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  China and the Confucian Education  Model 


Teaching & Learning Position Paper      May 2012           

ISBN 978‐0‐9570066‐1‐4

Don Starr


A position paper commissioned and published by Universitas 21, the leading global network of research universities for the 21st century. May 2012

Don Starr Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies Durham University Former President of the British Association of Chinese Studies d.f.starr@durham.ac.uk


Contents page

Executive Summary Introduction Confucius and education The traditional Chinese education system Contemporary education The paradox of the Chinese learner Chinese perceptions of the role of the teacher and student International comparisons Conclusions References

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China and the Confucian Education Model
Don Starr Executive Summary Confucian is here defined as traditional attitudes and practices existing in East Asian societies which ultimately are derived from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius (551-479 BCE) and his later followers. These teachings are characterised by their emphasis on ethics and statecraft, and resulted, in the case of China, in a society dominated by a secular elite recruited through a merit-based examination system. Education was the route to social status and material success, and promoted harmony based on morality and hierarchy. The status of education remains high in Confucian heritage cultures; this is reflected in the degree of parental in terest in education, in pressure on children to succeed at school and in the priority it receives in family expenditure. Following Deng Xiaoping’s ‘reform and opening up’ policy from 1978 onwards, China re-entered the world economic system after the period of seclusion of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). Western teachers of English sta rted to go to China taking communicative language teaching meth ods and Chinese students began to travel abroad to study. Western...


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