China's Universities and the Open Door

China's Universities and the Open Door

China's Universities and the Open Door

China's Universities and the Open Door

Synopsis

Recent events in Tianamen Square have made such books abruptly important, though in some aspects outdated. This one examines reforms in higher education from before the republic to March 1988, and focuses on educational and economic relations with groups outside China, and the effect the reforms may

Excerpt

China's adoption of an open door policy since 1978 represents an important historical turning point. It also has considerable significance for the world community, which China seems to be joining in a fuller way than has been the case since the Revolution of 1949. Both the political and economic aspects of China's reintegration into the international political economy have been treated at length in other studies, This book looks at its educational implications, particularly the role of Chinese universities in the process. They set the tone for the whole educational system and provide the main channel for the inflow of new knowledge from other parts of the world.

There exists already a rich literature on Chinese education which, for good reason, has mainly focused on its achievements and special characteristics under socialism since 1949. One common approach has been to interpret educational change over the period in relation to broad political change, to policy debates within various factions of the Chinese Communist Party, and to the economic strategies expressed in successive five-year plans. Education is seen as an instrument used by political leaders to achieve desired social and economic change. a second, more sociological, approach has centered on the concept of class and analyzed educational change in relation to the transformation of class relations within Chinese society under socialism. Access to higher education has been an issue of continuing interest in these studies.

The new conditions of the open door may call for a fresh approach to looking at China's higher education, one in which the knowledge issue comes to the fore. It is universities and other higher institutions as a knowledge system that are now responding to the massive flow of knowledge coming into China. Their ability to adapt this knowledge to China's cultural, political, and economic needs will be crucial to the long-term success of the open door.

Recent sociological theory has been greatly enriched by a sustained concern with issues of knowledge and power, attempts to unravel the way in which what passes as legitimate knowledge is constituted and to explore its relations to social and political power. I have selected a few items from this literature that seemed to provide a useful starting point for reflecting on the ways in which knowledge has been constituted in the modern Chinese curriculum since 1911.

From a thorough understanding of both American and European sys-

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