Beijing schools to boost study of classics

By Jiang Jie Source:Global Times Published: 2014-9-11 0:58:01

Move comes after Xi comments on ‘de-sinicization’ of China education

Beijing education authorities announced Wednesday that they will add more classical Chinese poems in primary school textbooks in September 2015, winning applause for moving to counter what some see as a "de-sinicization" in China's education.

Chinese textbooks for first-graders in the capital will have 22 classical Chinese poems, and at least 100 poems will be taught during primary school, according to Ren Xiang, chief editor of next year's Chinese textbooks for Beijing. There are six to eight poems in the current textbooks, according to the Legal Mirror.

"The new edition will also include more content related to traditional Chinese culture for students from first to third grade. Students will mainly be required to understand and remember these," said Ren.

This came after a speech by President Xi Jinping at Beijing Normal University on Tuesday when he expressed concern about decisions to remove classic poems and essays from textbooks. "De-sinicization is not something to celebrate. Classics should be embedded into students' minds, and become the 'genes' of Chinese culture," Xi was quoted as saying.

Textbooks for first-graders in Shanghai saw a cut of eight poems this year, which local education authorities explained as a move to alleviate students' homework burden.

The "de-sinicization" remark is in line with Xi's long support of Chinese culture, as blind worship of foreign culture prevails throughout China, said Lin Zhibo, dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at Lanzhou University.

At a conference last year, Xi emphasized that China's soft power lies in its "splendid culture." During Xi's visit to Peking University in May, he also urged to build the university based on local culture instead of turning it into another Harvard or Cambridge.

Amid the nation's growing fervor for tradition, increasing criticism has also been heaped on old-style private schools where students are only taught classic texts. More began to raise questions on the effects of classical pedagogy, as students confined to such a rigid course did not make much progress.

However, analysts pointed out that classical Chinese literature education is a vital part of enlightenment, and requires sustained effort to bear fruit.

"This is something our nation lacks: a pursuit of spiritual, non-material achievement, which is also a result of our inadequate traditional culture education," Yao Zhongqiu, a Confucian scholar, told the Global Times.

Students should be taught to experience the beauty of phonology from a young age, which is beneficial to their memory and ability to appreciate the rhythm of Chinese classics, Ren added.

Tang Xiaomin, a professor from the Beijing University of Technology, suggested that students be encouraged to read and appreciate classical poems in their own way instead of through a "standardized understanding."

Posted in: Society, China Watch

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