Music education curriculum and social change: A study of popular music in secondary schools in Beijing, China

Wai Chung HO*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


In Chinese society over the last two decades, modernisation and globalisation, together with the transition to a market economy, have created new imperatives and challenges for the school music curriculum. As a result, the 2011 reform of the Curriculum Standards for Primary Education and Junior Secondary Education marks the first time that the school music curriculum officially included popular songs. In response to this change, this empirical study explores Chinese adolescents' (mainly 12-17 years of age) popular music preferences in their daily lives and to what extent and in what ways they prefer learning about popular music in Beijing's schools. Data were drawn from survey questionnaires completed by 2971 secondary students and from interviews with 14 school leaders and teachers from 12 secondary schools in 2012. The survey findings of this research reveal the extent of Chinese students' preferences for a variety of popular music styles in their daily lives and in school and the consequent need for the teaching profession to improve students' learning in this area. This paper argues that teaching and learning about popular music rely on the interplay between music found inside and outside the school environment and between formal and informal school music activities, together with interactions between schools and students that might be enabled by developments in the school music curriculum. However, when a new wave of campaigns to assimilate popular music into school education is launched, what will remain to be seen is the degree of the Chinese government's zeal as it strives to transform popular music into a tool for its own purposes, whether it be political ideology, an integration of socialist educational ideals or a mediation of liberal education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-289
Number of pages23
JournalMusic Education Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2014

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Education
  • Music

User-Defined Keywords

  • Beijing
  • curriculum change
  • music education
  • popular music
  • social change


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