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Abstract

This study explores how market economy affects parent-teacher relationships in China. Guided by Bourdieu’s (1986) capital theory, we interviewed twenty-one teachers and twenty parents in China. The study reveals that the market economy has impacted changes in parent-teacher relationships in several aspects. First, modern technology such as the Internet and WeChat has facilitated communication between parents and teachers with fast pace and convenience. Moreover, the study makes an original contribution to the field by challenging stereotyping assumptions towards Chinese parents who are either completely not involved or partially involved in their child’s education at home. The study shows that contemporary Chinese parents are actively involved in their children’s education both at home and at school. Furthermore, the market economy has shaken the high social status that teachers enjoyed in the past. As a result, parents prefer to adopt pragmatic approaches to parent-teacher relationships. Finally, the urban, middle-class parents whose social capital, alongside cultural, symbolic and economic capital enable them to mobilize their social networks in interacting with the school. They appear to be more likely than previous generations of Chinese parents to challenge teachers’ authority, and there have been more serious conflicts between parents and teachers. The study focuses on China, but these rare insights highlight current and emerging dangers to parent-teacher engagement with relevance to many other countries.

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