Unpacking the path-dependent process of academic burden reduction policy in China (1978–2021)

Christopher Hong-Yi TAO, Tauchid Komara YUDA*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


This article provides an overview of the evolution map of China’s academic burden reduction strategy by conducting a new institutional analysis. Our analysis includes various adoptions of features and configurations introduced during the 1978–2021 period, which are inherently embedded in the wide context of political economy. By using archival documents and conducting an in-depth content analysis of 68 policy documents (see Appendix), this study argues that the evolution of China’s student burden policy trajectory may have undergone a path-dependent process, which anchors ‘sunk cost’ consideration. In this respect, sunk cost consideration is found affecting policymakers to subordinate the giant off-campus tutoring business, thereby inclined to produce piecemeal development and maximum policy outcomes. This article is distinguished by its analysis which emphasises that policies are not only effects or outcomes but also causes of other potential policy alternatives being introduced, reinforcing the main goals of policies. Overall, this analysis adds value to the limited research currently available on historical institutionalism in social policy evolution in China and to Global South in general.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEducational Research for Policy and Practice
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Jun 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2024.


  • Academic burden reduction
  • China
  • New institutionalism
  • Path dependence


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