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An analysis of Chinese chemistry curriculum standards based on OECD Education 2030 Curriculum Content Mapping


The development of students' core competencies for the future society has become a shared goal in curriculum reform worldwide. Efforts are being made to investigate which core competencies should be cultivated and how they relate to the curriculum content. Specifically, designing core competency-oriented intended curriculum and translating it into implemented curriculum are common concerns and challenges encountered by countries during curriculum reform. In order to promote mutual sharing and learning among different countries and regions, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) developed an analytical comparison framework and standards based on The Future of Education and Skills project. This study conducted a comparison between the 2011 edition and 2022 edition of the Compulsory Education Chemistry Curriculum Standards (CECCS) for students in grade 7 to grade 9. It identified 737 coding units for five learning themes and conducted a specific analysis and comparison using the Curriculum Content Mapping (CCM) and Theme Content Mapping (TCM). Heat maps are generated to reflect the correlation between China's grade 7 to grade 9 CECCS and the twenty-eight competencies identified in the OECD project, as well as the main emphasis before and after the revision of the curriculum standards. A mixed research method of qualitative and quantitative analysis was conducted to explore the characteristics of Chinese chemistry curriculum structure. This study provides insights into experiences regarding embodying core competencies, designing competency-oriented intended curriculum, and providing guidance for curriculum implementation in grade 7 to grade 9. It allows both teachers and educators to identify areas for improvement.


The development and changes in society have a significant impact on our personal lives, encompassing factors such as globalization, cultural diversity, artificial intelligence, and technological advancements. These changes create a need for individuals to be adaptable and resilient in the face of constant change. Consequently, education systems are under pressure to better prepare students for the future by empowering them with the necessary competencies to shape their lives and make meaningful contributions to society. As a result, competency is seen as a meaningful goal for science education in general and chemistry education in particular. Competency-oriented education focuses on equipping students with the necessary knowledge and skills to complete future tasks and activities. Efforts have been made to incorporate real-world practices that drive learning (Brassler & Dettmers, 2017), including active interaction, collaboration, communication, and reflection (Kokotsaki et al., 2016). Specifically, competency outlines the knowledge and skills that students should possess upon completing a task. This aligns with the Ministry of Education's vision for inclusive and competency-based school education (MoE, 2022).

Notably, curriculum standards play an important role in achieving competency-oriented education by converting the intended curriculum into desired outcomes. The official curriculum documents establish educational standards and defining content, objectives, and assessment patterns for each discipline (Wei & Ou, 2019). They serve as the foundation for curriculum development, classroom instruction, and examinations. The importance of curriculum standards in bridging the gap between school teaching and student learning is widely acknowledged (Chen et al., 2019). In secondary school, curriculum standards act as guiding principles for educators and teachers, outlining the essential knowledge, skills, and competencies students should acquire at different grade levels. Efforts have been made regarding curriculum research in various areas of education, including assessment techniques, instructional materials, and teaching methods. For example, Nasir (2021) conducted research on curriculum development in traditional Islamic schools in Indonesia, focusing on school accreditation standards. Wang et al. (2022) performed a curriculum assessment using the Subject Competency Framework (Wang, 2016) to assess students’ comprehension of a specific theme. Chen et al. (2018) explored the curriculum emphasis and curriculum orientation within the same Chinese cultural background. Khaddoor et al. (2017) analyzed the intended curriculum across seven Arabic countries, while Gervedink et al. (2013) identified cultural influences on curriculum implementation. Vojíř and Rusek (2019) reviewed research trends in science education textbooks over an 18-year period. Such curriculum research plays a vital role in education, particularly in diverse educational settings. By examining the existing body of knowledge, educators and teachers can better support student achievement and academic success.

Despite the increasing research efforts dedicated to enhancing the engagement and relevance of school science (Erduran & Dagher, 2014; Stuckey et al., 2013a, 2013b), as well as implementing teaching methods that utilize traditional or unconventional media to teach relevant science topics (Belova & Eilks, 2015), two crucial issues persist in the implementing of the curriculum. Firstly, there is a mismatch between curriculum content and assessment. Teachers often prioritize teaching topics emphasized in high-stakes exams, potentially neglecting content that is not assessed (Ma, Fulmer, Liang, Chen, Li & Li., 2013). Secondly, there is a disconnect between the teaching practices and the underlying theories of learning and instruction in the new curriculum. Despite teachers generally endorsing the principles of the new curriculum and standards, they still rely on conventional chemistry frameworks and teacher-centered instructional approaches. Therefore, to ensure the success of competency-oriented and standards-based science education reform, it is crucial to assess the quality of curriculum and standards.

Literature review

Competency-oriented education in the global context

In 2015, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) launched The Future of Education and Skills project to map the future of education. The project aims to identify a) students' knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values that they need to achieve a better life by 2030, and b) an instructional system that can effectively develop these knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values (Meng, 2018). In cooperation with policymakers, academic experts, teachers, students, and social partners, the OECD finalized a corresponding position paper called The Future of Education and Skills Education 2030 in 2018 (OECD, 2018). This project explores long-term challenges in education and contributes to the design of more systematic and evidence-based curricula, making it a significant global trend in curriculum reform. Consequently, high-quality instructional materials, including curriculum standards and textbooks, are developed to foster students' essential knowledge and skills in response to the "OECD Learning Framework 2030"(OECD, 2018). These efforts promote international cooperation and collaboration, facilitating the development of effective and evidence-based curriculum standards worldwide.

Competency-oriented curriculum reform in the Chinese context

China is facing the important question of how to effectively prepare its students for an unpredictable and uncertain future. Due to different cultural contexts and historical backgrounds, China exhibits diverse patterns and traditions in science curriculum development compared to other countries. Specifically, China has a centralized system for compulsory education, which includes specific chemistry curriculum standards and corresponding textbooks.

To date, the Compulsory Education Chemistry Curriculum Standards (CECCS) was released by Ministry of education in 2011 in China (MoE, 2011). Over the last ten years, the 2011 CECCS had guided chemistry education in nationwide lower secondary schools. In 2019, the Ministry of Education of the People's Republic of China initiated a new round of curriculum reform for compulsory education (Grades 1–9) (MoE, 2019). Subsequently, a version of the chemistry curriculum standard for compulsory education was released in April 2022 (MoE, 2022). In response to the curriculum reform, educational stakeholders strive to ensure that students receive a competency-oriented education that meets the evolving needs of the twenty-first century.

The rationale of Chinese context to the global context

The OECD Education 2030 Curriculum Content Mapping (CCM), based on the OECD Learning Compass 2030 documents (OECD, 2019a), serves two important purposes. Firstly, it provides countries worldwide with an evidence-based approach for self-reflection. Secondly, it allows countries to learn from each other by sharing the findings of their proposed curriculum. The CCM and TCM identify core competencies and explore how competencies can be transformed into curriculum by mapping the experiences and practices in different countries.

In this regard, China has made efforts to demonstrate how Chinese chemistry curriculum standards contribute to mapping students' core competencies. The analysis of the 2011 edition and 2022 edition of the Compulsory Education Chemistry Curriculum Standards (CECCS) aims to: a) assess which core competencies are reflected in the competency-oriented curriculum that addresses the changing needs of students and society; b) evaluate the extent to which current national curriculum standards can meet students' need of the future for the aforementioned functions; c) offer experiences regarding how core competency-oriented intended curriculum guide implemented curriculum; d) provide stakeholders with an opportunity to identify areas for improvement to enhance the quality and relevance of education. This study shed light on experiences in designing competency-oriented curriculum and explores the ways in which curriculum standards facilitate competency development.

Research questions

This study focused on analyzing curriculum standards to explore details about the transformation of the Chinese curriculum. The latest official version of Compulsory Education Chemistry Curriculum Standards (2022 CECCS) and the prior one (2011 CECCS) were chosen as the research sample.

By analyzing both versions of the CECCS (2011 and 2022) in accordance with the suggestions of OECD’s future of education and skills 2030 (OECD, 2018) and Curriculum Content Mapping (OECD, 2019), this study aims to explore:

  1. 1.

    What are the similarities and differences in the curriculum content structure between the 2011 and 2022 CECCS?

  2. 2.

    What are the levels of curriculum alignment (e.g. breadth, depth) of 2011 and 2022 CECCS compared to the OECD Learning Framework 2030?

  3. 3.

    What are the similarities and differences of learning area focus regarding the 2011 and 2022 CECCS?

Theoretical framework

In response to education queries, the Future of Education and Skills Education 2030 project developed the OECD Learning Compass 2030 (OECD, 2019b), a "roadmap" that set out an ideal version of education in 2030. It emphasized the value of formal and non-formal learning opportunities that take place at school or in the community. The Learning Compass 2030 is OECD's initial attempt to create a "roadmap" for curriculum reform. It is claimed by the OECD as a "learning framework" that provides a broad range of competencies in which students are expected to obtain. Simultaneously, assessment projects are suggested to use this learning framework to help e.g. assessing students' progress in a particular context.

After two years of study with 14 countries, OECD designed the OECD Education 2030 Curriculum Content Mapping (CCM) based on the OECD Learning Compass 2030 (OECD, 2019a). This project aimed to explore how knowledge is intended to be taught together with skills. The scope is to identify 1) the way other countries incorporate various competencies and the breadth, depth as well as dimensions of various competencies; 2) the relationships between knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes in certain learning areas (OECD, 2019a).

The OECD’s CCM competencies can be grouped as “foundational literacies”, “skills/attitudes/values”, “key concepts of the learning framework”, “transformative competencies and competency development for 2030”, and “compound competencies for 2030”, with each category containing several sub-categories (Table 1) (Wang et al., 2021). A total of twenty-eight competencies are provided as the OECD competencies.

Table 1 Curriculum content map for competency framework


Qualitative and Quantitative data of the Chinese curriculum documents were extracted and analyzed based on the Curriculum Content Mapping (CCM) project (OECD, 2019a). All curricula documents were obtained from the official government website. The analysis includes four steps.

Step 1: Item coding

All the curriculum standards were examined page by page. The contents and texts of the curriculum standards were read carefully and repeatedly until the entire frame structure becomes apparent. Each sentence of the 2011 and 2022 CECCS curriculum content was coded as a separate coding unit during the analysis. When a sentence did not contain specific learning objectives or student competency requirements, it was not included in the coding.

Step 2: Aligning each coding unit with the OECD competencies

The relevant coding unit was aligned with the twenty-eight OECD competencies described in Table 1, and the level of correspondence was divided into levels 1, 2, 3, and 4 according to Table 2. The criteria, which demonstrate the expected level of competency attainment by students, were presented in Table 2 (adapted from OECD, 2019a).

Table 2 Criteria of the corresponding level

Step 3: CCM and TCM analysis

The relevant coding unit was coded according to the CCM subject coding framework (OECD, 2019a) to explore the learning area focus of each coding unit (Table 3). The criteria ranged from natural science chemistry 1 to 7 (NSC1 to NSC7).

Table 3 CCM subject coding framework of natural science chemistry (based on OECD, 2019b)

Step 4: Developing the heat map

Undertake the mapping process to develop heat maps of the 2011 and 2022 CECCS. The final representation level of each OECD competency was determined by selecting the highest level of representation from the corresponding coding units. For instance, after Step 3, if all coding units that have been categorized as NSC 1 indicate a "literacy" competency level of 3 (the highest), then the corresponding table cell in the heat map is marked as 3. An example of the overall coding process can be seen below (Table 4).

Table 4 The overall coding process

There are five themes in the 2011 CECCS and five themes in the 2022 CECCS. The page numbers for the CECCS in 2011 and 2022 are 63 and 80 respectively. A total of 737 coding units were analyzed. Data collection was achieved through several rounds of initial theme coding, item screening, and interpretation. A mixed qualitative and quantitative research method was used. Qualitative data were generated through content analysis (Zhang et al., 2019). The quantitative analysis aimed to develop a two-dimensional heat map of the 2011 CECCS and 2022 CECCS. Reliability analyses were conducted by all authors. Independent coding was carried out by two coders with an initial 82% inter-rater agreement to a final 90% inter-rater agreement after negotiating disagreements.


This study aims to conduct a comparison of Chinese Compulsory Education Chemistry Curriculum Standards based on OECD's Future of Education and skills 2030. The 2011 and 2022 Compulsory Education Chemistry Curriculum Standards (CECCS) are screened and analyzed to explore the curriculum content structure, learning area focus, and alignment with OECD competencies.

Similarities and differences of curriculum content structure

By comparing the content of the two CECCS released in 2011 and 2022, it can be seen that both versions include five themes. Moreover, the 2022 CECCS adapts its content structure compared to that of the 2011 CECCS (Table 5).

Table 5 Curriculum content structure

Table 5 shows that both the 2011 and 2022 CECCS have similar themes, but the secondary topics within each theme are constructed in a different way. The 2011 CECCS mainly focused on fundamental knowledge (Theme 1–5), while the 2022 CECCS introduced a five-dimensional BCMAP content structure, which includes Big idea (B), Core knowledge (C), Method (M), Applying and Attitude (A), and Practice (P) (Table 5).

Generally, each theme provided the main idea and requirements of core competency through the Big idea (B). Big Idea (B) and Core knowledge (C) work together to enhance the understanding and requirements of basic chemical concepts within each theme. The Method (M) reflects the developmental requirements of scientific thinking, while the Applying and Attitude (A) emphasizes the cultivation of scientific attitudes and responsibilities. Collectively, students learn Core knowledge (C), develop scientific Method (M), form scientific values and Applying and Attitude (A), and construct corresponding Big ideas (B) by conducting compulsory experiments and interdisciplinary tasks/activities to meet the academic requirements set by each theme.

Specifically, Fig. 1 demonstrates the organization of Theme 4 (2022 CECCS) (Table 5) according to the BCMAP model. In the 2022 CECCS, the Big idea (B) of theme 4 is “ 4.1 changes and transformations of substance”, which provides an initial understanding of chemical change and quantitative relations between substances in chemical reactions. Core knowledge (C) focuses on “ 4.2 chemical reactions and the law of conservation of mass”, which includes topics such as 1) characteristics of chemical changes and basic chemical reactions; 2) quantitative relationships and the law of conservation of mass of chemical reactions. Method (M) describes “4.3 ideas and methods for recognizing chemical reactions”, e.g. “develop the ability to think systematically about chemical reactions” (page 27, 2022 CECCS). Attitudes (A) emphasizes “4.4 The application value of chemical reactions and reasonable regulation”, which includes requirements such as “establish resource recycling and green environmental awareness(page twenty-eight, 2022 CECCS). Practice (P) provides “4.5 students’ compulsory experiments and practical activities", which includes e.g. “interdisciplinary practical activities” and “investigation of combustion conditions(page twenty-eight, 2022 CECCS). Students are encouraged to design and conduct creative interdisciplinary projects and practical activities in real-life contexts based on their chemistry knowledge.

Fig. 1
figure 1

BCMAP model used in 2022 CECCS (adapted from Wang, 2022)

In summary, the 2022 CECCS outlines a five-dimensional BCMAP content structure to enhance students’ core competency. The incorporation of BCMAP in the new 2022 CECCS demonstrates a significant improvement compared to the previous 2011 CECCS. Figure 1 provides an overview of the BCMAP model of Theme 4 to help understand the content structure of 2022 CECCS, similar ideas can be found in all the other themes of the 2022 CECCS.

Curriculum alignment

To investigate the alignment of curriculum content between the 2011 and 2022 CECCS, "heat maps" depicting the curriculum content mapping (CCM) and theme content mapping (TCM) are created. The CCM and TCM heat maps illustrate the general structure of the 2011 CECCS and 2022 CECCS, respectively. Coding units are analyzed to determine the alignment of the CECCS with the twenty-eight OECD competencies (Tables 6, 7, 8 and 9).

CCM heat map of 2011 CECCS

Table 6 provides an overview of the CCM heat map for the 2011 CECCS. It shows that the 2011 CECCS demonstrates a certain relation to the OECD competencies. Notably, the competencies of "Transformative Competencies and Competency Development for 2030" and "Foundational literacies" are more prominent compared to the other three competencies. There is also some relevance observed with the competencies of "Key concepts" and "Skills, Attitudes & Values for 2030" in relation to the 2011 CECCS. However, "Compound competencies for 2030" tends to be less prominent among all other OECD competencies.

Table 6 CCM heat map of 2011 CECCS

In terms of "Foundational literacies," the 2011 CECCS reveals "literacy" as the most targeted competency at a main level. Additionally, "numeracy," "ICT literacy/digital literacy," "data literacy," and "physical/health literacy" are addressed at certain levels, but less strong than "literacy". However, when considering "Skills, Attitudes & Values for 2030," the 2011 CECCS includes "cooperation/collaboration" and "problem-solving" as the main targets. "Critical thinking", "respect", and "learning to learn" are rated to some extent, while "self-regulation/self-control" and "persistence/resilience" are absent.

Concerning “Key concepts”, “student agency” and “co-agency”, both of them shows certain levels of inclusion. Regarding "Transformative Competencies and Competency Development for 2030", the 2011 CECCS takes “action” as the most rated main-target competency. Additionally, “taking responsibility” and “reconciling dilemmas and tensions” are included to a similar extent. However, there is a need to enhance the focus on “creating new value”.

In terms of “Compound competencies for 2030″, it mainly applies to “literacy for sustainable development”. Additionally, "financial literacy” and "entrepreneurship" can also be found in the 2011 CECCS. However, "media literacy" and “computational thinking/coding/programming” are absent.

CCM heat map of 2022 CECCS

The 2022 CECCS shows a higher alignment with the OECD competencies (Table 7). Results show that all categories, including "Foundational literacies", "Skills, Attitudes & Values for 2030", "Key concepts", "Transformative Competencies and Competency Development for 2030", and "Compound competencies for 2030" demonstrate a higher level of relation to the curriculum content.

Table 7 CCM heat map of 2022 CECCS

In terms of “Foundational literacies”, the emphasis is placed more on "literacy". In the "Skills, Attitudes & Values for 2030" category, the 2022 CECCS seems to include several of the competencies, e.g. "cooperation/collaboration", "critical thinking", "problem-solving", "respect", "trust", and "learning to learn" as main targeted competency. However, “self-regulation/self-control” and “persistence/resilience” can be found at a lower inclusive degree.

Concerning "Key concepts", "co-agency" and "student agency" are enhanced by the 2022 CECCS. Further data indicates that "reconciling dilemmas and tensions" as well as "action" are considered as main targets within the "Transformative Competencies and Competency Development for 2030" of the 2022 CECCS. Importantly, this new curriculum standards also place increased emphasis on "creating new value" and "reflection", which were insufficient in the 2011 CECCS.

Concerning "Compound competencies for 2030", it is noteworthy that the 2022 CECCS places increased emphasis on "media literacy" and "financial literacy". However, the inclusion of “computational thinking/coding/programming” is suggested with limited inclusion.

Summary of CCM heat map regarding 2011 and 2022 CECCS

In summary, development and changes in alignment with the OECD competencies from 2011 to 2022 can be seen through two CCM heat maps (Tables 6 and 7. Generally, the 2011 CECCS incorporates “Foundational literacies” and "Transformative Competencies and Competency Development for 2030" as two out of the five most targeted competencies. In addition, the data for "Compound competencies for 2030" indicate that this competency is given less emphasis compared to other competencies. This means the 2011 CECCS places a significant emphasis on students’ reading and writing competency, particularly in terms of their ability to assess texts (belongs to “Foundational literacies”) as well as being able to take action for a specific goal and acting responsibly (belongs to "Transformative Competencies and Competency Development for 2030"). Moreover, the competency of digital learning (belongs to "Compound competencies for 2030") is limited in the 2011 CECCS.

The 2022 CECCS includes the majority of the twenty-eight competencies as main targets. Notably, there is a significant enhancement in the inclusion of "Compound competencies for 2030", which was insufficient in the 2011 CECCS. In addition, the 2022 CECCS requires corresponding competencies in various tasks assigned to students. For example, it emphasizes "Transformative Competencies and Competency Development for 2030" regarding media news, problem-solving solutions utilizing computational techniques, which fall under the category of "Compound competencies for 2030".

TCM heat map of 2011 CECCS

Table 8 displays the Theme Content Mapping (TCM) of the 2011 CECCS. It is analyzed to explore the relevance of OECD competencies with five 2011 CECCS themes.

Table 8 TCM heat map of 2011 CECCS

The analysis reveals that the "Foundational literacies" focuses "literacy" as the main target competency. "Numeracy" and "physical/health literacy" are included to a similar extent, while the emphasis of "ICT literacy/digital literacy" and "data literacy" is limited. In the "Skills, Attitudes & Values for 2030" component, "problem-solving" appears as the main target competency. "Self-regulation/self-control" and "persistence/resilience" are absent. However, in the "Transformative Competencies and Competency Development for 2030" component, there is a stronger emphasis on competencies such as "reconciling dilemmas and tensions" and "action", with "taking responsibility" being included, albeit to a limited extent.

TCM heat map of 2022 CECCS

Concerning "Foundational literacies", it is notable that the 2022 CECCS has enhanced "ICT literacy/digital literacy" and "data literacy" (Table 9). Concerning "Skills, Attitudes & Values for 2030", the TCM map shows the inclusion of “self-regulation/self-control” and “persistence/resilience” within the 2022 CECCS are improved, which were absent in 2011 CECCS. In terms of “Key concepts”, the 2022 CECCS demonstrates a strong enhancement compared to the limited inclusion in the 2011 CECCS. The "Transformative Competencies and Competency Development for 2030" component is also reinforced more thoroughly in the 2022 CECCS. Notably, both "creating new value" and "reflection" are involved, which were insufficient in the 2011 CECCS. Moreover, "taking responsibility" is enhanced. Concerning "Compound competencies for 2030," the results show that "computational thinking/coding/programming" is suggested in the 2022 CECCS, whereas it was absent in the 2011 CECCS. Furthermore, there is a strong improvement regarding "media literacy" and "literacy for sustainable development". "Financial literacy" and "entrepreneurship" also demonstrate a higher inclusion in the 2022 CECCS compared to the 2011 CECCS.

Table 9 TCM heat map of 2022 CECCS

Summary of TCM heat map regarding 2011 and 2022 CECCS

In summary, the progression of competencies over time is evident through the two TCM heat maps (Tables 8 and 9). Overall, the 2011 CECCS TCM heat map include “Foundational literacies” and "Transformative Competencies and Competency Development for 2030" as the main target competencies. Specifically, "literacy" and "action" receive significant emphasis among the twenty-eight competencies. "Compound competencies for 2030" is insufficient.

In the 2022 CECCS, there is notable inclusion of competencies. There are improvements in requirements concerning "Compound competencies for 2030" in general, and "media literacy" as well as "literacy for sustainable development" in particular. In addition, there are improvements in "Foundational literacies". For example, “ICT literacy/digital literacy” is involved by encouraging students to effectively use information and communication technologies both inside and outside the school environment, which was limited in the 2011 CECCS.

Learning area focus

According to the CCM subject coding framework (see Table 3), coding units are examined to identify the subject codes suggested by OECD (2019a). By generating Level 4 and Level 3 competencies (see Table 2), it aims to explore the distribution of the OECD competencies in each learning area (NSC1-NSC7) (Table 10). The results showed that NSC1, NSC3, NSC5, and NSC7 are widely expanded in the 2022 CECCS. In 2022 CECCS, students are encouraged to develop problem-solving methods (M) to enhance their engagement in practice (P) in daily life (Table 5). This has led to an improvement in NSC1 compared to the 2011 CECCS.

Table 10 CMM-relevant items of the main objective (Level 4) and sub-objective (Level 3) in 2011 and 2022 CECCS

Further data showed that the experiments in the 2022 CECCS incorporated more interdisciplinary tasks and activities. Examples include "conducting interdisciplinary project-based learning (PBL) activities and designing low carbon action plans based on carbon neutral commitment" (page 21); “Design and make oxygenators based on specific needs” (page 32), among others. Basic experiments such as carbon dioxide or oxygen generation in laboratories are more focused on knowledge and skill development, leaving limited room for the development of students' subject competency. However, the inclusion of interdisciplinary project-based learning tasks requiring students' interdisciplinary knowledge and experience in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) represents a significant improvement in the new curriculum standards. The enhancement of PBL tasks and activities helps to explain the increased presence of NSC3 in (Table 10).

Regarding NSC5, the analysis reveals a recognition and appreciation for the efforts and contributions of scientists. Interdisciplinary PBL tasks and activities encourage students to think and solve problems like a scientist. The application of chemistry in real-world contexts and its connection to society are emphasized. For example, “learn and appreciate the wisdom and method used by chemists to understand the nature of science through well-known experiments in the development of chemistry” (page 14, 2022 CECCS). These representations were limited in the 2011 CECCS, which helps to understand why NSC5 in the 2022 CECCS exhibits a higher degree of inclusion.

Moreover, the concepts of sustainable development, green chemistry, and global competency were widely expanded in the 2022 CECCS. For example, there is an emphasis on “establishing a sustainable development philosophy of peaceful coexistence between man and nature” (page 31, 2022 CECCS). The enhancement of compound competency may explain why NSC7 tends to be more prominent in the new version compared to the old one.

The Analysis of Theme 4: Chemical changes of substance

The 2022 CECCS demonstrates a meaningful improvement compared to the 2011 CECCS. Of particular relevance, the 2022 CECCS was edited by incorporating the BCMAP model (Fig. 1). Each learning theme of 2022 CECCS is structured by the multidimensional BCMAP model. In addition, every learning theme reflects the integrated meaning and requirements of core competencies through B (Big Idea). By combining B (Big Idea) and C (Core Knowledge), the content and requisites of the theme are conveyed in terms of chemical concepts. The requirements for scientific thinking are achieved through "Methods" (M). Additionally, the specific learning requirements for scientific attitudes and responsibilities are addressed through "Applying and Attitude" (A). Furthermore, the requirements for scientific inquiry and practice-based core competencies are clarified in P (Practice). The interconnection between these four dimensions is symbolized by the line in the diagram (Fig. 1). This model aims to foster students to learn core knowledge, develop research methods, form basic attitude, and construct a broader understanding of each theme.

This study further analyzed the curriculum content Theme 4 "chemical changes of substance" to illustrate how the BCMAP model is employed. Table 11 provides a clear demonstration of how the five dimensions of the BCMAP model structured and functionalized the curriculum content. Of particular relevance, Theme 4 focuses on the Big idea (B) of understanding the changes and transformations of substance. Students are expected to develop corresponding problem-solving Methods (M) (see 4.3) and Applying and Attitude (A) (see 4.4) based on their Core knowledge (C) (see 4.2) to engage Practice (P) (see 4.5) within real-life contexts.

Table 11 The illustration of Theme 4’s BCMAP

Moreover, in the 2022 CECCS, curriculum contents are represented under the "content requirement" session through the BCMAP-oriented approach. This approach emphasizes the core knowledge, skills, and attitudes that students are expected to acquire. Additionally, the "academic requirements", "teaching strategy suggestion", "contexts suggestion", and "activity suggestion" sections serve as scaffolding tools to support students in achieving the BCMAP-oriented core competencies.

Regarding the distribution of the five OECD competencies within theme 4, the results indicate that theme 4 is more prominently aligned with "Transformative competencies and competency development for 2030". It is closely followed by "Foundational literacies" and "Skills, attitudes & values". The presence of "Compound competencies for 2030" is also suggested within this theme. However, "Key concepts" exhibit a limited level of inclusion. One possible explanation for this difference is that Theme 4 primarily focuses on fundamental knowledge. Therefore, knowledge, competency, and attitudes are highly included in this theme. This explains why most coding units align with “Foundational literacies”, “Skills, attitudes & values”, as well as “Transformative competencies and competency development for 2030” (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2
figure 2

OECD competency distribution

Results and discussion

This study revealed the similarities and differences in the curriculum content structure between the 2011 and 2022 Compulsory Education Chemistry Curriculum Standards (CECCS). It concentrated on identifying the representation levels of CECCS compared to the curriculum content mapping (CCM) suggested by OECD (2019a), with specific attention given to the five themes of the Chinese Compulsory Education Chemistry Curriculum Standards. Based on this, a systematic four-step coding and analyzing approach was developed, resulting in the creation of four comprehensive heat maps. Two CCM heat maps and two TCM heat maps were used to understand the representation levels of the 2011 and 2022 CECCS with the OECD competencies. Furthermore, a BCMAP model (Wang, 2022) highlighted the similarities and inherent differences in content construction across different branches.

Overall, the content framework of the two CECCS aligns well with the OECD's CCM competencies, with the 2022 CECCS showing a more advanced level. The 2011 CECCS emphasized three main domains: knowledge and skill, process and method, and attitudes and values. It included aspects of "Skills, attitudes & values" and "Foundational literacies", with some focus on "Transformative competencies and competency development for 2030". Additionally, ideas related to science, technology, society, and environment (STSE) were suggested, contributing to the development of students' "Compound competencies for 2030". However, "Foundational literacies" showed low requirements for subject competency. For example, concepts like “empathy” and “persistence/resilience” were considered irrelevant to chemistry teaching and learning, and thus were absent in the 2011 CECCS. In addition, there was a heavier emphasis on calculation skills compared to real-life problem-solving or data interpretation abilities. Of particular relevance, further data of the CMM heat maps and (Table10) revealed that concepts such as chemistry properties in daily life context (NSC1), chemical safety (NSC2), scientists' work (NSC5), scientific ethos, ethic ideology, laws, and regulations (NSC6) were limited or absent in the 2011 CECCS.

However, the data indicated that the 2022 CECCS filled these gaps through the incorporation of a BCMAP-structured and competency-oriented curriculum. Concerning "Foundational literacies", the 2022 CECCS helped to promote students' core competency by integrating problem-solving skills within real-life research contexts. Notably, interdisciplinary practiced appeared in the 2022 CECCS, which is a significant improvement as interdisciplinary activity engages students' learning in a broader way (Zowada et al., 2018). The 2022 CECCS required that at least 10% of curricula should be applied for interdisciplinary investigation. Students are encouraged to apply their knowledge in solving problems through project-based activities, practical work, and other approaches.

Remarkably, further data demonstrated that 2022 CECCS emphasized higher-level of competency requirement regarding chemical safety (related to NSC2), practical work (related to NSC3), cognitive knowledge and skills (related to NSC5), global citizenship, and sustainable development education (related to NSC7). The 2022 CECCS encourages students to think like scientists and solve problems through project-based learning, which helps establish a meaningful connection between students' knowledge/skills and the vocational domain. This aligns with the idea proposed by Stuckey et al., (2013a, 2013b).

Overall, the new curriculum attempted to reflect the curriculum improvement of Chinese curriculum reform over the past ten years. It updated the curriculum content to reflect advancements in science, technology, economic, and societal development from a global education perspective. One notable characteristic was the use of the BCMAP model to scaffold core knowledge, methods, applying and attitudes, and practices. This model emphasized the need for a multidimensional curriculum instead of a fundamental knowledge-oriented curriculum. Additionally, regarding the 2022 CECCS, specific sessions on “academic requirements”, “teaching strategy suggestion”, “contexts suggestion”, and “activity suggestion” were included to ensure the development of core competencies.


It is notable that curriculum standards convey the intended curriculum and play an important role in facilitating students' competency development. The compulsory chemistry curriculum provides enlightenment follow-up education by forming a bridge between primary science education and upper secondary science education. It serves as a foundation course to prepare students to become responsible individuals in society (Wang, 2022). Moreover, it outlines the general characteristics and requirements for secondary school chemistry education.

This study provides evidence-based instructional requirements by 2011 and 2022 CECCS. A comparison between them reveals that the curriculum standard is shifting towards broader and higher inclusive competencies. Specifically, the 2022 CECCS places emphasis on many of the twenty-eight competencies, whereas the 2011 CECCS prioritizes "Foundational literacies" and "Transformative Competencies and Competency Development for 2030" as the most significant ones. Furthermore, there has been a development in the competencies related to practical application in real-life situations, such as engaging interdisciplinary tasks and activities, emulating scientists, and addressing global environmental issues, among others.

In addition, Theme 4 analyzed the scaffolding of the new 2022 CECCS by demonstrating a multidimensional BCMAP model. Firstly, it identifies how core competencies are reflected in the competency-oriented curriculum content and guides curriculum implementation. Secondly, it enriches the understanding of CCM and TCM by offering additional evidence to comprehensively understand how knowledge is intended to be received with competencies as well as values.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that there may be a discrepancy between the curriculum standards, the curriculum prescribed in textbooks, and the actual curriculum implemented by teachers in schools (Van Den Akker, 1998). Future efforts might be paid to evaluate effective resources that align with the standards for diverse learning needs. This would require a collaborative effort involving policymakers, educators, and practitioners to develop curriculum materials and teaching strategies together (Eilks & Hofstein, 2017).

Limitations and further work

Drawing on international curriculum research and projects, and combining China's local educational experience, the Compulsory Education Chemistry Curriculum Standards (CECCS) curriculum reform promotes the development of core competencies into a multidimensional BCMAP model to meet students' needs of the future. This study offers insights into the evolution of CECCS over time and contributes to identifying additional areas for evaluating a more inclusive global education system. It provides evidence-based experiences and reflections to evaluate how a curriculum focused on core competencies can effectively guide its implementation. It also provides guidance for in-service teachers by offering "academic requirements," "teaching strategy suggestions," "contextual suggestions," and "activity suggestions" for implementing the CECCS.

However, it is unable to make any predictions about how the competencies outlined in the curriculum standards are being implemented in different educational institutions. This would be an interesting starting point for further research efforts. Through examining curriculum standards’ impact on diverse student populations, educators can advocate for necessary resources, policies, and instructional strategies to ensure equitable implementation of instruction.

Availability of data and materials

The datasets analyzed during the current study are potentially to be used in the author’s dissertation, they are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.



Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development


Compulsory Education Chemistry Curriculum Standards


Curriculum Content Mapping


Theme Content Mapping


National Science Chemistry


Project-based learning


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We are grateful for the support afforded to the research by Beijing Normal University.


International joint research project of Faculty of Education, Beijing Normal University (ICER201802).

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Conceptualization, X.G.C., X. S. and L. W.; methodology, X. S. and L. W.; validation, X.G.C. and X. S.; formal analysis, X.G.C. and X. S.; writing original draft, X.G.C.; writing—review and editing, X.G.C., L. W. and R. W.; supervision and project administration, L. W. and R. W. All authors have read and approved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Lei Wang.

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Chen, X., Wang, L., Shao, X. et al. An analysis of Chinese chemistry curriculum standards based on OECD Education 2030 Curriculum Content Mapping. Discip Interdscip Sci Educ Res 6, 2 (2024).

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