jeudi 18 avril 2013

Towards the Forging of a Chinese University Ethos

Ashley-Marie Maxwell

HAYHOE, Ruth, “Towards the Forging of a Chinese University Ethos: Zhendan and Fudan, 1903-1919”, 1983 

The author begins her article by explaining how the educational systems in China and in the West are fundamentally different and incompatible. Indeed, the systems differ so much that it is impossible to compare them on the same levels. During the XX century, the Chinese government found it imperial for the educational system to include Western teachings to their curriculums. This produced higher education institutions which taught a combination of western knowledge with ancient Chinese philosophy. Among famous schools, the Beiyang Gongxue, Nanyang Gongxue and the Imperial University (Beida) were created. However, the blend between Western and Chinese teachings didn’t always go as planned and, in 1902 students and professors from Nanyang Gongxue revolted against the system and left to create their own school: Aiguo Xueche (Patriotic School) and Zhendan (Aurore) (325). Protestants also tried their hand at creating colleges which catered a lot to Western ideologies. St. John’s University in Shanghai followed American education standards and boasted that its Chinese graduates were able to continue their studies in America due to their levels being sufficiently high (325). A third wave of institutions surfaced in China, this time promoting revolutionary activities and encouraging rebellion against the strict and rigid state. Aiguo Xueche might have been such a school where education was used as a front for other anti-government activities. The forth kind of emergence was based on the desire to produce private and public schooling where the focus of studies would be Chinese classical literature and philosophy.

The founding of Zhendan was brought on by Ma Xiangbo, a highly educated Catholic Chinese, versed in Latin, French, mathematics and classical studies. In concordance with the student movement at Nanyang in 1902, Ma created a small extracurricular study group of 24 brilliant students where he taught them the exact subjects in which he exceled (329). By 1905, the group had grown to 100 students, still attending Ma’s informal classes. Ma carefully considered his student’s social and financial background, wanting to teach to a diverse community of students. He funded the university himself, henceforth providing books, food and clothing for free to all his pupils (331). Ma combined his forces with the Jesuits, in respect to their educational skills however, they wanted to change Ma’s curriculum to fit their own needs. Wanting to reinforce the teaching of French and concentrate more on the French curriculum, the Jesuits caused a rift between themselves and Ma who wanted to maintain his own curriculum. This forced Ma and his students to leave Zhendan in search of a new place where they could restart their dream school. Ma found himself short on funds, having poured everything into Zhendan. Luckily, he and his students found subsidiary from Wusong’s provincial governor, and were able to restart building their much cherished school. This new school was then named Fudan and opened in 1905. Zhendan continued to be run by Jesuits who prided themselves on the fact that it was the only French university in China. The curriculum closely followed the French model and stood apart from the traditional Chinese teachings. The system fell apart during the May 4th Movement of 1919 where only 69 students out of 200 remained in Zhendan to study, while their compatriots fought in the revolution (334). In the meantime, Fudan faced difficulties of its own by seeing their doors shut down once more and being forced to relocate. Even so, Fudan resurfaced strongly and continued to provide quality education based on Ma’s teachings. Fudan continued to collect brilliant students from diverse backgrounds and, with the loyalty of her staff and students, survived the difficult politics surrounding the May 4th Movement.

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