy level the motivation to borrow will almost certainly be intimately associated with domestic political agendas (Steiner-Khamsi 2010; Morris 2012; Rappleye 2012). As such, it may be used as part of the political production to generate public concern and legitimate reforms that may be traced at least as much to deeply held ideological positions as to any real intention to import models from elsewhere. The rise of international tests: help or hindrance?
Because international tests are being used so readily to inform policy decisions and are promoted by the OECD for this purpose (OECD 2014), we need to consider the validity of such evidence.
Braun (2008), Leung (2012) and Ho (2013) argue that if robust in their methodology and interpreted with caution, including in taking social context into consideration, international tests can provide policymakers and civil society with key information about the relative success of their education systems and, through subsequent analysis, may help to inform improvements.
However, taking PISA as an example, their validity for comparing and ranking systems has been questioned, as has their use in shaping policy decisions. The focus on maths, science and reading literacy to measure the outcomes of education is, for example, contested for ignoring important skills such as creativity, bilingualism and critical thinking gained from studying arts and humanities subjects (Zhang 2011). Sampling for comparisons in one cycle and over time and place may not be reliable because of

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variations in test content and format, student motivation to take tests, timing of the test and variations in participating countries (Jerrim 2011).
Such arguments, and comparisons with England’s improving TIMSS results, raise doubts as to whether PISA can be relied on as evidence that standards in England have declined (Jerrim 2011) or that Hong Kong’s system is better.
Questions about the value of the data can be linked to how it is used to shape policy decisions (Meyer and Benavot 2013). Policy discourse from
England contains little critical analysis, whilst headline data has been used as ammunition to condemn the previous government’s management of education and justify reforms (Jerrim 2011; Morris 2012; Auld and Morris
2014). The influential McKinsey studies that use PISA data to identify high-performing systems have similar shortcomings, by assuming causality between features and outcomes and ignoring evidence that may question and qualify achievements of systems such as Hong Kong (Braun 2008;
Morris 2012; Auld and Morris 2014). The Oates (2010) study of other curricula, used by the government to inform the review of the National
Curriculum, also lacks substantive contextual evidence from the systems it looks to, despite acknowledging the pitfalls of borrowing that ignores context (Auld and Morris 2014).
Some policymakers, the media and the OECD itself appear to assume that success in international tests predominantly reflects the quality of formal schooling and policies behind it, which may not be the case – cultural and historical factors and wider social inequalities also play an important part (Sellar and Lingard 2013). The role played by factors outside schools, including parental support and private supplementary tutoring that drills students to perform well in examinations, is ignored in the current policy discourse in England. Indeed, Kwo and Bray (2011) argue that private tutoring in Hong Kong has extended and intensified over the last decade, contrary to policy intentions to reduce the prevalence of drilling for examinations (CDI et al. 2013).
If international league tables are to be used as a reference for educational policy transfer, we would argue that, at the least, they need to be accompanied by other comparative evidence (Crossley 2014). This should include a more thorough and nuanced understanding of the different education systems, their histories and contexts, as argued by Crossley and Watson
(2003), Jerrim (2011) and Sellar and Lingard (2013).
It is in light of these broader issues and debates that we now move to the more specific analysis of the Hong Kong and England cases. They may also provide insight into different approaches to borrowing, including how the validity of evidence has been addressed in the two systems.

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Analysing the Hong Kong case
As argued above, the literature on education policy and transfer is helpful in comparing and analysing the Hong Kong and England cases. Focusing first on Hong Kong, this should include an analysis of policy documents and research from the city itself.
In the colonial period, Hong Kong can be seen to have developed a system with strong Western characteristics in the structure of schooling. However, government had tended towards a hands-off approach (Morris, Kan, and Morris 2001; Lam 2003). A local context involving a mix of historical circumstances and cultural factors meant the system diverged from its English model, for example in its more exam-orientated nature and didactic teaching practices influenced by Confucian-cultural traditions. This was despite attempts to borrow so-called ‘progressive’ reforms that championed child-centred approaches to learning, such as the Target Orientated Curriculum, which was introduced with minimal success to primary schools in the
1990s (Morris, Chan, and Lo 1997; Lam 2003).
The more holistic education reforms of the last decade include a new phase of borrowing by Hong Kong, which looked both globally and locally for inspiration (Education Commission, September 2000). Our analysis of this and other reform documents suggests that the system borrowed extensively from the international language of education, where terms such as
‘key stages’, ‘key learning areas’, ‘learning skills’, ‘assessment for learning’ and ‘lifelong learning’ characterise the discourse adopted (Education
Commission, September 2000). Much of this language originally derived from Western approaches to constructing curricula.
The borrowing went beyond rhetoric to employing international expertise to help develop and implement change. The UK was a significant source of expertise for the post-1997 Hong Kong reforms, despite the fact that the
New Academic Structure phased in from 2009 diverged from the previous model of preparation for examinations derived from British General Certificate of Education Ordinary and Advanced Level examinations. The new borrowing interest focused on improving the quality of teaching, learning, assessment and school accountability. It included school self-evaluation processes – borrowed largely from the Scottish model – and attempts to synchronise curriculum and assessment development, including assessment for learning (Forestier 2011).
We can now apply the Phillips and Ochs (2003) framework to the senior secondary reform in Hong Kong, with terminology used in the Four Stages
Model italicised in our analysis. Motivation for cross-national attraction included political influences following the retrocession in 1997, the Asian economic crisis that began that year, pressures of globalisation and corporate complaints that students were not equipped with appropriate skills and attitudes for the emerging knowledge economy, along with dissatisfaction

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with schooling among parents, especially the growing middle class. The
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The world is undergoing unprecedented changes, and Hong Kong is no exception. We are seeing substantial changes in the economic structure and the knowledge-based economy is here to stay. Hong Kong is also facing tremendous challenges posed by a globalised economy. (3)

The externalising potential was drawn from a guiding philosophy and discourse derived from Western education ideals that focused on lifelong learning, critical and creative thinking and whole-person development. This reflected the goal to create a system that improved student learning and equipped young people with skills for the twenty-first-century workplace
(Education Commission, September 2000; Education and Manpower Bureau
2005).2 The strategy involved reviewing the aims, structure, content and duration of secondary education, taking note of overseas models. The enabling structure included new funding and partnerships with cross-sector advisory groups, the latter including international input. The process involved curriculum and examination reform, the upgrading of teaching to a graduate-level profession and initiatives to create learning communities among teachers (CDI et al. 2013). Techniques to be borrowed with extensive and long-term inputs from UK-based academics included the linking of curriculum, assessment and school accountability and varied pedagogical approaches to better cater for learner differences (CDI et al. 2013, interviews with Hong Kong policymakers and advisors, 2013).
The Hong Kong government’s decision in 2005 to introduce the New
Academic Structure (NAS) and New Senior Secondary Curriculum (NSSC), the latter including Liberal Studies as a core subject and ‘Other Learning
Experiences’ to balance academic learning, was justified by reference to pedagogical theories related to cognitive pluralism and student-centred lifelong learning (EMB 2005). Creating a new structure (three years of junior secondary, three years of senior secondary and four years of university) and the new examination, the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education
(HKDSE), were the practical solutions to allow all students to complete senior secondary education, which had been restricted to one third of the cohort under the old model. The new structure was more closely aligned with the academic structure of mainland China and the HKDSE was modelled partially on the International Baccalaureate Diploma.
As implementation approached, the reforms attracted supporters and opponents. Wealthier parents resisted by removing their children from the system. Hong Kong student enrolment in UK independent schools jumped
21% in 2010 (Independent Schools Council 2011). Increased demand from local families supported the expansion of the international school sector

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(which did not use the local curriculum) from 31,000 to 49,183 places between 2001 and 2011 (EDB 2013a).
Teachers resisted the new pedagogy involved in school-based assessment, resulting in its implementation being modified and postponed for many subjects (CDC et al. 2013).
Universities, meanwhile, gave important support by adjusting admissions requirements and curricula. Common minimum entry requirements for students completing the HKDSE were agreed and universities reviewed curricula to accommodate the extra year of undergraduate study (CDC et al.
2013).
For schools, curriculum content was adapted. The more vocational
Applied Learning subjects, similar to England’s Business, Technology and
Education Council qualifications, were developed for less academic students and implementation of the new curriculum was delayed a year to give more time for consultation and in-service training for teachers to deliver it.
By 2013, after the first students had completed the HKDSE, there were signs that the reforms, including their borrowed elements, were being internalised and indigenised. Whilst there was evidence students were studying a broader range of subjects with more enquiry-based learning (CDC et al.
2013), rote learning for exams, both in schools and through the ‘shadow system’ of after-school tutoring, continued (Kwo and Bray 2011). In 2012, the Education Bureau launched a review of the NAS and NSSC and in
2013 modified some key ambitions, in particular allowing schools to reduce time dedicated to Other Learning Experiences and a further scaling back of school-based assessment (CDC et al. 2013). These and other changes would give schools and students more time to prepare for examinations that remained high stakes due to intense competition for sought-after university places. The inevitable gap, as identified by Morris and Adamson (2010) in previous reforms, between what was intended in the new curriculum and what was being implemented in schools, was evident from the review. Inspectors were reported to have seen limited evidence of successful student-centred teaching and learning in some subjects, such as English Language, while excessive workload for teachers and students was found to be undermining the aim of the reform to improve the quality of student learning (CDC et al.
2013). Parents complained that there was still too much teaching to the test and that school was too demanding and boring for their children (Biz.hk:
Journal of The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, June
2013).
Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s international success in student assessments, not only in subjects such as mathematics that it has traditionally done well in, but also in reading literacy, as well as citations by internationally influential agencies such as the OECD and McKinsey that it was a leading example of a high-performing education system (Mourshed, Chijioke, and

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Barber 2010), has surprised many locals (interviews with educators and community leaders, 2013). These successes have also prompted reflection by policymakers and academics on both the improved learning outcomes from their 10-year reforms focused on learning to learn and the strengths from Confucian heritage traditions that many argue should not be lost in the reform process (Cheung 2012; Leung 2012; EDB 2013b).
East-to-West borrowing
We now turn to international policy borrowing and referencing by England’s policymakers. The international strategy of the previous Labour government included benchmarking against ‘world-class standards’, ‘drawing on best practice everywhere’ and building links between schools in England and other countries (DfES 2004). However, whilst ‘travelling reformers’ such as Michael
Fullan were influential in shaping England’s education policy in this period, there is little evidence, after the Reynolds and Farrell study conducted under the previous Conservative government, of serious interest in importing policies and practices from so-called Confucian heritage cultures – a term coined by Watkins and Biggs (1996) to refer to countries where Confucian traditions continued to have some influence. Successive Labour ministers of education visited Hong Kong, but experience gained by the first author in organising their visits between 2007 and 2009 indicated that they did not think they could, or should, import what amounted to Confucian heritage traditions as reflected in teaching and school cultures and family and social values, although on his return from a visit to China in 2009 the then
Schools Minister Jim Knight did suggest that studying Confucius might boost exam results in England (The Guardian, 23 February, 2009).
They appeared to understand arguments from Hong Kong-based academics that ‘out of school’ factors were important explanations for both the successes and shortcomings of Hong Kong education at the time. They were, however, interested in the education reforms in East Asia, with former
Schools Minister Andrew Adonis (2012) noting that Hong Kong and other high-performing systems now discussed creativity almost as much as maths and were focused on improving their systems.
Interest in Hong Kong as a helpful model developed markedly from
2010, following the arrival of the Conservative-led coalition government determined to roll out a reform agenda that focused on ‘restoring’ academic rigour, giving parents greater choice of schools through the creation of more academies and free schools, and using competition to drive up standards
(DfE 2011b; Gove 2012). Within months of the General Election, Michael
Gove had visited Singapore, Hong Kong and mainland China. In February
2012, the then Minister of State for Schools, Nick Gibb, visited Hong Kong to seek evidence for the review of the National Curriculum, particularly for

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mathematics. He argued in the roundtable in Hong Kong, after meeting pupils and teachers in a small number of schools, that ‘context could not be an excuse’ for not adopting practices that worked elsewhere. He saw in the teaching and learning culture in Hong Kong much of what he wanted for
England:
What I notice in all the school visits is the seriousness of the classes and the attitude of the students. If you come to the weaker state schools in England you will see the extreme outcome of an approach to pedagogy that is based on creating happy children, and the opposite is the case. All I see in such classrooms is amateurism, a lack of professionalism, a lack of seriousness.
(Transcribed from roundtable ‘International Studies on Student Performance:
What They Really Mean and What We Can Really Learn from Each Other,
February 2012)

The Phillips and Ochs (2003) framework can now be applied to this interest from England. The impulses for attraction include political change after 13 years of Labour government and the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
Negative external evaluations – the UK’s perceived declining performance in the PISA study – and public dissatisfaction with the state system that prompted more affluent parents to opt for private alternatives, were other significant factors.
It is especially interesting to analyse the externalising potential, or aspects of interest, that the Michael Gove-led DfE visit had in Hong Kong.
It was not the current reforms in Hong Kong that emphasise student-centred learning, generic skills that promote creativity and independence, or a less ruthlessly competitive examination system. Nor was it the broader range of subjects at senior secondary level that included less academic options such as Health Management and Social Care, and Tourism and Hospitality Studies – the sorts of subjects criticised by Michael Gove in his championing of the English Baccalaureate.
Hong Kong policy has sought to reduce the quantity of knowledgecontent in the curriculum, to phase in school-based assessment and phase out pass-fail measures in public examinations. Mr Gove, in contrast, proposed a more content-heavy curriculum for subjects such as English, mathematics and history, cancelled course work from the GCSE and told the media that more pupils would fail the more rigorous examinations (Daily Mail, 22
February, 2012; Gove 2013b). If Hong Kong has a better curriculum than
England, as Mr Gove suggested, it might not, in fact, be one that he approves of. Indeed, Nick Gibb warned his Hong Kong hosts that the overall direction of their reforms would lead to a decline in ‘standards’.
Rather, it was largely the perception of the traditional, Confucian heritage features of Hong Kong education, pre-dating the current reforms, that
UK ministers may really have been interested in – in Phillips and Ochs’ terms, a guiding philosophy that emphasises that success comes from hard

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work, discipline, respect and humility; that the goal and ambition should be high achievement to ensure social and economic status; that strategies for success include a more demanding curriculum and more rigorous examination system; enabling structures that involve a strong role for independent bodies such as churches in delivering education; processes such as regular testing and homework; and the dominant techniques of linking memorisation to understanding and using traditional whole-class, didactic approaches to teaching. In short, it can be argued the English policymakers were more interested in transferring broader educational values and practices associated with Hong Kong, rather than its policies per se.
The decision to transfer such values and practices linked to what were perceived to be the rigorous academic standards associated with the Hong
Kong system involves elements of the theoretical; realistic/practical; ‘quick fix’; and ‘phoney’ solutions theorised by Phillips and Ochs (2003), as we illustrate in Table 1.
At the implementation level, the reforms in England have been marked by an extraordinary degree of conflict with key stakeholders, especially the teaching profession, academia and local education authorities. This is reflected in statements in the media that ‘we are marching into the sound of gunfire’ (Gove, in Daily Mail, 22 February, 2012), against head teachers
‘peddling the wrong sort of approaches to teaching’ and the condemnation of academics – caricatured as ‘the Blob’ – who criticised plans for the
Table 1. Factors underpinning education reform in England: levels of decisionmaking using the Phillips and Ochs model.
Levels

Content

Theoretical

Statements that every child can succeed through hard work and being well taught, regardless of socio-economic background, as key to creating a fairer, more competitive society.
Draft National Curriculum guidelines that multiplication tables should be mastered by Year 4 and that students should be able to add, subtract, divide and multiply fractions before secondary school. Boosting STEM and other traditional subjects that countries in the
East excel in by launching the English Baccalaureate as a measure of academic success in the GCSE, without a detailed analysis of the implications for diverse learning needs/other subjects or of new trends in examinations in East Asia systems.
References to countries in East Asia to justify reforms, for example
‘I’d like us to implement a cultural revolution just like the one they’ve had in China … like Chairman Mao, we’ve embarked on a
Long March to reform our education system’ (Gove 2010b), demonstrating a lack of historical understanding, including knowledge that the Long March was a strategic retreat.

Realistic/ practical Quick fix

Phoney

Source: Adapted from Phillips and Ochs (2003); Gove (2010b, 2012); DfE (2012).

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National Curriculum as ‘guilty men and women who have deprived a generation of the knowledge they need’ (Gove 2013a).
Several expert panel members for the revised primary National Curriculum threatened to withdraw from the exercise, with one describing the draft
Programme of Study guides for maths, English and science as ‘fatally flawed’ because they overlooked the different learning needs of individual children (Pollard 2012). The ‘crude’ approach to using international evidence was also criticised (Pollard 2012).
Significantly, among the panel members involved in these concerns was
Professor Mary James who, as a member of Hong Kong’s Curriculum
Development Council, has been an important influence from England on its curriculum and assessment reform.
Even Michael Barber, whose reports with McKinsey lauded the successes of education systems in East Asia, warned in a Guardian article that it would be a mistake for the English government, in reforming its examination system, to rely too heavily on systems in East Asia that have excelled in the basics such as mathematics (Barber 2012). For systems like Hong
Kong and Singapore ‘see that mastery of the basics, while essential, is not enough’, and while England is looking East, these systems are looking
West, and are reforming their systems to extend their capacity for creativity and innovation (Barber 2012).
It is too early to assess the impact of England’s current reforms in terms of their internalisation and indigenisation. Children reciting multiplication tables in the primary years may return as routine classroom practice according to wishes that Michael Gove expressed in the Daily Mail (December
17, 2011). The DfE has quoted evidence that the introduction of the English
Baccalaureate as a measure of performance in GCSE examinations has resulted in more students pursuing traditional academic subjects (DfE
2012). However, home-grown practices, for example those that stress flexibility in approaches, problem solving and practical, hands-on experiences, as detailed in the 2011 Ofsted report Good Practice in Primary Mathematics: Evidence from 20 Successful Schools (Ofsted 2011), may be more influential in light of lessons from comparative education, given that they have evolved in the English context.
Finally, we can expect further review and change, with or without a change of political power before or after the Conservative-led coalition’s term ends in 2015, due to political pressures and feedback from schools.
Indeed, in the first half of 2013 the Government retreated on plans to replace the GCSE qualification. In the revised National Curriculum presented to Parliament in July 2013, Mr Gove backtracked on some proposals, for example by modifying the much-criticised British-centric content of the
History curriculum to include more world history (Gove 2013b). However, children would still be expected to embark on fractions in Year One, and

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K. Forestier and M. Crossley

algebra by the age of 10 (Gove 2013b) – expectations gleaned from ministers’ journeys to the East, in particular to Hong Kong.
In the case of England’s borrowing from Hong Kong, the primary focus of interest is at curriculum and pedagogical levels. The Phillips and Ochs
(2003) model can be supplemented with the depiction of two-way borrowing (Figure 1). This draws on the Adamson and Morris (2007) classification of curriculum ideologies and their components and in doing so it indicates, ironically, a pendulum effect – that England seeks to borrow the more traditional features of Hong Kong ideology and practices, whilst Hong Kong’s reforms have sought to adopt key features of so-called progressive Western education so criticised by the coalition government.
In what can be labelled as the transfer of ideologies in education, we can see that England’s interest in Hong Kong centres more on ideology,

Figure 1. Two-way borrowing: the England–Hong Kong case-study.
Notes: *And other countries where ‘progressive’ practices prevail, in particular
Australia; **and other systems influenced by Confucian heritage traditions, including Shanghai and Singapore.
Sources: Adamson and Morris 2007; Education Commission 2000; DfE 2012; Li
2009; transcription from British Council policy dialogue ‘International Studies on
Student Performance: What They Really Mean and What We Can Really Learn from Each Other’, February 2012.

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learning culture, pedagogies and practices, rather than Hong Kong’s current policies. Hong Kong as a reference may, in fact, be little more than a component in a ‘pick-’n’-mix’ solution adopted to justify the UK government’s neo-liberal ideology and policies. These appear to favour traditional standards, borrowed as much from the past and from preferred independent and grammar schools in England as from overseas experiences. Moreover, policymakers may have selectively ignored features in the reference systems that contradict the new policies as well as ignored limitations in the validity of evidence derived from PISA used to inform their comparisons (Morris
2012; Wright 2012; Auld and Morris 2014).
Phillips and Ochs’ (2003) model can help to explain what is happening and why, but not whether East Asian practices can improve school effectiveness in England. For that, we need to return to the type of multi-level analysis advocated by Alexander (2001) and to a deeper understanding of the Hong Kong context.
Understanding Hong Kong’s Confucian heritage context
Amongst Hong Kong researchers, practitioners and policymakers there is, arguably, a growing understanding of the importance of local context, culture and identity in shaping how education is delivered and the reasons behind the system’s success in international tests that long pre-dates the current reforms (Leung 2012). Parental expectations, beliefs and pressures within the Confucian heritage culture and the physiological link between learning Chinese characters and mathematics are cited as examples of contextual factors that cannot be ignored, nor be readily transferred (Leung
2012). Indeed, as reforms are internalised in Hong Kong, the cultural contexts – their strengths and limitations – appear to be well understood by policymakers, as seen in the review of their reforms (CDC et al. 2013). This is supported by the increasing body of research focused on understanding
Confucian heritage cultural contexts in East Asia, the nature of the Chinese learner and teacher and how changes in education – particularly at classroom level – can be implemented within these contexts (Watkins and
Biggs 1996; Chan and Rao 2009; Yang 2011).
What is most interesting is how this literature echoes Alexander (2001) in seeking to move beyond simplistic dichotomies. From this, we can understand how Chinese learners and teachers ‘intertwine’ so-called traditional and progressive approaches, such as memorisation and understanding; the collaborative and competitive; and didactic and constructivist (Chan and
Rao 2009). The intertwining has been linked to the ‘doctrine of the mean’ in Chinese culture, which facilitates a readiness to reach accommodation and compromise. Hayhoe (2005) has also noted the ability of Confucianheritage cultures to absorb elements of other cultures and integrate diverse

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thought while being sensitive to contextual differences, citing the work of
China’s most prominent scholar of comparative education, Gu (2001).
This could be a key feature that assists borrowing in the Confucian heritage cultural context, accepting and even promoting the inevitability of adaptation and indigenisation and ensuring these cultures are far from uniform and static.
What is missing to further inform the analysis of two-way borrowing between East and West is an extensive body of scholarship and education theory related to pedagogies from non-Western sources, including from
Confucian-heritage cultures, that could be of value to other systems (Yang
2011; Cheung 2012). As Leung and others noted in the 2012 policy roundtable, educational studies and teacher education in Hong Kong have traditionally focused on theories and practices originating in the West. This is an example of the ‘mental colonialism’ identified by Nguyen et al. (2009), who argue that post-colonial cultures need to construct world views based on their own cultures and values.
The endorsement of success in international studies of student achievement has had the positive effect of enabling systems like Hong Kong to recognise their strengths and want to better understand them, however much they seek further improvement, as seen in the current Hong Kong reforms.
Global interest in their successes and their new place in the flow of international discourse should also be welcomed. However, rather than relying only on international tests, more research is needed to identify the specific strengths and limitations of Confucian-heritage pedagogy and its associated cultural values, as well as those of contemporary approaches to education reform in East Asia.
For example, in a presentation held to report on the early outcomes of
Hong Kong’s new academic structure and senior secondary curriculum,
James (2013) identified what she thought other systems, including England, could learn from contemporary Hong Kong education policy-making. This included policy processes that are ‘driven by educational values and evidence, not politics’, a ‘refusal to dichotomise choices’ but strive for balance, and a commitment to ‘genuine and sustained consultation’. This contrasts with what James describes as ideologically driven reforms in England and indicates divergent approaches to learning from comparative education being demonstrated by England and Hong Kong.
Conclusion
We have argued in this article how interest in East Asian policies, educational values and practices has increased in light of the strong performance of students in the region in international assessments and as neo-liberal governments in the West search for solutions in education to bolster their competitiveness. We have suggested that these solutions hark back to more

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traditional values and practices in East Asia that may also resonate with their advocates’ own political beliefs and nostalgia for a more didactic approach to schooling, rather than interest in the most recent East Asian reform policies that draw on ‘progressive’ traditions from the West.
The Hong Kong case also demonstrates the benefits to be gained from sustained collaboration between policymakers, practitioners and researchers, including some international input, which may be an approach to educational reform that England could have much to learn from.
In light of this, borrowing both ways between the East and West deserves further critical attention from researchers concerned with the study of educational policy transfer. Such work could lead to greater understanding of the nuances involved in the achievements of systems such as Hong
Kong and help to better identify the policies and practices that may or may not be relevant for the West.
Acknowledgements
Our thanks go to Bob Adamson (Hong Kong Institute of Education), Terra Sprague
(University of Bristol) and Euan Auld (Institute of Education, University of
London), for helpful feedback in the finalisation of the article. Views expressed are those of the authors.

Funding
This article has benefited from the research project ‘Hong Kong as a Source for
Education Policy in England: Rhetoric and Reality’, funded by The UK
Economic and Social Research Council/Hong Kong Research Grants Council
Joint Research Scheme (Project ES/K010433/1).

Notes
1. The Devolved Administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own education policies and systems that diverge from that of England.
2. The Education and Manpower Bureau was renamed the Education Bureau on 1
July, 2007.

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...by Deanna Chapman Champaign, Illinois December 10, 2001 December 10, 2012 Mr. Mark Hoover Manager Campustown Redwood and Ross 519 East Green Street Champaign, IL 61820 Dear Mark: Here is the report you asked for September 25 about ways Redwood and Ross could increase its sales to University of Illinois undergraduate men. To increase sales, you should • Train all salesclerks to be more helpful, friendly, and courteous to the customers. • Target sales to fraternity members and freshmen. • Run ads in The Daily Illini on Fridays stressing the style and quality of Redwood and Ross's products and stating the store hours and campus location. • Advertise special sales so that price-conscious students will go into the store and become familiar with the products and store qualities. If Redwood and Ross continues its present promotional activities and fits the new advertising strategy into the program, awareness will increase, which will lead to greater sales in the long run. I enjoyed having the chance to apply marketing theory to a real problem. If you have any questions about the material in this report, please call me. Sincerely, [pic] Deanna Chapman i Table of Contents Letter of Transmittal i Executive Summary iii Introduction 1 Purpose 1 Scope 1 Methodology 2 Limitations 3 Assumptions 4 Redwood and Ross's Campustown......

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