Engineering Education Policymaking in a Cross-National Context: A Critical Analysis of Engineering Education Accreditation in China
2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings
In creating policies that support educating future engineers to meet both domestic needs and enable global mobility, a major strategy used by Chinese policymakers is "policy borrowing." Yet one major challenge with this approach is that Chinese policymakers have not deeply reflected on the cultural differences between China and the countries from which they are borrowing policy. This paper examines a particular aspect of engineering education in Chinanamely engineering education
... interrogates China's highly pragmatic approach in developing and implementing accreditation policies. This paper argues that historically this pragmatic approach is best understood in relation to influences from both Confucianism and Chinese Marxism. Additionally, we observe that the pragmatic approach shaped the policymaking process in two ways. First, given the lack of a pre-existing accreditation model, the pragmatic approach served as the basis for the decision to adopt ABET's accreditation framework as an actionable "startup template," but without fully challenging ABET's fundamental ideas, concepts, and assumptions. Second, by comparing policy documents, reports, and commentaries released by CEEAA (Chinese Engineering Education Accreditation Association), ABET, and other related agencies in the United States and China, this paper shows that the pragmatic approach was employed by Chinese policymakers as the basis for making a series of "revisions" to the ABET accreditation process to ensure that the resulting policies are aligned with socialist ideology. The rationale for these revisions is also discussed, including how they are justified from a socialist ideological perspective. Drawing on critical theories of education and related methods of studying comparative education policy issues, this paper points out some important limitations or weaknesses in China's pragmatic approach, such as intercollegiate inequalities, tensions between ideological education and professional education, and challenges to autonomous accrediting. The paper closes with some policy recommendations, including a discussion of historical-cultural factors most salient for engineering education policymaking in the Chinese context. The main audience for this paper includes engineering educators and engineering studies scholars interested in topics such as comparative educational research, engineering education policymaking, and current trends in Chinese engineering education.