Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Education

Document Type



In the 20th century, economic growth in Taiwan has brought social prosperity and fundamentally altered Taiwanese social structure. While successive generations of young people have climbed the social ladder and experienced upward mobility, being successful is still narrowly defined through academic achievement. This study argues that, despite constant education reform, a solution to class inequality in education has yet to be found. The mandate of the 12-Year Basic Education Curriculum in 2019 was an answer to local, global, and international transformations. While citizens celebrate the neoliberal concepts of autonomy and deregulation embedded in the 12-Year Basic Education Curriculum, coercion is approaching. The deeply rooted belief of credentialism and the 12-Year Basic Education Curriculum is an apparatus of class reassurance that continues to bring worries and stress to parents and students from different social classes. Utilizing Bourdieu’s concepts of social and cultural reproduction with neoliberalism as a theoretical framework, a case study was performed at a private secondary school in central Taiwan to gain insights into Taiwanese middle-class cultural reproduction along with the responses of teachers and school stakeholders to education marketization.

Data collection methods included interviews with 20 informants, observations, and school-generated as well as state-generated documentations. Applying Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Thematic Analysis (TA), the findings indicated that regardless of education reforms, these middle-class families appropriated their economic, cultural, and social capital to maintain their status through elite schooling. The middle-class parents adopted aggressive educational strategies and made clear blueprints for their offspring at a young age. From the school side, the neoliberal education reform allows this private secondary school to add more characteristics to acquire the title as a “good” school and distinguish itself in the fiercely competitive education market. This study concluded by examining the impact of the 12-Year Basic Education Curriculum on meritocracy and marketization of education in Taiwan. It is a consideration of, as well as an addition to, scholarship on social and cultural reproduction through education, and a continuation of the conversation on inequality and social exclusion through neoliberal education reforms.

Committee Chair

Skinner, Kim