As one of the oldest civilizations in the world, China has a rich past when it comes to education. This post will explore education in Ancient China by providing a brief overview of it. The following topics
- What was Taught
- How was it Taught
- The Organization of what was Taught
- The Evidence Students Provided of their Learning
Ancient Chinese education is an interesting contrast. On the one hand, they were major innovators of some of the greatest invention of mankind which includes paper, printing, gunpowder, and the compass. On the other hand, Chinese education in the past was strongly collective in nature with heavy governmental control. There was extreme pressure to conform to ancient customs and independent deviate behavior was looked down upon. Despite this, there as still innovation.
Most communities had a primary school and most major cities had a college. Completing university study was a great way to achieve a government position in ancient China.
What Did they Teach
Ancient Chinese education focused almost exclusively on Chinese Classics. By classics, it is meant the writings of mainly Confucius. Confucius emphasized strict obedience in a hierarchical setting. The order was loosely King, Father, Mother, then the child. Deference to authority was the ultimate duty of everyone. There is little surprise that the government support such an education that demanded obedience to them.
Another aspect of Confucius writings that was stressed was the Five Cardinal Virtues which were charity, justice, righteousness, sincerity, and conformity to tradition. This was the heart of the moral training that young people received. Even leaders needed to demonstrate these traits which limited abuses of power at times.
What China is also famous for in their ancient curriculum is what they did not teach. Supposedly, they did not cover in great detail geography, history, math, science, or language. The focus was on Confucius apparently almost exclusively.
How Did they Teach
Ancient Chinese education was taught almost exclusively by rote memory. Students were expected to memorized large amounts of information. This contributed to a focus on the conservation of knowledge rather than the expansion of it. If something new or unusual happened it was difficult to deal with since there was no prior way already developed to address it.
How was Learning Organized
School began at around 6-7 years of age in the local school. After completing studies at the local school. Some students went to the academy for additional studies. From Academy, some students would go to university with the hopes of completing their studies to obtain a government position.
Generally, the education was for male students as it was considered shameful to not educate a boy. Girls often did not go to school and often handle traditional roles in the home.
Evidence of Learning
Evidence of learning in the Chinese system was almost strictly through examinations. The examinations were exceedingly demanding and stressful. If a student was able to pass the gauntlet of rot memory exams he would achieve his dream of completing college and joining the prestigious Imperial Academy as a Mandarin.
Education in Ancient China was focused on memorization, tradition, and examination. Even with this focus, Ancient China developed several inventions that have had a significant influence on the world. Explaining this will only lead to speculation but what can be said is that progress happens whether it is encouraged or not.