Student oriented education for China : a Whiteheadian proposal
In this thesis I argue in favour of student-oriented education for China based on the educational philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. Whitehead’s educational thought, while Western in origin, has a strong appeal for Chinese educators because of its openness to other cultural traditions. My own experience as a student and teacher, coupled with a general review of the history of education in China, shows how education is, and has been, exclusively defined by students’ success in exams. This approach, which I refer to as test-oriented education, is problematical because, by overemphasizing students’ performance in exams, it abstracts learning from their experience. The result is that learning becomes boring and useless to most students, and they do not see the relevance of education to life. In contrast, Whitehead proposes that education be based on students’ rich experience and that its aim should be their full self-development as beings imbued with body, mind and spirit. I refer to this approach as student-oriented education, and I believe it would provide more humane, well-rounded, and culturally appropriate forms of learning to Chinese students. More specifically, Whitehead’s protest against inert ideas underlines the importance of two key concepts in education, namely the interest of students and the usefulness of knowledge. Second, his conception of learning, or “the rhythm of education,” works as a guide in making education interesting and useful. Third, his account of technical education helps to restore a balance between abstraction and concreteness, precision and romance, discipline and freedom, education and life, and his insights on arts and aesthetic appreciation strengthen the life of the spirit by directing students’ attention to the value and beauty in their lives. Finally, his advocacy of a balanced education enables a balanced development of students by paying equal attention to their bodily feelings, spiritual cultivation, and intellectual capabilities. In this manner, education can “evoke into life wisdom and beauty” which otherwise “would remain lost in the past”.
DegreeMaster of Education (M.Ed.)
CommitteeWickett, R. E. Y. (Reg); Flynn, Mark; Burgess, David
Copyright DateApril 2009
art and aesthetic appreciation
rhythmic cycles of learning