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Rethinking Education in China: Lessons from the Post-Mao Period
7 September, 2017
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Recent years have witnessed mingled alarm and envy in the West at the supposed excellence of China’s education system – epitomized by Shanghai’s PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) success. But much public discussion of the context for that success, and of the nature of the education system that has produced it, remains worryingly superficial. Drawing on a new monograph, Education and Society in Post-Mao China (Routledge 2017), this talk re-examines the educational record of China during the four decades of ‘Reform and Opening’. It argues that evaluation of this record depends very much on the evaluator’s comparative perspective and ethical assumptions. Notwithstanding its impressive performance on many counts, education in Post-Mao China has played a key role in fostering radical social stratification – a role that is not accidental, but intrinsic to the system’s design. At the same time, the role assigned to education in political socialization – aimed partly at legitimating the system’s radical shift away from egalitarianism – carries potential threats for the country’s stability.
Edward Vickers is the Professor of Comparative Education at Kyushu University, Japan, having previously taught for almost a decade at the IOE in London. He began his career as a schoolteacher and textbook author in Hong Kong during the 1990s, and worked for the People’s Education Press in Beijing from 2000 to 2003. He is the author and editor of many books on the history and politics of education in contemporary Asia – most recently (with Zeng Xiaodong) Education and Society in Post-Mao China (Routledge 2017). Much of his work focuses on the politics of identity in East Asian societies. He co-edited (with Paul Morris and Naoko Shimazu) Imagining Japan in Postwar East Asia: identity politics, schooling and popular culture (Routledge 2013) and (with Krishna Kumar) Constructing Modern Asian Citizenship (Rutledge 2015). He is currently working on a report for UNESCO’s Mahatma Gandhi Institute on The State of Education for Peace, Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship in Asia.