Confucius versus modernity in Chinese schools

Cultural Insights — By on December 12, 2006 at 2:03 pm

As China’s economy globalizes and its educational system tries to prepare students for a more interconnected world, there is a simultaneous push in Chinese schools to introduce young people to the country’s ancient culture, including the teachings of Confucius.  There is an interesting story in the Christian Science Monitor about these sometimes conflicting goals.

On a recent Friday afternoon in this southern Chinese province, the fourth-graders at Bowen International School were sitting up straight, their arms neatly crossed in front of them, belting out 13th-century Chinese poems on the virtues of being polite, respecting their parents, and working hard in school.  “To behave as a younger brother towards elders, is one of the first things to know,” the children chanted with drill-like intensity. …

But as the government asks schools like Bowen to focus more on classic Chinese literature and art – including the teachings of Confucius, who emphasized traditional values and respect for elders – recent national curriculum reforms also call for more creativity and critical thinking in the classrooms …

So while some lessons transport the children back to ancient China, others aim to prepare the students for a more modern, global future.  … Wang Jiajun, the principal of the Beijing Huijia Private School, says the goal is simple: “We want our students to become world people with Chinese hearts.”

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