Democratic Moral Education in China

Authored by: Sharon To , Shaogang Yang , Charles C. Helwig

Handbook of Moral and Character Education

Print publication date:  March  2014
Online publication date:  April  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415532334
eBook ISBN: 9780203114896
Adobe ISBN: 9781136293122


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In this chapter, we will look at how moral education in China transformed from a purely political/ideological form of indoctrination to an increasingly more holistic approach designed to meet changing social needs and to address the problems encountered by more traditional moral education efforts. The current moral education curriculum has been implemented since 2003 in primary and secondary schools according to the Guidelines for Ideology and Morality in Full-time Compulsory Education (PRCMOE, 2003). This curriculum has generally moved in the direction of the establishment of a democratic classroom where students ideally have input into the classroom discourse and are being treated as unique individuals whose perspectives and views need to be respected and heard. As we will see, these changes in the ideas and practice of moral education are helping to meet not only the economic needs of the rapidly changing Chinese society, but also the psychological and developmental needs of adolescents in China. However, these democratic reforms coexist with the retention of more traditional forms of moral and political or ideological education, often in an uneasy and complex relation. We will argue that the kind of democratic moral education efforts emerging in China is consistent with recent and ongoing psychological theory and research that examines how autonomy support and democratic classroom environments promote adolescents' moral and cognitive development, as well as their psychological well-being. These changes in Chinese moral education programs, however, are also fraught with conflicts, paradoxes, and tensions, as educational systems and schools within China encounter difficulties of various sorts in fully putting these reforms into practice. The issues raised in our review are not wholly unique to China, but have parallels with similar efforts to instantiate a more democratic form of moral education in schools and classrooms in Western societies.

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