What’s China’s tradition in Education?
China has a over 2000-year long history of education and it’s a nation that puts education in a top place amid all the developments. Confucius, the saint and philosopher of China, for example, was a teacher himself running private classes.
The Chinese deeply believes in education in two major senses, first, education can cultivate a better man with knowledge and reason; second, education provides the means for one to elevate in social classes and lead to a better career and life. For many Chinese immigrants to the West, for example, their first generation may work hard in restaurants and laundries, with goal to afford their next generation to receive better education and get a better life.
Hence in general the Chinese culture advocates learning and knowledge, and the Chinese society respects education and intellectuals. With such, education has played as a major driver for China’s development and progress.
While the Chines has invested a lot into its education system, it still faces many fundamental problems and challenges, such as education tradition vs. modernization, citizenship vs. political education objective, independent vs. state controlled education institutes and system. Without these problems resolved, China’s education still hangs outside the gateway of modern education.
Content wise, for over 2000 years, China’s education system mainly focused on classic philosophy and doctrines, language and literature, but didn’t teach much science and technologies. This was a typical trait of an agricultural culture driven education.
China didn’t switch onto the modern education track until early 20th century, mostly under the comparison and pressure from the advanced Western civilization. The ancient China was basically waken up by the West cannons, guns and warships. What were behind these advanced weaponry? science and technology. What can bolster science and technology? learning, education and research along the scientific innovations and applications.
Hence compared to the Western education, China’s education faces a big embarrassment: namely its overall history is much longer than the West counterpart, but its modern education history is way shorter than the West and the gap remains big to date. Why the gap remains big? We will elaborate the reason in the next post.