University Of Tasmania
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Early childhood teacher preparation : a comparative study between two courses in Australia and China

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posted on 2023-05-28, 12:19 authored by Zhang, Y
This is a cross-national comparative case study, conducted in Australia and China, exploring the current Early Childhood (EC) Initial Teacher Education (ITE) course in the different contexts. The importance of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) provided by qualified EC educators who provide a strong foundation for children's physical and cognitive development and produce a positive influence on their future lives has been acknowledged in many countries. EC teacher preparation plays a significant role in educating and training these skilled educators to work closely with young children. Both Australian and Chinese policy-makers have recognised these concerns and seen them in the wider context of social and human capital issues. That is, that the provision of care and education at an early stage of a child's development has important consequences for the nation in the future as well as the well-being of the individual. It is possible to see how these concerns are reflected in early years educational policy and practice. The present study sought to better understand the policies and processes for preparing EC teachers in the two countries through comparing and contrasting two ITE bachelor's degree courses. This research addressed the broad question: Are graduating EC students in Australia and China perceived as suitably prepared for teaching in a diverse range of ECEC contexts by the time they finish their course? To address this broad question, four sub-research questions were proposed to deepen understanding of the similarities and differences between two EC ITE courses in two universities (Case Study 1 and Case Study 2). This research undertook a document analysis of relevant policy documents and course information. It adopted a mixed methods (quantitative and qualitative) research approach and utilised a cross-national comparative case study method (Yin, 2014). The use of a triangulation technique (Denzin, 2009) for data collection involved a largely quantitative questionnaire and qualitative instruments consisting of document analysis, free-text responses in the questionnaire, and semi-structured in-depth interviews with participants representing key stakeholder groups. The combination of an opportunity sampling and purposeful sampling strategy recruited participants from four groups of stakeholders, including: 4th-year students, graduates, academics, and employers from four sites (two universities and different ECEC places from Tasmania, Australia and Yunnan, China). The data sources were analysed using a thematic analysis and content analysis (Denscombe, 2010), and comparisons made between stakeholder groups both within a case study and between the two case studies. The unique data in this research captured participants' perceptions of the EC ITE courses in Australia and China. This attempted to fill a significant gap in the literature as there is little known in this field from a comparative aspect. The study provides an understanding and knowledge of key policies regarding the regulation of EC ITE courses in Australia and China, and procedures and regulations for their quality assurance. The study also provides suggestions for course improvement based on an understanding of the different stakeholder groups' perceptions of the two courses. The findings of this research revealed some commonalities and many differences between the two courses, including education and course philosophy, course structure and content, teaching modes, the nature and assessment of professional experience, and general stakeholder satisfaction with the preparatory courses. Of particular note were firstly, there was a discernible, but slow, convergence in the purpose and nature of EC ITE education where the more recent Chinese policy documents appeared to reflect many of the Western strategies, although the case site institutions reflected differences in their historical-political-cultural systems. Secondly, the role of a national, centralised approach to student selection and recruitment, course content and teaching modes in China was sharply different from Australia's multiple entry pathways and input from national and jurisdictional bodies. Finally, there were important commonalities across all stakeholders on the central question of the quality of professional preparation of their respective bachelor's degree EC course; e.g., both countries' stakeholder representatives agreed that the courses met the present professional standards. There were significant differences in the perceptions between the Australian and Chinese stakeholders regarding the course content, the linking of materials to the actual classroom and the nature and supervision of the professional experience. This research will be of interest to national and international ECEC and EC ITE policymakers, university administrators, ECEC employers, and teacher educators who are concerned with solving practical challenges arising from this important professional preparation.


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