Aims for Learning 21st Century Competencies in National Primary Science Curricula in China and Finland
Yan Wang 1  
Jari Lavonen 1, 2,  
More details
Hide details
Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, FINLAND
Department of Childhood Education, University of Johannesburg, Soweto, SOUTH AFRICA
Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, FINLAND
Online publish date: 2018-03-08
Publish date: 2018-03-08
EURASIA J. Math., Sci Tech. Ed 2018;14(6):2081–2095
Incorporation of aims for learning 21st century competencies in subject-specific curricula and education has been an important issue worldwide. This study explored the integration of aims for learning such competencies into the National Primary Science Curricula in China and Finland. Both Curricula showed an emphasis on aims related to science education, such as inquiry and information literacy. Yet the density of appearance of competencies for the 21st century in the Chinese Curriculum is lower than in the Finnish Curriculum. Additionally, the Chinese Curriculum illustrates the shortage of aims in the Living in the World category. The significant differences between the Curricula have to do with the educational theories underpinning each national curriculum. The Chinese Curriculum has a tendency to align with the Anglo-American curriculum tradition, whereas the Finnish Curriculum is more closely aligned with the German Bildung-Didaktik tradition. A national curriculum in different subject areas could be designed whose central purpose would be cultivating holistic individuals and targeting goals for disciplinary knowledge and skills. Merits of the different educational traditions need to be examined and considered in the curriculum design process.
1. Abd-El-Khalick, F., BouJaoude, S., Duschl, R., Lederman, N. G., Mamlok-Naaman, R., Hofstein, A., . . . Tuan, H. (2004). Inquiry in science education: International perspectives. Science Education, 88(3), 397-419.
2. Aktamis, H., & Ergin, O. (2008). The effect of scientific process skills education on students’ scientific creativity, science attitudes and academic achievements. Paper presented at the Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, 9(1), 4.
3. Ananiadou, K., & Claro, M. (2009). 21st century skills and competences for new millennium learners in OECD countries. OECD Education working papers.
4. Anderson, R. D. (2007). Inquiry as an Organizing Theme for Science Curricula. In S. K. Abell & N.G. Lederman (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Science Education (pp. 807-830). London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
5. Apple, M. W. (1993). The politics of official knowledge: Does a national curriculum make sense? Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 14(1), 1-16.
6. Autio, O., Kaivola, T., & Lavonen, J. (2007). Context-based approach in teaching science and technology. In E. Pehkonen, M. Ahtee, & J. Lavonen, (Eds.), How Finns learn mathematics and science (pp. 199-210). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
7. Autio, T. (2014). The Internationalization of Curriculum Research. In W. Pinar (Ed.), International handbook of curriculum research (pp. 17-31). New York, NY: Routledge.
8. Benade, L. (2014). Knowledge and educational research in the context of ‘Twenty-first century learning’. European Educational Research Journal, 13(3), 338-349.
9. Binkley, M., Erstad, O., Herman, J., Raizen, S., Ripley, M., Miller-Ricci, M., & Rumble, M. (2012). Defining Twenty-First Century Skills. In P. Griffin, B. McGaw, & E. Care (Eds.), Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (pp. 17-66). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.
10. Boh Podgornik, B., Dolničar, D., & Glažar, S. A. (2017). Does the Information Literacy of University Students Depend on their Scientific Literacy? Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, 13(7), 3869-3891.
11. Burden, J., & Hall, A. (2005). Biology in the twenty first century: A new curriculum for school science. Journal of Biological Education, 40(1), 6-10.
12. Cropley, A. J. (2011). Definitions of creativity. In M. A. Runco, & S. R. Pritzker (Eds.), Encyclopedia of creativity (second edition) (pp. 358-368). San Diego: Academic Press.
13. Cuban, L. (1992). Curriculum Stability and Change. In P. W. Jackson (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Curriculum (pp. 216-247). NY: Macmillan.
14. Deng, Z. (2015). Content, Joseph Schwab and German Didaktik. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 47(6), 773-786.
15. Ding, B. P., & Wang, F. (2017). Didactics meets curriculum studies in the context of teacher education in mainland China: a historical and comparative perspective .In Lee J. C., Kennedy K. J. (Eds.), Theorizing teaching and learning in Asia and Europe: A conversation between Chinese curriculum and European didactics. Georgetown: Taylor and Francis.
16. Ding, B.P. (2015). Science Education in Mainland China. In R. Gunstone (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Science Education (pp. 882-889). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.
17. Eisenberg, M., Lowe, C. A., & Spitzer, K. L. (2004). Information literacy: Essential skills for the information age (2nd ed.). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
18. European Union, Education and Culture DG. (2008). Key Competences for lifelong learning: European reference framework. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. Retrieved from
19. Eylon, B.-S., & Linn, M. C. (1988). Learning and Instruction: An Examination of Four Research Perspectives in Science Education. Review of Educational Research, 58(3), 251-301.
20. Ferreira, S., & Morais, A. M. (2013). The nature of science in science curricula: Methods and concepts of analysis. International Journal of Science Education, 35(16), 2670-2691.
21. Finnish National Board of Education (2016). National core curriculum for basic education 2014. Helsinki: National Board of Education.
22. Fisher, R. (1991). Teaching children to think (Reprinted.). Hempstead: Simon and Schuster Education.
23. Goedegebuure, L., & Van Vught, F. (1996). Comparative higher education studies: The perspective from the policy sciences. Higher Education, 32(4), 371-394.
24. Hopmann, S. (2007). Restrained Teaching: The Common Core of Didaktik. European Educational Research Journal, 6(2), 109-124.
25. Hoskins, B., & Fredriksson, U. (2008). Learning to learn: What is it and can it be measured? Retrieved from
26. John-Steiner, V. (2011). Collaboration. In M. A. Runco, & S. R. Pritzker (Eds.), Encyclopedia of creativity (second edition) (pp. 222-225). San Diego: Academic Press.
27. Kind, P. M., & Kind, V. (2007). Creativity in science education: Perspectives and challenges for developing school science. Studies in Science Education, 43, 1-37. Retrieved from
28. Lampiselkä, J., Ahtee, M., Pehkonen, E., Meri M. & Eloranta, V. (2007). Mathematics and science in Finnish comprehensive school. In E. Pehkonen, M. Ahtee, & J. Lavonen, (Eds.), How Finns learn mathematics and science (pp. 35-47). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
29. Lavonen, J., & Laaksonen, S. (2009). Context of teaching and learning school science in Finland: Reflections on PISA 2006 results. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46(8), 922-944.
30. Mason, M. (2007). Critical thinking and learning. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 39(4), 339-349.
31. Mayring, P. (2015). Qualitative Content Analysis: Theoretical Background and Procedures. In A. Bikner-Ahsbahs, C. Knipping, & N. C. Presmeg (Ed.), Approaches to Qualitative Research in Mathematics Education (pp. 365-380). Springer Netherlands.
32. Merriam-Webster online Dictionary. Retrieved from
33. Millar, R. (2006). Twenty first century science: Insights from the design and implementation of a scientific literacy approach in school science. International Journal of Science Education, 28(13), 1499-1521.
34. Musil, C. (2009). Educating students for personal and social responsibility. In Jacoby, B. & Associates. Civic engagement in higher education: Concepts and practices (pp. 49-68). San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.
35. National Research Council (2012). Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
36. OECD. (2013). PISA draft science framework.
37. OECD. (2014). PISA 2012 results: What students know and can do (volume I, revised edition, February 2014) Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
38. OECD. (2016). PISA 2015 results (volume I) Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
39. Oliva, P. (1997). The curriculum: Theoretical dimensions. In: New York: Longman.
40. Ornstein, A. C., & Hunkins, F. P. (2013). Curriculum: Foundations, principles, and issues. Boston: Pearson.
41. Pantić, N., & Wubbels, T. (2012). Competence-based teacher education: A change from didaktik to curriculum culture? Journal of Curriculum Studies, 44(1), 61-87.
42. Pinar, W. (2014). Introduction. In W. Pinar (Ed.), International handbook of curriculum research (pp. 1-16). New York, NY: Routledge.
43. Preacher, K. J. (2001). Calculation for the chi-square test: An interactive calculation tool for chi-square tests of goodness of fit and independence [Computer software]. Retrieved from
44. Reimers F. M. & Chung C. K. (2016). A comparative study of the purposes of education in the twenty-first century. In Reimers F. M. & Chung C. K. (Eds.), Teaching and learning for the twenty-first century: educational goals, policies, and curricula from six nations (pp. 1-24). Cambridge: Harvard Education Press.
45. Saari, A., Salmela, S., & Vilkkilä, J. (2014). Governing Autonomy. In W. Pinar (Ed.), International handbook of curriculum research (pp. 183-200). New York, NY: Routledge.
46. Sahlberg, P. (2015). Finnish lessons 2.0: what can the world learn from educational change in Finland? (2nd ed.). New York: Teachers College Press.
47. Schwarz, B. (2015). A Study on Professional Competence of Future Teacher Students as an Example of a Study Using Qualitative Content Analysis. In A. Bikner-Ahsbahs, C. Knipping, & N. C. Presmeg (Ed.), Approaches to Qualitative Research in Mathematics Education (pp. 381-399). Springer Netherlands.
48. Tirri, K. (2016). Holistic perspectives on gifted education for the 21st century. In Ambrose, Don & Sternberg, J. Robert. (Ed.), Giftedness and Talent in the 21st Century (pp. 101-110): Rotterdam, the Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
49. Trilling, B., & Fadel, C. (2009). 21st century skills: Learning for life in our times. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.
50. Tröhler, D. (2014). International Curriculum Research. In W. Pinar (Ed.), International handbook of curriculum research (pp. 60-66). New York, NY: Routledge.
51. Vahtivuori-Hänninen, S. H., Halinen, I., Niemi, H., Lavonen, J. M. J., Lipponen, L., & Multisilta, J. (2014). A new Finnish national core curriculum for basic education (2014) and technology as an integrated tool for learning (pp. 33-44). In Niemi, H., Multisilta, J., Lipponen, L. & Vivitsou, M. (Eds.), Finnish Innovations & Technologies in Schools: a Guide towards New Ecosystems of Learning. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.
52. van den Akker, J. (2003). The Science Curriculum: Between Ideals and Outcomes. In B.J. Fraser & K.G. Tobin (Eds.), International Handbook of Science Education (Vol. 1, pp. 421–449). Dordrecht; Boston; London: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
53. Viera, A. J., & Garrett, J. M. (2005). Understanding inter observer agreement: the kappa statistic. Fam Med, 37(5), 360-363.
54. Villalba, E. (2011). Critical thinking. In M. A. Runco, & S. R. Pritzker (Eds.), Encyclopedia of creativity (second edition) (pp. 323-325). San Diego: Academic Press.
55. Voogt, J., & Roblin, N. P. (2012). A comparative analysis of international frameworks for 21st century competences: Implications for national curriculum policies. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 44(3), 299-321.
56. Wang, Y., Lavonen, J., Tirri, K. (in press). 21st century competencies in the Chinese science curriculum. In X.Y. Du, H.Q. Liu, A. A. Jensen & F. Dervin (Eds.). Nordic-Chinese Intersections on Education. Palgrave MacMilan.
57. Ward, T. B. (2011). Problem solving. In M. A. Runco, & S. R. Pritzker (Eds.), Encyclopedia of creativity (second edition) (pp. 254-260). San Diego: Academic Press.
58. Weber, R. (1990). Quantitative Applications in the Social Sciences: Basic content analysis: SAGE Publications Ltd.
59. Westbury, I. (2000). Teaching as a reflective practice: what might Didaktik teach Curriculum? In S. Hopmann, K. Riquarts, & I. Westbury (Eds.), Teaching as a reflective practice: the German Didaktik tradition. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
60. Zhang, H., & Gao, Z. (2014). Curriculum Studies in China. In W. Pinar (Ed.), International handbook of curriculum research (pp. 118-133). New York, NY: Routledge.
61. Zhong, M. & Gao, L. B. (2007). Problems and Analysis on Primary Science Curriculum Reform. Curriculum, teaching material, and method, 6, 77-81.