Q & A with Andrew Conning on China Education Policy

By China Education Symposium

Andrew Conning is a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Graduate Student Associate of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. His research examines the structures of reasoning with which individuals across cultures make sense of international and interethnic issues. He is spending 2012-13 conducting research in China as a Fulbright scholar and Harvard Traveling Fellow.

Q: What should be the principal aim of Chinese Universities?
A: To thrive in the Chinese context. The education should be in line with what is in reality.

Q: How would you describe China’s context?
A: The politics and economics are tied together. There is a lot of involvement by the government.

  • Competition and needing to do well to compete with other countries

What seems to be the principal aim of Chinese Universities right now?

  • Overemphasis on research – to publish academic papers – to qualify for grant applications

Q: What should be the primary purpose of general education/liberal arts education in China? What goal should it pursue?
A: An argument for being adaptable.
A: To prepare for the welfare of the society by producing qualified workers.
A: Different people might think about the question differently. Might be different for students, policy makers.

The perspectives are embedded in the context.

  • The group perspective seems to be more legitimate than the individual perspective. Policymakers and university leaders might take on this group perspective. That in itself assumes that thinking for one’s self is selfish.
  • We need to think at a broader level about purposes, which in itself should be the purpose of general education.

Q: What is of ultimate value for China? What are the fundamental goals of Chinese people?

A: Peace and development
A: Everybody is capable to live the life he aspires.
A: Next generation. (What do we want for future generation?)

The Second International Soft Power Conference

  • The conference was embedded in the goal that increasing soft power is a good thing for China.

The purpose of Andrew’s research

  • Wise citizenship: wisdom (the extent to which we can look from a broader level + citizenship (being responsible for the society in which we are living)

Piaget’s Beakers experiment

  • Children of a certain age are able to take a perspective outside where they are perceiving
  • Constructive developmentism
  • The purpose of general education should be to expand people’s constructive cognitive development. Critical thinking is not an adequate outcome. It is not just receiving and pursuing the goal.
  • Andrew’s research tries to make a case and assessment for general education

The curriculum o globalization

  • We should use a different epistemological level to develop the general education curriculum, which goes beyond economic motivations and preparing people for their career. Everybody can accept the goal of human development, freedom, and people’s capabilities.

Question: is the domain constrictive? If you reduce the domain to civic education, is it limited?

  • To try to think about the structure, rather than the specific content. When making a model, one should avoid tying a level to a specific answer. It is not that there is one specific way through which a specific conclusion is drawn.


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