The capi­tal of China is Bei­jing which means Nort­hern Capi­tal (bei-jing) and has been in con­trast to Sout­hern Capi­tal (nan-jing) or Nanjing. The first humans have lived here from 700 000 to 200 000 years ago and this human type is known as Peking man (Homo erectus peki­ne­sis). On the site of Zhoukou­di­an near Bei­jing were found aro­und 40 human remains and this loca­tion is foun­ding point of human sett­le­ment in the Bei­jing region. During the time, Bei­jing has chan­ged its importan­ce up to the 15th cen­tury and the dynasty of Ming when beco­mes impe­ri­al capital.

The Chin­e­se educa­tion system

I have been wri­ting this short paper in my stu­dent room at Capi­tal Nor­mal Uni­ver­si­ty in Bei­jing. This unusu­al name of the uni­ver­si­ty was star­ted in 1954 and my jour­ney in China has been sin­ce 2017. It is obvious that “capi­tal” is rela­ted to the capi­tal city of Bei­jing, owner of the uni­ver­si­ty, but why “nor­mal”? It is not rela­ted to psy­cho­lo­gi­cal terms and being nor­mal; inste­ad, it means: tea­chers uni­ver­si­ty and my pla­ce have been orga­nized as a spe­ci­al uni­ver­si­ty for tea­chers and deve­l­oped as power­ful school with dif­fe­rent aca­de­mic disci­pli­nes in sci­en­ces, tech­no­lo­gy, soci­al sci­en­ces and huma­ni­ties and over 2500 inter­na­tio­nal students.

In Chin­e­se tra­di­tion, educa­tion has been an important part of life. One of the most famous Chin­e­se is Con­fuci­us, phi­los­op­her and tea­cher. Star­ted from the Han dynasty, educa­tion, know­led­ge, skills and talents have been entran­ce for sta­te bureaucra­cy and hard exams known as keju (科舉) were pre­pa­red. The­se exams were a chan­ce for the lower class to chan­ge their soci­al posi­tion and plen­ty of pupils aro­und China tri­ed to have excel­lent results and beco­me part of the impe­ri­al system. This kind of sta­te exam was almost two mil­len­nia and aban­do­ned in 1905. Even today, the key date for Chin­e­se youn­gers is the begin­ning of June when is Natio­nal Hig­her Educa­tion Entran­ce Exa­mi­na­tion or gao­kao (高考). It has been one of the har­dest exams in the wor­ld. Results from exam could sha­pe your life and futu­re becau­se your futu­re uni­ver­si­ty accepts the­se results (except Chin­e­se uni­ver­si­ties, non-Chin­e­se uni­ver­si­ties such as Cam­brid­ge, Tor­on­to, Syd­ney and many others also accept result). The main sub­jects are Chin­e­se langu­a­ge, Eng­lish or some other foreign langu­a­ge, mat­he­ma­ti­cs and electi­ve sub­ject from sci­en­ces (bio­lo­gy, che­mi­s­try, phy­si­cs) or huma­ni­ties (geo­grap­hy, history, poli­ti­cal science).

Educa­tion has been valu­ab­le on three levels. The first is tra­di­tion and knowledge/education has been part of Chin­e­se tra­di­tions becau­se phi­los­op­hers and educa­tors have been role models for ide­al behavi­or. The second is a con­cept of inter­de­pen­dent per­so­na­li­ty and iden­ti­ty which have been valu­ed as part of lar­ger groups such as family or socie­ty itself. This means that stu­dents are awa­re of their family, ance­stors and tra­di­tion and some­ti­mes they con­si­der educa­tion as a pro­cess of mul­tip­le lear­ning for them­sel­ves, their parents and ance­stors and coun­try. The third ele­ment is ver­ti­cal soci­al improve­ment and educa­tion is a tick­et for increa­sing soci­al posi­tion which has affect their job, salary, living con­di­tions, living pla­ce and city.

Tea­ching in China

Being a tea­cher — laos­hi (老师) has been valu­ab­le work in China. My per­so­nal expe­ri­en­ce as a part-time Cro­a­ti­an langu­a­ge instructor at my uni­ver­si­ty show some inte­r­e­sting details. Alt­hough I have been a Ph.D. stu­dent, which means similar or iden­ti­cal level as my col­le­agu­es who took ele­men­tary Cro­a­ti­an langu­a­ge, their behavi­or was dif­fe­rent. At the begin­ning of the class, they will stand up as a kind of gre­e­ting and at the end of class, the stu­dents will sit and wait until I finis­hed my lec­tu­re. Also, they pre­pa­red small gifts such as fru­its or sna­cks and a glass of hot water for me. I have not pro­blems with disci­pli­ne, stu­dents who are avoi­ding clas­ses and giving excu­ses for their homework is not done. My stu­dents were dili­gent and respon­sib­le. The first word is the most power­ful pra­i­se and inste­ad of pra­i­sing your talents or intel­li­gen­ce, Chin­e­se tea­chers will say about your hard-wor­king and work ethic. Sim­pli­fied, it is bet­ter that you work hard than have skills.

If a tea­cher says somet­hing nega­ti­ve about his/her stu­dents, they will lose their face which means they fail and beco­me asha­med. Also, losing face is losing the honor, con­fi­den­ce and trust of someo­ne. This ele­ment is an issue for stu­dents and per­son and they will try to do eve­ryt­hing to avoid it. 

Ano­t­her aspect of tea­ching and tea­cher are con­cepts of face/mianzi (面子) and losing your face/diulian (丢脸). In Chin­e­se and Asi­an tra­di­tion, the con­cept of the face could be mat­ched with Western ideas of honor, pre­sti­ge and sha­me. If a tea­cher says somet­hing nega­ti­ve about his/her stu­dents, they will lose their face which means they fail and beco­me asha­med. Also, losing face is losing the honor, con­fi­den­ce and trust of someo­ne. This ele­ment is an issue for stu­dents and per­son and they will try to do eve­ryt­hing to avoid it. 

Except for the­se con­cepts of educa­tion as part of tra­di­tion and life, the­re were pra­cti­cal ele­ments of educa­tions for con­tem­porary China. The eco­no­mic growth of China has been based on tech­no­lo­gy, sci­en­ce and deve­l­op­ment with power­ful brands of Huawei, Xia­o­mi, Leno­vo or pro­ducing vac­ci­nes against cor­o­na. This part is a rea­son for increa­sing funds in the Chin­e­se educa­tion system and schools. The schools have good equip­ment par­ti­cu­lar­ly from Bei­jing with a com­bi­na­tion of Chin­e­se and foreign tea­chers (par­ti­cu­lar­ly for foreign langu­a­ges and sci­en­ce sub­jects). Uni­ver­si­ties in China have pri­mary (1–6 years of school), juni­or (7–9 years of school) and high (10–12 years of school) schools as part of them. Our CNU (Capi­tal Nor­mal Uni­ver­si­ty) schools have Chin­e­se and Eng­lish pro­grams. I have visi­ted secon­dary, juni­or school and some remarks are fasci­nat­ing. The school halls are whi­te with pic­tu­res rela­ted to spe­ci­al school sub­jects and time chro­no­lo­gy with ima­ges of the most important per­sons, inven­tors, thin­gs and archa­e­o­lo­gi­cal or histo­ri­cal events and elements.

Stu­dents have school dress/uniforms and eve­ry school has a dif­fe­rent col­or. The day begins at 7:30 AM and finis­hes at 12:00 when it is lun­ch­ti­me up to 2:00 PM. During a bre­ak, stu­dents have time to rest, eat, walk, chat with each other. The after­noon class star­ted from 2:00 to 4:00 or 4:30 PM. The class has a dura­tion of 40 minu­tes. Pupils have been smi­ling and look hap­py alt­hough they work very hard and intensive.

The jour­ney from Peking man to Bei­jing human has been con­ti­nu­ed and the most important ele­ment for this suc­cess are peop­le – hardwor­king, respon­sib­le, cle­ver wit­hin appro­p­ri­a­te system. Educa­tion has been the most important ele­ment for tra­di­tio­nal, anci­ent and con­tem­porary China.


Gor­an Đurđe­vić (Djurd­je­vich) is a Cro­a­ti­an archa­e­o­lo­gist and (environ­men­tal) histo­ri­an who is Ph.D. can­di­da­te of Archa­e­o­lo­gy at Capi­tal Nor­mal Uni­ver­si­ty (CNU) in Beijing.

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