Scholar Examines Micro-Innovations in China's School System

Prof. Thomas Hatch explores the recent dramatic changes in the Chinese education system.

June 04, 2024

Tell us about your research interest and why you were drawn to it.

My work explores the strengths and weaknesses of different education systems and the conditions and “affordances” for improving those systems.

The Chinese education system, like the whole society, has changed dramatically in the past ten years, and those changes, particularly following the school closures, are not well understood outside China.

I believe that learning about what is and is not changing in education in China (and in other Asian countries like Vietnam and Singapore) can contribute to a better understanding of what it will take to create schools and learning experiences in the future that provide support for students’ academic development and foster a wide range of other competencies and their overall well-being.

What brought you to Beijing and what are you currently working on?

I have a number of former students from China who have taught me a lot about what’s happening in education in China, and I have always wanted to visit them and learn more.

In addition, the connections of the Columbia Global Center Beijing and colleagues in Beijing provided me with opportunities to visit schools and talk with educators and researchers in Beijing, making this trip possible.

Thomas Hatch

Can you talk about how the Scholar-in-Residence program helps you explore new dimensions in your discipline and enhance global engagement?

For me, there is no better way to challenge my assumptions and expand my perspectives than to spend time in a new place with different conditions and cultures.

The Scholar-in-Residence program enabled me to spend almost a month in China, meeting new people, deepening my understanding of issues central to my work, and uncovering new opportunities for collaboration.

Several of the schools I visited are interested in continuing to work with me. I may be part of a project to develop a new global alliance related to innovative educational approaches.

I also particularly appreciate the Beijing Global Center's efforts to connect me with Teachers College and Columbia alumni and organize a panel discussion at the Center, which gave me an opportunity to meet and learn from so many of those alumni.

Small Steps, Big Impact: Micro-Innovations in Education