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Sep 29, 2008

MOE stresses the classics

This news almost entirely escaped the attention or interest of the English media:

The Ministry of Education (MOE) announced yesterday plans to increase the number of Chinese literature classes and the percentage of classical Chinese literary works in the nation’s high school curriculum. Vice Education Minister Wu Tsai-shun (吳財順) told reporters in the ministry that the number of Chinese literature classes offered in high school had been reduced to four sessions per week in the curriculum guidelines published in 2006 year. The amount of classical Chinese literature in high school Chinese literature textbooks has dropped to 45 percent, Wu said. “What we are certain now is that classical Chinese literary works will account for more than 45 percent of the content of high school Chinese literature textbooks,” Wu said. Wu said the ministry would also make Analects of Confucius (論語) and the Works of Mencius (孟子), both of which were optional under previous regulations, required reading for high school students.
The lack of interest does not extend to the Chinese language media, even in China. And some still find the increase in classical content to be inadequate.

I am generally supportive of efforts to keep the younger generation literate in Classical Chinese, but don't like the way this new policy.

Let us be clear exactly what the new policy means: the increase in Classical Literature --

(1) directly equates into less time for modern prose and poetry and local authors;

(2) cements a Confucian-oriented education system by requiring the Analects and Mencius with no attention being paid to Zhuangzi, Hanfeizi, Laozi and other classical philosophers (as that first Liberty Times article points out, it's almost like the KMT wants to relive the Han dynasty); and

(3) is likely almost 100% ideologically driven, by those conservative elements who wish to revive the 'old days' of China-oriented thinking. They are more interested in forcing kids to read several-thousand-year-old texts than they are in improving the education system in some substantial way. The system has plenty of real problems no matter who you ask. Classical Chinese has to be the least of them.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

The focus on Confucious, the Analects and Yellow Emperor worship is not rooted in traditional Han culture, but is a modern invention of Chinese nationalists in the 1920's. It is all part of the Chinese nationalizing project.