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Despite the fact that Mandarin is not accorded official language status in Malaysia, and that ethnic Chinese communities accounted for less than 30% of the country’s overall population, Malaysia is the only country outside China and Taiwan with a comprehensive and complete Chinese education system. It is also the only country in Southeast Asia that has perpetuated the Chinese education system established during the colonial era. The prolonged endurance of the Chinese education system in Malaysia is the result of many factors: heavy brokerage and lobbying efforts by ethnic Chinese political leaders; incorporation of vernacular schools into the Malay-dominated national education system in the backdrop of the Malayan nation formation stage; social mobilization of the Chinese education movement in Malaysia; and the increasing significance of Mandarin proficiency in the world. In particular, the assimilation policies for nation building by the Malay-dominated regime have threatened the cultural distinctiveness of the Chinese-speaking communities. Resistance from the Chinese speaking minorities is manifested through their support of the Chinese schools. Moreover, the elimination of English schools during the 1970s has unintentionally favored the Chinese primary schools. Despite their standing at that time as the “second-best” option after the English school, Chinese schools that offered the benefit of trilingual education, stricter discipline, and more competitive academic performance enjoyed an accelerated boost in student enrollments. More importantly, many parents who do not speak Chinese began to appreciate the quality of Chinese schools, and the enrollment of non-ethnic Chinese students has continued to rise ever since. Above all, China’s rapid economic ascendancy and growing political influence since the 1990s has enhanced the importance of Mandarin as a global language. This has added value to the importance of Chinese schools as language and cultural learning institutions for Malaysian. Such opportunity has enabled the Chinese school model to become one of the most successful and inclusive educational institutions for multicultural Malaysians.

Article

From the consolidation of the Han empire (206 bce–220 ce) through the collapse of the Qing (1644–1911), ideas about education associated with Confucius (c. 551–479 bce) and his followers dominated both the content and the institutions of learning. In imperial China, as in all societies, the transmission of culture across generations depended on learning values and skills within the family. Beyond the bonds of kinship, more advanced knowledge was acquired through teacher-student relationships, idealized along with family in the Confucian Analects. Both modes of learning retained their importance even after the development of formal educational institutions controlled by the state. The key innovation in this regard was the imperial civil service examination system, beginning in the 7th century ce. The single most important educational institution during the middle and later imperial periods (c. 900–1900), the influence of the examination system far eclipsed that of any individual school or schools. The examinations tested candidates on a variety of topics, ranging from knowledge of the Confucian classics to poetry and philosophy, as well as politics and history. Passing the examination led to appointment as a government official, the favored career for ambitious young males (not females, who were expected to remain in the home as wives and mothers). Beyond the Imperial University and other schools in the capital and regional centers, schools founded by families, lineages, and clans, as well as by independent scholars and local government officials, provided instruction geared to passing the examinations. From the Song period (960–1279) on, the development of printing technology and the growth of commercial publishing greatly enhanced access to education, expanding opportunities for many, although competition remained fierce, and examination success, elusive.

Article

Liang Du, Huimeng Li, and Weijian Wang

Rural education has received considerable attention from researchers and policy makers in their attempts to understand the deep-rooted rural/urban dichotomy in China. Most debates surround how to improve the “quality” of rural education and to “rebalance” the level of educational development between rural and urban regions. For this purpose raising the “quality” of teachers across rural schools is highlighted as the key element in many policies and studies, and the focus has shifted from addressing a teacher shortage to the recruitment and retention of quality teachers, especially in those remote regions. Issues in China’s rural education are not only reflections of rural–urban differences but also reproduce these social differentiations. Those who pay the price of the entrenched rural/urban dichotomy in China are the increasing number of “left-behind” children in the rural villages as well as the “floating” students in the urban schools whose numbers have also increased in the past decades. Most members of both groups tend to undergo a social reproduction process in the school systems and eventually become workers in the manufacturing and service industries in urban centers. Meanwhile, rural education in China is also abundant in culturally meaningful processes. While many scholars and policy makers view the rural school as a critical site for passing on the cultural inheritance of “rural China,” rural students themselves nevertheless creatively make meaning of their daily experiences and produce rich cultural forms. Some of them develop certain forms of “counterschool” culture as they experience educational failure, while others take up cultural traits valued by their rural families and turn them into a form of cultural capital, which consequently plays a pivotal role in the educational and social mobility of rural students.

Article

The field of curriculum studies has long been tormented by a disputatious literature over theory and practice and the proper way to pursue curriculum inquiry. Roughly in the middle of the last century standard practical pursuits came into question with a dizzying array of postmodern critiques. Countering both the practical pursuits under criticism and the postmodern reconceptualist critical literature, Joseph J. Schwab advanced a theory of The Practical. Schwab’s writing remains relevant, and theoretical debates on curriculum inquiry regularly reference Schwab. These debates are driven by fundamentally different philosophical views on theory and practice and their place in curriculum studies. Although the reconceptualist literature has become theoretical orthodoxy in the field of curriculum studies, the debate is kept alive by writers who draw on Schwab’s theory of The Practical. However, little progress in mutual understanding has resulted because debate is focused on theoretical parameters, assertions, and positions at the expense of the practice of inquiry. We believe that turning attention to what people do in curriculum inquiry rather than pursuing theoretic prescriptions of how people should think in curriculum studies would help move the field forward. Our “Practical” Schwab-based work in personal practical knowledge and in narrative inquiry over the years, culminating in our current large-scale, seven-year-long longitudinal comparative education study, Reciprocal Learning Partnership Research between Canada and China, is illustrative. Using a commonplaces of inquiry framework developed by Schwab, we detail practical research qualities of The Practical and of the Reciprocal Learning Partnership Project. We discuss the situational starting and end points of curriculum inquiry in the Reciprocal Learning Partnership with special reference to the moral quality of practical situations studied. We further describe the nature of qualified knowledge outcomes in inquiry, qualities of the researcher agent, method and its relationship to a flexible, shifting database, and the understanding that inquiry and situations studied are the outcomes of narrative histories. This Schwab-based comparative education work begins with a moral position on a practical international situation and builds cross-cultural reciprocal learning strategies and outcomes using diverse theoretical positions and methodologies. In so doing Schwab’s “The Practical” is demonstrated by a new model of comparative curriculum studies. There is much to criticize in this work but there is also, we believe, much in which to take pride. Canadian and Chinese educators and their practices are enhanced through reciprocal learning. Improving practice has its own theoretical, and personal, rewards apart from the security achieved by theoretical consistency pursued by The Theoretic. Our hope is that something new in the contentious arena of curriculum studies may emerge if deliberation revolved around competing curriculum inquiry practices rather than around competing theoretical ideas on the nature of curriculum inquiry. Should this hope be unrealized, we nevertheless believe that Reciprocal Learning as an exemplar of The Practical provides useful direction for comparative curriculum studies.

Article

Long regarded as a violent outburst significant mainly for California history, the 1871 Los Angeles anti-Chinese massacre raises themes central to America’s Civil War Reconstruction era between 1865 and 1877, namely, the resort to threats and violence to preserve traditionally conceived social and political authority and power. Although the Los Angeles events occurred far from the American South, the Los Angeles anti-Chinese massacre paralleled the anti-black violence that rose in the South during Reconstruction. Although the immediate causes of the violence in the post–Civil War South and California were far different, they shared one key characteristic: they employed racial disciplining to preserve traditional social orders that old elites saw as threatened by changing times and circumstances.

Article

China’s economic rise has been accompanied by the maturation and increasing professionalization of academic disciplines in China, including the discipline of international relations. The emergence of an indigenous international relations discipline in China has led to an intense debate about the development of a distinctive “Chinese School” that draws on China’s intellectual traditions and historical record to inspire the development of new international relations theories. While the debate continues, the outlines of a Chinese School are becoming clear. The Chinese School of international relations theory draws on Confucian concepts of relationality and hierarchy to theorize the character of the relations between countries rather than focus on the attributes of countries themselves. It also highlights the historical existence of interstate systems organized in a hub-and-spoke pattern around a single, central state. The premodern East Asian world-system in which China was embedded and classical Chinese scholars developed their ideas was a central state system. Premodern China was always by far the dominant state in East Asia, with the result that international relations in the East Asian world-system exhibited a hub-and-spoke pattern centered on China, as in the tributary system of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Moreover the Confucian worldview that ultimately came to be China’s state ideology served in effect as the governing moral code of the system as a whole. The combination of a central state structure with a universal moral code created what in Chinese is called a tianxia (“all under heaven”), a world-embracing system of governance centered on a particular state, in this case China. In a tianxia system international relations tend to be hierarchical because of the clear power differentials between the central state and other states. They can be either expressive (showing social solidarity) or purely instrumental, depending on the stance taken by the central state. Chinese School international relations theorists tend to assume that the “best” (most stable, most peaceful, most prosperous, etc.) world-system configuration would be a tianxia system dominated by expressive rationality and centered on China, but this is no more self-evident than the widely held Western preference for a liberal, rules-based order. What Chinese School international relations theory really offers the discipline is a new set of concepts that can be applied to the theorization and empirical analysis of today’s millennial world-system. This postmodern interstate system appears to be a central state system with a universal moral code, an American tianxia based on individualism. The historical Confucian Chinese tianxia may be the best precedent for modeling this system.