Chinese Education System History
Since the formation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the government of China has always put education at a high level on its agenda. Over the past decades, China has made considerable progress through uninterrupted efforts. Currently, a nine-year mandatory education is on the implementation process in organized stages countywide. In addition, primary education is now available to an estimate of 91% of the total population of China. Higher learning education institutions such as diversified adult, ethical schools and polytechnics have been established rapidly. China has established a system of education in which the government is the key investor while social partners are co-investors. During its present stage, the local government is paying a significant role in mandatory education. On the other hand, the provincial and central governments dominate in the higher learning institutions (Hindman 250). The Education Ministry is responsible for the implementation of regulations, laws, policies, and guidelines of the central government. Additionally, it is responsible for planning the education sector development, coordinating and integrating programs and initiatives countrywide, as well as, guiding and maneuvering reform nationwide. In the recent years, there is movement into the educational sector through non-governmental investment that provides more seats for applicants.
The History of the Chinese education system
China remains one of the ultimate economies in the world today. In fact, increased trade and manufacturing in the Republic of China has seen the country turning out to command a huge influence in the world of the economy today. The Human Resource Base of the country stands is a chief factor why International Corporations are setting foot in the country for supplies and logistical concerns. While all this is happening, it must be noted that the educational system of the country is factored for the growth and the development of the country. This implies the significance of education in almost all aspects of the Country’s development. The country has established a learning system where the administration is the main investor and social partners are co-investors as mentioned earlier. The existing education system is a culmination of changes and growth of previous education systems during the Confucius, Sui, Tang dynasty, Ming and Qing dynasty’s education (Wang 12).
A majority of scholars in China believe that the history of the Chinese education system has its roots back in the 16th Century. The education system can be divided into three major parts that include Confucius, Sui Tang Dynasty, Ming and Qing Dynasty. On a wider scale, the system can be divided into five key periods. These include the Imperial Education (Pre-1840), Opium War- P.R.C (1940-1949), P.R.C- Cultural Revolution (1949-1966), Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), and Post-Mao Reforms (1976 to present). Throughout the period of Imperial Education, education was the privilege of only a few elites. In most cases, education existed for the purpose of producing officials of the government. Earlier, the curriculum was focused on what was referred to as ‘Six Arts’ that included music, rites, history, mathematics, chariot-riding, and archery (Reagan 110). However, during the Autumn, Spring, and Warring States period around 770-221 B.C, the curriculum slowly allowed for education based on the Five Classics and the Four Books. These were influenced by the teachings of Confucius. His works highlighted the principles of government and society and codes of personal conduct. Confucius teachings also defined the philosophy underlying the teachings, which exerted an essential influence on all aspects of life including education. This was so until the ascent of power and Liberation by Communists during the period of 1949 (Hayhoe 123).
During this time, a system, which educated the elite class was developed. This, however, does not imply that the government actively offered any kind of public education. Rather, the imperial government only played an active role in education in as much as it managed or controlled the various stages of the civil or imperial service assessments that were applied in the selection of officers in the imperial government. These assessments comprised of essay questions that assessed the candidate’s comprehension of teachings of Confucius. Candidates could get ready for assessments by enrolling in the private higher learning institutions. These existed for the purpose of preparing students for examinations of the civil service (Reagan 120).
The Shang dynasty gave way for the next dynasty. This was the period when the people of China were persistent in their belief that intellectually and socially they had no peers, particularly when compared with the Western cultures. The people thought that they had a highly advanced culture and also felt that their technological tradition was rich. With the humiliating defeat by the British during the Opium War, the people of China were compelled to reevaluate their supremacy especially in science and technology area. Western education began to take root in China as a result of the defeat in the war, as well as, the cessation of Hong Kong. For most parts, the education took place through the establishment of schools by missionaries. However, a significant number of the Chinese viewed the developments with extreme suspicion and a sense of humiliation. On the other hand, for a few officials that were liberal-minded and pragmatic, they saw this as a chance for a balanced strategy or approach to education, in which classics of Confucius would continue to create the core, supplemented by an element of Western technology (Wang 80).
This system continued being the only route to the administrative system, against a setting of massive illiteracy. With the conquest in the Sino-Japanese War in the year 1895, the people of China now became completely convinced that their future would be determined by the acceptance of particular elements of Western-form education. In fact, Japan had been successful after the adoption of the Western education when compared to the non-Western society. The civil service system was, therefore, eliminated in 1905 (Hayhoe, 127). In addition, a series of reform actions were offered by the court of the Qing Dynasty advocating for the reorganization of old academies into a modern system of education levels of primary, secondary, and tertiary to be based on models from the West.
It can be argued that the Tang Dynasty (618-907) was important in the Chinese education history because it occurred during the period within which the country marked an essential milestone in growth of art and literature. During this era, the program of the civil service educational was enhanced and extended. The founder of the Tang Dynasty, Li Yuan, recognized that there was much danger in leaving the nation in the hands of a few warlords. As a result, he considered the educational empowerment of the large base of civil servants would be crucial in avoiding such nobility. As more and more individuals got educated, poetry took a course as more individuals came up with poetry literatures. In addition, the Ming (1368–1644) Dynasty had its equal share in the development of the Chinese learning system. In fact, this dynasty came into action after the end of the Yuan Dynasty (Rees 112). The educational system of China was standardized during this dynasty. This led to the development of a more detailed curriculum that had specifics in the curriculum taken into consideration. This was the first time that the civil service education moved up from being a specialized system where distinct disciplines would be taught to students.
In 1991, the Qing Dynasty was conquered during the revolution of the bourgeois. Furthermore, a Republican kind of government was developed. At this time, the European, Japanese, and American education models were already in China. The Japanese model was the first to be tested as a result of the successful adaptation in Japan. The system was implemented by various Chinese scholars that were trained in Japan. During the early 1920s, this system gave way to a model that was more closely patterned on the models of America (Rees 110). Even during the period between 1915-1920, there were powerful disputes and debates on the cloning of the education systems of the West in a state that was trying to establish a new identity after the dynastic reign.
It is not right to state that the debates were focused on matters of education alone. The debates were highly political and were facilitated in part by the takeover by the Marxist government, as well as, the Russian Revolution. In 1921, the Chinese Communist party was founded with its ideas and perceptions on the right model of education in China. During this period, it was decided that a system was required to cater for the country’s technological needs that would still preserve the identity of China (Ricklefs 60). The model also required to be extended to reach the masses in the rural society. Several of experiments were carried out during this period. These were aimed at bringing higher education to those individuals who were not able to afford it. However, these debates and experiments were suspended during the Japanese invasion in the late 1930s, until in 1949 after the Liberation.
A new educational system known as the Soviet Model was established shortly after the Liberation. This was undertaken with less regard for the distinct features of the environment of China than was the instance that followed the Sino-Japanese War. Earlier on, the motivation was directed by technological needs. The Soviet Union was established as the new prototype for achievement. The models, however, did exceptionally little to address the issue of illiteracy of the mass. In fact, it was evident that less than half of secondary and primary aged children were in school. Most efforts during this time were directed at restructuring and development of higher education. Consequently, the number of universities declined while, on the other hand, there was a significant increase in the number of specialized colleges (Ricklefs 65). In the efforts of restricting, the Higher Education Ministry was charged with a powerful responsibility of overseeing the administration of polytechnic and comprehensive universities and institutions of training teachers. However, further progress was thwarted in 1961 along with failing of policies of the Great Leap Forward, a rise in natural calamities, and the collapse of linkages with the Soviet Union. Even before these events, the Anti-Rightest Campaign had isolated the intellectuals who had been influential in establishing reforms in the education sector, in 1957.
As the Soviet model was no longer the approach, there was resuming of earlier attempts by the government to attain a balance between the Western-style and the Confucian education. This took the form of work study and vocational training, college, college preparatory, and regular university. The model developed smoothly until in 1966 during the breakout of the Cultural Revolution. The model was perceived by a majority of the Chinese as one that would continue producing a class of few elites, with the masses settling for something minimal or less. This was viewed as self-serving as it was felt that the officials in schools were the perpetuators of the system, and were seen as culprits. Such issues were brought up to the media paving the way to a Cultural Revolution. As a consequence, there was a rapid spread of schools across China (Mathur et al. 207). The commissioning of work teams was the first formal response by the government aimed at overseeing the activities during the revolution. Distinct works teams responded in various ways, some strongly agreeing with the revolutionary students while others more focused on protecting the administrators. During the same period, it was clearly declared that education had been ruled by intellectuals (bourgeois). In addition, it was proclaimed that the establishment of a new model more directly based on teachings of Mao was required (Mathur et al. 210).
In the following three years, colleges were managed by teams such as the soldiers from the People’s Liberation, Red Guards, the workers, and peasants. In addition, heightened factionalism frequently brought about an entire cessation of classes. The Cultural Revolution did not affect the primary schools much as during its fall in 1967, most of the schools had reopened for normal activities or operations. The system for primary education was changed in that it was shortened to five or four years. Programs for secondary programs were also shortened. There was also a reconstitution of the curriculum in order to conform to the practical needs, leading to eradication of coursework in certain subjects including geography, history, and literature. It is essential to note that even significant subjects such as chemistry and physics allowed for courses in industrial skills. Consequently, the matter of key school was eliminated, with enrollments in secondary and primary schools being dependent on proximity (Rees 78). The system of entrance examinations of universities was stopped. However, few universities and colleges selected students based on political virtue. Students from families of soldiers, peasants, and workers were considered the most virtuous and were the first to be enrolled. Cultural Revolution represented disruptive times for the society of China, as well as, its education to be specific. The revolutionary struggles ruined the educational infrastructure. This caused students to suffer because of a non-existent curriculum. The only benefit during this period was the elementary education delivery to a large percentage of children within the age of attending schools. This was largely because of agricultural collectivization that allowed for the formation of large numbers of schools that were overseen by the collective agencies rather than the higher-level agencies.
The periods discussed above saw a lot of changes in the Chinese education system. This was the period that necessitated reforms and significant advances in areas such as industry, agriculture, science and technology, and national defense. These were to keep in line with the four Cardinal Principles that included the people’s democratic dictatorship, the socialist road, the Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong thought, and the Chinese Communist Party leadership. The system remains an essential one in the nations in all aspects of individuals’ lives including social, economic, religious, and political lives.
Wang, Xiufang. Education in China Since 1976. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland & Co, 2003. Print.
Rees, Joseph. Globalisation. Paris: OECD, 2009. Print.
Hindman, Hugh D. The World of Child Labor: An Historical and Regional Survey. Armonk, N.Y: M.E. Sharpe, 2009. Internet resource.
Ricklefs, M C. A History of Modern Indonesia Since C. 1200. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 2001. Print.
Huang, Tiedan, and Alexander W. Wiseman. The Impact and Transformation of Education Policy in China. Bingley, U.K: Emerald, 2011. Print.
Mathur, Nalini, and Xiaoping Deng. Educational Reform in Post-Mao China. New Dehli: A.P.H. Publishing Corporation, 2007. Print.
Hayhoe, Ruth. Contemporary Chinese education. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 2007. Print.
Reagan, Timothy G.. Non-Western educational traditions indigenous approaches to educational thought and practice. 3rd ed. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2005. Print.
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