The setting: the rise of neoliberalism in Chinese educational reforms
I was waiting for a taxi in front of the school gate of the Sunny High International Division around 8 a.m. when a lady in her forties approached me and asked in a hurry, “Excuse me, Teacher, do you know where the site is for the recruitment of Sunny High International High-School Curriculum Program? I am trying to sign my child up for the program.” “This is the Sunny High International Division,” I explained to her, “The on-site recruitment, consultation, and registration is held in the main campus of Sunny High, rather than here. I am going there now...” The lady thanked me for this information and generously gave me a free ride. Sitting in their Toyota car, she and her husband started to chat with me. They told me that they are Moon City residents. Their daughter just graduated from middle school and received the test score of zhongkao. Unfortunately, her zhongkao score was not high enough to allow her to win admission to key public high schools. She was very upset and locked herself at home. They had to save their daughter and tried to find a good alternative choice for their only child. They heard of this international program from friends and thought that it might be a good choice for their daughter...
Thirty-five minutes later, we arrived in the Sunny High main campus. Two striking red banners were hung along the corridor, introducing the school’s two unique high-school programs—“Liberal Arts Experimental Classes (shiyan ban, —A Cradle for High Quality and
Interdisciplinary Talents;” “IAP High School Curriculum Program—A Foundation for Students Seeking to Study Abroad.” Over 20 parents and students were in the school gym. Some of them looked at the IAP program information shown on display boards—“Diverse Curriculum Content, Meet Multiple Needs;” “Participate in International Exchange, Expand Student’ Horizons;” “Integrated Practice Activity Curriculum;” and “Sunny High IAP Class 2013 College Admission Report.” Some talked to teachers on the consultation area ...
(Field note, July 6, 2013)
In this chapter, I will describe the physical and social settings of the Sunny High IAP program. The description will offer readers an in-depth understanding of how this emerging “public” international high-school curriculum program as an educational space is historically and socially produced. To help understand such high tuition-charging international curriculum programs created by key public high schools, we need to look carefully at contesting social forces under China’s specific historical conditions. This chapter contributes to an understanding of why international high-school curriculum programs have emerged at a particular time in China.
Sunny High School is a top-tier key public school in what I call Moon City, a cosmopolitan city in China. The school is reputed for its success in sending students to Chinese prestigious universities. The school website shows that in 2012, 90% of its high-school graduates were matriculated into first-tier Chinese prestigious universities and 10% admitted to overseas prestigious universities. The school is particularly proud that 50 students (about one-quarter of graduates) gained admission to Peking University and Tsinghua University—the two most prestigious universities in China. Sunny High consists of three divisions— a senior high-school division on the main campus, a junior high-school division with an independent campus, and an international division also with an independent campus.1 This unique structure reflects a popular model of “schools-within-a-school” (named xiao zhongxiao, in China.2