China eyes traditional cultural education
Updated: 2012-10-12 22:34
BEIJING - Primary school students may not fully understand the Confucian works they are reciting, but the works are a big part of China's pilot efforts to promote traditional Chinese cultural education among the country's youth.
Students at a primary school in Beijing's Tongzhou District receive lessons once a week on Chinese culture, with topics ranging from ancient Chinese classics to jade and porcelain appreciation.
Their teachers believe that although the kids cannot comprehend the profound meaning of the works at present, the classes will promote their cultural literacy in the long run.
A set of teaching materials on traditional Chinese culture for primary, middle and high school students was unveiled by People's Education Press last month.
The textbooks, which already have been put into trial use in schools in Tongzhou and five other areas, may expand to more regions as China aims to strengthen its soft power, according to one of the compilers.
"We have arranged and adapted the materials in accordance with the students' ages and learning capabilities, adding more moral content and traditional aesthetic education," said Zhang Jian, executive director of a research group that compiled the materials.
The materials focus on traditional Chinese classics like the Analects of Confucius, a Confucian masterpiece, the Art of War, an ancient Chinese book on military strategy, and the classic Taoist work, the Tao Te Ching.
They also take tea culture, ancient poetry, calligraphy and traditional Chinese opera into account.
Zhang said they have received positive feedback regarding the class, adding that some teachers believe traditional cultural education can enhance the students' national and cultural identity.
According to Zhang, traditional culture has regained its popularity in recent years, which reflects worries that traditional Chinese culture may end up without successors to carry on.
Zhao Jiping, a deputy to the National People's Congress, has urged the improvement of traditional Chinese culture awareness among the country's youth, who largely prefer cultural exports from other countries, such as Korean pop music, Japanese manga and Hollywood movies.
"Measures should be taken to promote textbooks and teachings that embody Chinese national spirit, philosophy, ethics, faith, a sense of justice and behavior," Zhao said in a previous interview.
However, there have been opposing opinions, with some saying that traditional culture has become outdated. A sermon that tells young people to be absolutely obedient to their patients and teachers has been raised as an example.
Moreover, Zhang said difficulties exist in the promotion of traditional cultural education.
"A shortage of teachers who know the topic well is a major bottleneck," he said. "It is even difficult for us to find competent scholars to provide professional training for the teachers."
"Cultural education, which aims at long-term enlightenment for students and has no examination requirements, may fail to carry weight in China's exam-oriented education system," he said.