Human rights issues in the English language curriculum in China




As China increasingly engages in global human rights mechanisms, it has demonstrated a commitment to reforming its national curriculum. Through examining textbooks published during Xi Jinping’s tenure, this study investigates how China embeds human rights issues in the English language curriculum. The findings indicate that the human rights issues addressed in the English textbooks have surpassed China’s official revisionist narrative. This can be attributed more to the inherent features of the discipline of English than to a deliberate state strategy. Human rights issues are sorted into three categories: strictly taboo, decontextualised, and actively promoted. The meticulously constructed narratives highlight China’s leadership in addressing global issues while avoiding critical examination of its domestic human rights situation. As a result, genuine social issues in human rights education (HRE) are overshadowed by propaganda. This study concludes that China’s commitment to HRE largely remains an empty promise.



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Author Biographies

Peng Zhang, University College London, UK

Peng Zhang is a doctoral researcher in the History of Education with an interdisciplinary background in pedagogy, sociology, and history. He focuses on education policy and textbook studies, and is deeply interested in the relationship between education and political socialisation in the East Asian context. Additionally, he is concerned with issues of gender equality, human rights, sustainable development, and global citizenship in educational discourses.

Enze Guo, University College London, UK

Enze Guo is a doctoral researcher and teaching assistant at University College London (UCL). After receiving his master’s degree in educational assessment from UCL in 2019, he started his PhD in global citizenship education at Development Education Research Centre, Institute of Education, UCL. His work revolves around assessment of citizenship education, English language education, global citizenship education as well as human rights education. 



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How to Cite

Zhang, P., & Guo, E. (2024). Human rights issues in the English language curriculum in China. Human Rights Education Review, 7(1), 103–123.

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