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were expected to give him pecuniary and other necessary assist-
ance. The decree concluded by exhorting the government
officials, on one hand, not to look slightingly on such students,
but to assist the Throne in every way to raise up men of ability
for the betterment of the country; and by reminding the stu-
dents, on the other hand, of the importance of their mission
and urging them to choose those subjects of study for which
they were best fitted, so that upon their return they might be
qualified to shoulder positions of responsibility.

The First Modern School System

The matter of establishing a modern school system upon a
national basis was taken up with all seriousness. During 1901
an edict was issued commanding that all provincial colleges
(Shu Yuan) in the capital cities of provinces be turned into
modern universities or colleges modeled after the Imperial
University at Peking; that middle schools be established in every
prefecture and department; that elementary (higher primary)
schools be established in every district, and lower primary schools
in the country at large. The course of study was to include
Chinese classics, history, principles of government, and western
sciences. In 1903 a special commission, consisting of Sun Chia
Nan, Chang Pai Hsi, and Chang Chih Tung, was appointed to
draw up a detailed plan for a national public school system. The
report of the Commission, including regulations as to discipline
and curricula, and suggestions as to the method of establishing
schools, when printed consisted of four volumes. Receiving
the sanction of the imperial government, this plan became the
authorized program for educational changes throughout the

The following chart embodies the system of education pro-
posed by the Commission:

Transition from Traditional to Modern Education 79

First Modern Educational Systen


School of


5 Years


3*4 Years



3 or 4 Years
1 Year Prep

School of
5 Years

1 T


Cum Sum

3 Years


3 Years


3 Years





1-3 Years

^ "£. f>

f- '*

A f

3 Years

5 Years




2 Years













T T 3 —


■ f


5 Years




N. B. Industrial supplementary schools also admit those already in
industrial pursuits.

80 The Chinese System of Public Education


Kindergartens are designed for the care and instruction of
children between three and seven years of age. They are es-
tablished in or near the existing orphanages and "homes of vir-
tuous widows" in the various districts. Children are allowed
to remain in the kindergarten not longer than four hours a day.
Tuition is free.

Lower Primary School

The aim of the lower primary school is to give to children
above seven years of age the knowledge necessary for life, to
establish in them the foundation of morality and patriotism,
and to promote their physical welfare. The government is to
establish model schools, at least two in each small district, three in
each large district, and one in each large village. The curric-
ulum includes the following eight subjects of study: morals,
Chinese classics, Chinese language, mathematics, history, geog-
raphy, nature study, and physical culture. Drawing, hand
work, and music may be added. The course of study extends
over a period of five years, and the number of hours of recitation
per week is limited to thirty, twelve of which are given to the
study of Chinese classics. No tuition is to be charged in the
schools established by the government.

Higher Primary School

The purpose of the higher primary school is to cultivate the
moral nature of the young citizen, to enlarge his knowledge, and
to strengthen his body. These schools are to be established
in cities, towns, and villages. At least one such school is to
be maintained by the government in each of these territorial
divisions. Graduates of the lower primary school and children
below the age of fifteen having equivalent preparation are ad-
mitted. The curriculum includes the following nine subjects
of study: morals, Chinese classics, Chinese language, math-
ematics, history, geography, nature study, drawing, and
physical culture. Courses in hand work, agriculture, and com-
merce may be added. The course extends over a period of
four years, with thirty-six hours of recitations per week, twelve
of which are given to Chinese classics. Higher primary schools
established by the government are to charge for tuition, the

Transition from Traditional to Modern Education 81

amount to be determined by local conditions and the financial
ability of the community.

Middle School

The middle school corresponds very closely to the American
high school. Its aim is to provide higher general education
for children between the ages of fifteen and nineteen, so as to
prepare them to enter political and industrial life or the various
higher institutions of learning. The middle school is to be lim-
ited to graduates of the higher primary school, but in case the
number of graduates from the primary schools exceeds the number
of vacancies in the middle school, an examination is to be given
to eliminate the less desirable ones. A tuition fee is charged
according to local conditions. The course of study is five years
and includes the following twelve subjects: morals, Chinese
classics, Chinese literature, foreign languages, history, geog-
raphy, mathematics, biology, physics and chemistry, civics
and economics, drawing, and physical culture. The number
of recitations per week is thirty-six throughout the course.
Chinese classics and literature continue to receive emphasis,
occupying thirteen hours per week for the first two years, four-
teen hours for the third, and twelve for the fourth and fifth.

Higher School or Provincial College

The higher school corresponds to the last years of the German
gymnasium, or the French lycee, and to the first years of the
American college. Its aim is to prepare students to take up
work in the colleges of the university. Such a school is to be
established in the capital city of each province and to be main-
tained by the province in which it is situated. Graduates of
middle schools are to be admitted. Tuition is charged. The
curriculum requires three years of thirty-six hours per week.
It provides for three courses of study: Course A preparing
students to enter the university colleges of Chinese classics,
political science and law, literature, and commerce; Course B
preparing for the colleges of science, agriculture, and engineer-
ing; Course C for the college of medicine. The curriculum
lays great stress on modern languages, with the object of pre-
paring students to read foreign books with ease.

82 The Chinese System of Public Education


Universities are to be established in Peking and in the prov-
inces. Graduates of provincial colleges are admitted. Tuition
is charged. The university is to have the following colleges:
1, Chinese classics; 2, law; 3, literature; 4, medicine; 5, science;
G, agriculture; 7, engineering; and 8, commerce. All the courses
outlined for the colleges cover three years except the two par-
allel courses in the law college and the course for physicians
in the college of medicine, which require four years' work.
The college of Chinese classics has eleven courses each requiring
four hours per week. The college of law has two courses, polit-
ical science and law, each requiring twenty-four hours per week.
The college in literature has nine courses, each requiring twenty-
four hours. In the medical college two courses are outlined:
the course for physicians, and the course in pharmacy. The
college of science has six courses of study: mathematics, as-
tronomy, physics, chemistry, zoology and botany, and geology.
The college of agriculture has four courses : agriculture, agricul-
tural chemistry, forestry, and veterinary medicine. The college
of engineering has the following courses: architecture, mechanical
engineering, naval architecture, technology of arms, electrical
engineering, civil engineering, chemical engineering, technology
of explosives, mining and metallurgy. The college of commerce
has three courses: banking and insurance, trade and traffic,
and taxes and customs. The number of hours for the different
courses varies widely.

School of Research

This is to be a graduate school, admitting graduates of the
university colleges and other applicants who can pass the exam-
ination for admission. The work covers a period of five years,
two of which must be passed in residence. Satisfactory com-
pletion of a thesis, embodying the result of an investigation, is
required of all students for graduation.

Normal Schools
Normal schools are of three kinds: the higher normal, the
lower normal, and the industrial training school. The law
requires that all expenses of a normal-school student be paid
by the local authorities, unless the student prefers to be self-

Transition from Traditional to Modem Education 83

Lower Normal School

The aim of the lower normal school is to train teachers for
the lower and higher primary schools. Each prefecture is to
maintain at least one such school capable of receiving one hun-
dred and fifty students or more, and each provincial capital is
to have one to accommodate three hundred students. Under
special circumstances two or three prefectures are allowed to
establish one school in common, in which case the capacity of
the school must be three hundred instead of one hundred and
fifty. The curriculum of the lower normal school consists
of twelve subjects: ethics, Chinese classics, Chinese litera-
ture, education, history, geography, mathematics, nature study,
physics and chemistry, penmanship, drawing, and physical
culture. Two courses of study are outlined, a long course and
a short course. The long course covers five years of forty-four
weeks each, having thirty-six hours per week. The short course,
consisting of one year's work of thirty-six hours a week, is offered
to meet the immediate need of teachers.

Higher Normal School

The higher normal school is to train men to fill teaching and
administrative positions in lower normal and middle schools.
The plan was to establish in each provincial capital one higher
normal school large enough to accommodate at least two hun-
dred and forty-eight students. The curriculum provides for
three kinds of courses, general, special, and graduate. The
general course, taken by all students, requires one year of
thirty-six hours a week, distributed among eight subjects:
ethics, Chinese classics, Chinese literature, Japanese language,
English language, logic, mathematics, and physical culture.
There are four special courses of three years each, and requir-
ing thirty-six hours per week. They are designed to prepare
teachers of special subjects, as follows: Course A emphasizes
Chinese literature and foreign languages; Course B emphasizes
geography and history; Course C emphasizes mathematics,
physics, and chemistry; and Course D emphasizes botany,
zoology, bacteriology, and physiology. The following sub-
jects are common to all four courses: ethics, classics, education,
psychology, and physical culture. The graduate course offers
ten subjects, of which the student must elect five. After com-

84 The Chinese System of Public Education

pleting his course of study, he is required to write a thesis. The
course is one year in length, and the number of hours is left to
the discretion of the faculty.

Industrial Teachers' Training School

The purpose of industrial teachers' training schools is to train
teachers for industrial schools and for apprentice schools. They
admit graduates of middle schools and lower normal schools.
There are three kinds of industrial training schools, namely,
the agricultural, the commercial, and the mechanical. They
are usually established as subordinate departments in higher
and middle schools, although they may be established inde-
pendently, especially in provinces where industrial colleges
and high schools are not yet in existence.

The curriculum for both agricultural and commercial depart-
ments extends through a period of two years, while the mechan-
ical department offers a full course of three years and a short
course of one year. The agricultural curriculum covers twenty-
three subjects of study; the commercial, fifteen. Both the full
and the short course of the mechanical department consist of
six parallel courses. Each of the parallel courses for three years'
work covers from fourteen to nineteen subjects, and each parallel
course for the one year's work covers from eight to eleven sub-
jects. The subjects are either essential or supplementary to
the particular subject which the student chooses for special-

Industrial Schools

The system of industrial schools consists of the following:
apprentice school, primary industrial, industrial supplementary,
middle industrial, and higher industrial. The higher industrial
admits graduates of the middle schools, the middle industrial
admits graduates of the higher primary, and the primary indus-
trial admits graduates of the lower primary. The industrial sup-
plementary school admits those students who have been in a
higher primary school for two years and those already in indus-
trial pursuits who wish to improve their knowledge. The ap-
prentice school admits graduates of lower primary. In all
cases an entrance examination is required of the students.
Tuition is charged according to the financial ability of the local
community in which the schools are established. The course

Transition from Traditional to Modern Education 85

of study of the primary industrial school varies from two to
three years; the middle industrial school has a two-year prepar-
atory and a three-year regular course; and the higher indus-
trial has a preparatory course of one year and a regular course
of three or four years. The course of study in the industrial
supplementary school is three years, while the length of time
required to finish the different courses in the apprentice school
varies from six months to four years.

Special Schools

Two kinds of special schools are also provided, namely, I
Hsueh Kuan, the school of languages, and Chin Shih Kuan,
or the school of doctors. The former is to train interpreters,
and admits graduates of middle schools. The course is five
years, of thirty-six hours per week. English, French, Russian,
German, and Japanese are taught, and each student is required
to specialize in one of these languages. The Chin Shih Kuan
is to give the Chin Shih and the Hanlin, graduates of the old
system of examinations, an opportunity to study western learn-
ing, believing that a general education is necessary to prepare
them for their future official duties. The course is three years,
having class-room work amounting to four hours per week.
Eleven subjects of study are prescribed.

Abandonment of the Examination System

During these years of educational reform the question of
how to improve the examination system has not escaped the
attention of the Empress Dowager and her followers. In 1901
an edict was issued abolishing for the second time the use of
the "eight-legged essay" in the examinations for literary de-
grees, and substituting in its place short and practical essays
on current topics. It also abolished once more the military
examination system. These reform measures, however radical
they may have appeared at the time, were soon found to be
insufficient; for it was discovered that as long as the examin-
ation system was in force little time was given to modern learn-
ing, and students would continue to follow the beaten track
in their studies. Although modern education had been encour-
aged for some time, still few modern schools had been establish-
ed, and men of means hesitated to make voluntary contributions

86 The Chinese System of Public Education

toward their establishment. The leaders of reform now became
convinced that in order to give the modern educational sys-
tem a fair chance of development the old examination system
must be entirely abolished. But to abolish without previous
notice a system that had practically become the very bone and
sinew of the Chinese body politic was too revolutionary a step
for even the most radical of the leaders of reform. In 1903 a
memorial was presented to the Throne by three of China's
greatest statesmen, Chang Chih Tung, Chang Pai Hsi, and
Jung Ching, in which was embodied an elaborate system for
gradually abolishing the examination system. In this memorial
they expressed the belief that if the modern system of schools
as had been outlined were fostered and supervised by the vice-
roys and governors, the modern colleges would be able in ten
years to furnish a sufficient number of young men capable of
rendering efficient service to the country, but this result could
not be secured unless it were made known that the examination
system was to be abolished. However, ere long this gradual
way of abolishing the system appeared to be too slow in the minds
of those seriously interested in the progress of educational re-
form. In 1905 Yuan Shih Kai and others once more memor-
ialized the Throne, declaring that the act of abolishing the
examination system would not be violating ancient custom,
but rather following it, for in early antiquity candidates for
public office were all selected from public schools. The me-
morialists pointed out the fact that the wealth and power of
Japan and of the countries of the west had their foundation
in nothing else than their own schools, and that as China was
just then passing through a crisis fraught with difficulties she
was in immediate need of men of talent with a modern training.
They asserted that unless these old-style examinations were
abolished at once the people would hesitate to enter the modern
schools, and that if China wished to see the spread of modern
knowledge, she must first do away with the old way of studying
for the examinations. This plea for the new education on the
part of one of the most experienced statesmen was effective;
for in 190;") an edict was issued abolishing at once the system
of examinations which had its origin in the very dawn of history.
With its disappearance the transition from the traditional edu-
cation to modern education was practically complete.





The short time extending between 1905 and the end of the
Manchu dynasty (1911) constitutes the period during which
the modern educational system outlined by the special Com-
mission in 1903 was actually carried out. Readjustments had
to be made in every direction, not only to the educational agen-
cies of the system that had been abolished, but also to the polit-
ical and social changes that were being rapidly introduced. At
the same time the movement to introduce modern learning
witnessed a rapid expansion and growth, the like of which China
had never seen. Memorials, edicts, and regulations, relating
to different phases of the new educational system, which ap-
peared during these eventful years, fill no fewer than twelve
volumes. To consider minutely the different problems dealt
with would be out of proportion to the plan of this study, but
it is necessary for us to trace the leading steps that were taken
in the construction of the modern educational system in order
to appreciate the work of reorganization now engaging the at-
tention of the new republic.

The Ministry of Education

The first step in the up-building of the new system of ed-
ucation was taken in December, 1905, when the Throne, in re-
sponse to a joint recommendation of the Department of the
State (Cheng Wu Ch'u) and the Department of Education
(Hsueh Wu Ch'u) created a ministry of education charged with
the duty of superintending and controlling the new educational
system and of furthering the cause of the new education through-

1 The data of this chapter are taken mainly from " Ta Ching Chiao Yu Fa Ling,' '
or Educational Laws of the Manchu Dynasty.


88 The Chinese System of Public Education

out the Empire. The new ministry took precedence of the Min-
istry of Rites, which had been in charge of educational affairs.
By the same decree the ancient national university, known
as Kuo Tzu Chien in later dynasties, but as Cheng Chun in
early antiquity, was amalgamated with the new ministry, and
Jung Ching, the assistant grand secretary and chancellor of
the Hanlin Academy, was appointed the first president of the
new ministry. During the period under consideration, the
Ministry of Education was one of the eleven great executive
departments of the state: viz., the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
the Ministry of Civil Offices, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the
Ministry of Finance and Paymaster General's Department,
the Ministry of Rites, the Ministry of War, the Ministry of
Judicature, the Ministry of Agriculture, Works, and Commerce,
the Ministry of Dependencies, the Ministry of Education, and
the Ministry of Communication.

According to the plan approved by the Throne in 1906, the
Ministry of Education was organized as follows: It had at its
head a president, two vice-presidents, two first-class assistants,
two second-class assistants, and four third-class assistants.
These officers were assisted by five departments into which the
Ministry was divided, namely, the department of general super-
vision, the department of technical or special education, the
department of publication, the department of industrial education,
and the department of finance. Three of the five departments
were sub-divided into three bureaus each, the others each consist-
ing of two bureaus. Each department had a senior secretary
in charge, and each bureau had a second-class secretary and one
or two third-class secretaries. Provision was also made for
the creation of a number of national inspectors, four kinds of
advisers, a bureau for the preparation and publication of text-
books, and a set of officers to take special charge of the duties
formerly belonging to the National University (Kuo Tzu Chien)
which had been amalgamated with the Ministry of Education.
The Ministry of Education so constituted codified educational
laws, appointed national inspectors (twelve in number), had
the power to remove from office any educational officers found
inefficient, nominated provincial commissioners of education,
and, in short, had absolute control of all educational matters in
the country, save those special phases of education which were

The Constitution of a Modern Educational System 89

under the immediate direction of minor and subsidiary central
authorities. 2

Aim of the Modern Educational System

Early in 1906, in response to a memorial of the Ministry of
Education, a decree was issued in which the aim of the modern
educational system was set forth as to develop in the minds of
the young generation the following virtues: loyalty to the em-
peror, reverence for Confucius, devotion to public welfare, ad-
miration for the martial spirit, and respect for industrial pur-
suits. The same decree declares that the first virtue is needed
for the development of patriotism, the second to uphold mor-
ality, the third to foster a co-operative spirit, the fourth to make
possible a strong nation capable of maintaining her own ex-
istence and freeing herself from foreign aggression, and the
fifth to make possible the full utilization of China's natural
resources for the benefit of the country as well as the life of the
people. Here, as in the traditional system, the aim of educa-
tion is to promote the welfare of the state as a collection of in-
dividuals in themselves unimportant, rather than to develop
the individual into a dignified and integral member of the state
as in the Old Greek education. It is not within our province

5 The subsidiary central authorities and their educational duties are as follows:
The Metropolitan Board of Education has charge of all the normal, middle, and

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Online LibraryPing Wen KuoThe Chinese system of public education → online text (page 9 of 21)