onsdag 19. mai 2021

Chinese education through history, from the ‘Six Arts’ to Confucianism, repressive rote learning and Western-style modern schools

Not having any children means that I am spared the worry over their education, a bane that afflicts almost every parent I know – from the quality of schools and their proximity to their homes, to fretting over little Wing Sze’s grades or Wai Keung’s future prospects.

Before the modern era, China had one of the most developed education systems in the world. The very first schools in ancient China were established by the state to educate sons of the high-born. Students at both elementary and secondary levels were taught the Six Arts, which were the major arts of ritual, music, archery and carriage driving, and the minor arts of literacy and arithmetic.

By the Western Zhou dynasty (c.1046BC-771BC), places in these state schools were given to exceptionally gifted commoners from across the country, but few were admitted. Paradoxically, during the chaotic Eastern Zhou dynasty (770BC-256BC), when the Chinese nation was divided into as many states as there were feudal lords, education blossomed. Multiple schools of thought contended with one another – Confucianism, Daoism, Legalism and Moism, to name a few – but more importantly, there was a proliferation of private schools open to all that based their pedagogies on these philosophical systems. Education was no longer the preserve of the upper classes.