Early this month, 38 pre-school children enrolled in the Chinese Culture Learning Program in Beijing had their first class.
The children, aged from four to six, follow the teachers in reading aloud ancient poems and essays from the Confucius classics in the Confucius Temple located at the Imperial College Directorate, which was the highest educational institution in the country during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties (AD 1271-1911).
The choice of location demonstrates the organizer's awareness of the resurgence of interest in traditional Chinese culture.
The organizer of the program is now preparing to start a second class. The first was heavily over-subscribed with more than 300 children applying.
Compared with the rush to enroll their children in piano or English classes in recent years, the parental choice this time is less like an education investment but of no less significance to their children's future growth.
Instead of being taught specific techniques, the students read many classic essays conveying traditional Chinese values such as equality, respect for older generations, diligence and thrift.
It is also reported that some of the major Confucius classics are being included in the curriculum of some schools in Beijing.
These events reflect an increased interest in traditional culture in the education sector. And this has profound implications.
Under the pressure of examinations, rote learning has dominated teaching methods in many schools around the country.
The newly added teaching materials will diversify the current curriculum and give our own traditional culture a fair place in it.
More important, they will inculcate critical consciousness of Chinese traditional culture and help the youth to identify their cultural roots.
In addition, the change of emphasis may foster the development if a new intelligentsia who are well-versed in Chinese traditional culture and contribute to its promotion and development.
However, for most students, learning ancient cultural classics will only work if they are combined with the current curriculum, not used as a substitute for it.
Our youth also need to be taught modern materials to keep them in touch with their changing world.
(China Daily April 23, 2002)