A New Flow? From Formal to Play-based English Language Learning in the Early Years in China

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


This PED talk will discuss issues affecting provision for very young language learners (aged 3 to 6) following significant recent policy changes in China.
I worked in Private English Centers for Children (PECCs) for 3 years before re-embarking on my academic journey to research this field. In 2019, PECCs were one of the fastest rising industries in China. In 2022, the industry faces full-scale disappearance. This talk presents dilemmas for families and challenges for professionals and academics working in this area, as a result of the policy shift.
First, I will discuss international trends for starting second language learning at an increasingly early age and reasons why parents invested in PECCs, fuelling the growth of this industry.
Second, I will explain the government’s policy-change, and the questions raised. While the government has expressed concerns about young children engaging in long hours of academic study, and over-exposure to screens as a significant element in this provision, parents still perceive a need for an early start to English language, partly as a result of earlier promotion of this provision, and partly because of a long-standing cultural view that young children should be pushed to ensure they get ahead.
Third, I will review ways in which PECCs are reframing their approach from more formal language learning to play-based content learning, where English can be acquired incidentally while taking part in playful activities.
My research project explores the views of different stakeholders, incorporating playful methods, drawing on the Mosaic approach, to engage the children
Period25 Aug 2022
Event title30th EECERA Conference: Cultures of Play: Actors, Affordances and Arenas
Event typeConference
LocationGlasgow, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Early Years
  • EFL
  • Language learning