A cross-national comparative study of 'learning through play' in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore kindergartens

  • Luting Zhou

Student thesis: Phd


This study is a comparative case study across Mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore in four settings using the three social theories of learning (Bakhtin, Foucault, Bourdieu) as the main analytical framework. This study addressed four research questions: 1. How are educational policies on 'learning through play' similar and different in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore? 2. How do teachers working in four early educational settings enact educational policies on 'learning through play'? 3. How do teachers explain the meaning of 'learning through play'? 4. How do teachers account for their role in teaching 'learning through play'? Research methods included interviews, observations and analysis of national and regional and site-specific policy documents in the context of the four early childhood education settings. A case study approach was used, together with an interpretive paradigm informing the analysis, drawing on Foucauldian, Bakhtinian and Bourdieusian ideas. Analysis generated from this study indicated that practitioners' understandings and implementations of 'learning through play' in each unique sociocultural-historical context are complex and multifaceted. Discussion of this is taken up in terms of wider challenges to binary thinking about West versus East as discussed by Chen (2010) in Asia as method in relation to pedagogical ideas and practices, and how this has the potential to advance alternative and multiple forms of pedagogical models and concepts in other early childhood education settings.
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorSusie Miles (Supervisor) & Erica Burman (Supervisor)


  • learning through play, childhood education, Asia as method

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