China revises textbooks to focus more on traditional culture

Saturday, May 28, 2016,13:31 IST By Metrovaartha A A A

Beijing | China’s primary and secondary school Chinese language textbooks have been revised on popular demand to focus more on traditional culture which was largely destroyed in Mao era, especially during the decade-long Cultural Revolution.

Starting this autumn, more than four million first and seventh graders from Hunan, Henan, Guangdong, Liaoning and other provincial-level regions will use the new books. Forty per cent of the content in the previous edition has been changed, said Wang Xuming, president of the Language and Culture Press under the Ministry of Education.

Traditional material makes up 30 per cent of the revised primary school textbooks, while it increases to about 40 per cent 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 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 centres for traditional culture, she said.

The changes coincided with the 50 years of Mao’s Cultural Revolution this month which was largely ignored by the ruling Communist Party of China(CPC) which discarded his hardline Communist ideology. For 10 tumultuous years from 1966, China underwent massive sociopolitical upheaval that saw countless politicians and intellectuals driven to their deaths, civilians killed in armed conflicts, and cultural relics and artefacts destroyed.

The Cultural Revolution era is long over…We have bid farewell to the Cultural Revolution. We can say it once again today that the Cultural Revolution cannot and will not come back. There is no place for it in today’s China, state-run Global Times said in its editorial on 50th anniversary of Cultural Revolution.

China has seen a renewed interest in traditional education. Demand for private education grows when teaching of traditional culture in public schools is not enough, Zhu said.

The poetry and essays in the new books were selected not only so that students can learn the language, but also to instruct them on philosophy, Zhu told sate-run Xinhua news agency, adding that 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, but some people questioned the revision. This is the first revision the press has made in more than a decade.

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