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June 1, 2016

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New textbooks focus on traditional culture

CHINA’S primary and secondary school Chinese language textbooks have been revised to focus more on traditional culture.

Starting this autumn, more than 4 million first and seventh graders from Hunan, Henan, Guangdong, Liaoning and other provincial-level regions will use the new books.

According to Wang Xuming, president of the Language and Culture Press under the Ministry of Education, 40 percent of the content in the previous edition has been changed.

Traditional material makes up 30 percent of the revised primary school textbooks, while it increases to about 40 percent for secondary school textbooks.

“We did so to address the needs of parents, who want their children to learn more about traditional culture,” said a senior editor surnamed Zhu who is in charge of the middle school textbooks.

“Now many people cannot even understand the language in classical Chinese books, and parents compete to send their children to commercial training centers for traditional culture,” she said.

China has seen a renewed interest in traditional education. A report by the Southern Metropolitan Daily said that China has more than 3,000 sishu, or traditional private schools, in addition to training centers teaching students classical essays.

“Demand for private education grows when teaching of traditional culture in public schools is not enough,” Zhu said.

She said that the poetry and essays in the new books were selected not only so students can learn the language, but also to instruct them on philosophy.

For example, 16 excerpts from the Analects of Confucius were included in the middle school textbooks.

Zheng Weizhong, director of the primary school department at the press, said that students now begin learning classical articles starting in third grade.

“We also added stories about Chinese folk art and ethnic culture, such as paper-cutting and the Tibetan Shoton (yogurt banquet) Festival,” he said. The change was welcomed by many teachers. Liu Jinping, who has been teaching in Luoyang in central China’s Henan province for 39 years, agreed.

“Students at that age may not be able to understand some classic poetry and essays well, but they are like seeds that will grow one day. The children will benefit sooner or later,” she said.

But some people have questioned the revision. Li, father of a student at No. 1 Primary School in Shenyang’s Hunnan New District, is among them.

“The students are too young to understand so many pieces with classical Chinese language. I am afraid they will lose interest,” said Li.

Primary and middle schools in China had uniform textbooks before an education reform in 2001, which allowed schools in different provinces to use different textbooks. More than ten publishers have released their own textbooks, including the Language and Culture Press.


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