ED7310 Contemporary Issues in Education
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Topic: Moral education: an evaluation of current provision in Chinese high schools
Adolescence is a key period for student’s development not only because some problems of teenagers’ behaviour, like violent juvenile crime, teenage pregnancy and suicide are more likely to happen during this time but also because this is an important time for helping students to establish their philosophy of life and sense of worth.
“Increasing societal concern about the perceived decline of moral and ethical values in contemporary life is promoting renewed interest in moral education or character education” (Beck, 1990; Chazan, 1985; Cohen, 1995; Jarrett, 1991; Kelsey, 1993; Lickona, 1991; Nucci, 1989; Ryan & McLean, 1987; Spiecker & Straughan, 1988; Wynne & Ryan, 1993) (cited in Elizabeth Campbell 1997)
“Moral education is seen as an important tool in upholding the socialist nature of the school and society.” (Lee, Ho 2005) In this essay, the author focuses on problems existing in moral education in Chinese high schools. The content of the essay can be divided into two parts. One is the literature review of what morality is and what moral education is; why moral education is important for adolescents. The author also mentioned high schools playing a main role in teenagers’ moral education. The other part focuses on
Part 1: Some basic understanding of moral education
What is morality and what is moral education?
Morality is a difficult concept to be defined. As Susan Devin point out, “morality to be an abstract concept and that it is difficult to put it into any one category of behavior.” (http://libr.org/isc/issues/ISC23/B8%20Susan%20Devine.pdf) Although it is difficult to categorize, there are some definitions summarized by educators:
“There have three main meanings according to the Oxford dictionary. First is that knowledge of moral science. Secondly, it refers to moral qualities or endowments. Thirdly, it means, ‘moral discourse or instruction, a moral exhortation’. The most common meaning of the term in popular usage is: acting in accordance with the accepted standards of society.” (Cited in Philip R. 1971:17)
In John Wilson’s opinion, “morality is about what we ought to desire for its own sake, and not essentially about what we ought to do in order to achieve what we desire.” (Cited in Philip R. 1971:17)
The following definition comes from a Chinese dictionary: Morality is a kind of behavior standard which depends on the public opinion, the traditional custom and the belief of the people. Morality is used in every aspect of life including common courtesy, marital, family morals, and occupational ethics. (My translation)
In Philip’s (1971:18) opinion, “moral education can be equated with the study of ethics. Ethics is the science of morals. It refers to the manner of life of people and to their conduct.”
In the Chinese dictionary, moral education is a form of activity. The aim of moral education is to impart morality and a functioning moral code, especially in regard to enhancing the understanding of morality, fostering good morals, establishing faith in morality and fostering a good moral character. (My translate) (http://baike.baidu.com/view/618194.html ).“Moral education in china can be called “deyu”. Deyu has a broader conception, which includes not just to moral education, but also to political, ideological education, citizenship education and also includes courses in law, health (both physical and mental), work-related and many other activities pertaining to a student’s general education.” (Li, Zhong 2004) In this article, I will use the meaning of ‘moral education’ instead of ‘deyu’.
Political education is an important part of moral education. It can help students to establish political ideas and faith. In China, Chairman Mao’s idea, Deng Xiaoping’s theory, Principles of Marxist Philosophy and politics & economy from Marxism are the core contents of political education. The aim of Citizenship education is “for people to think of themselves as active citizens, willing able and equipped to have an influence in public life” (Education for Citizenship and the Teaching of Democracy in Schools, Para 1.5) http://www.citizen.org.uk/education/update/IC_newsletter.pdf . In this area, China’s citizenship education is similar with western countries. “Character education involves teaching children about basic human values including honesty, kindness, generosity, courage, freedom, equality, and respect.”(McBrien and Brandt 1997:17-18) The aim of character education is to help students to establish their philosophy of life and sense of worth. Moreover, in China, Political, ideological, citizenship education and health education are main sections in middle school student’s textbook.
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