The Link Between Confucius and the Modern Day Chinese Educational System Annabelle Chan

The education system in China is a nine year course that consists of the basic classes such as History, Science, English, and Mathematics, but also classes such as Morality in order to follow the proper etiquette and protocol to survive certain social situations. Confucius’s ideas of the way one reacts and conducts him or herself socially with others and the way one must rise to the occasion in order to achieve a higher position in society is reflected and revolves around the Chinese education system and The Civil Service Examination. Many of the Confucian terms are represented throughout the ways of Chinese educational system. The Five Virtues; Li (correct behavior and proprietary), Xin (the virtue of faith and integrity), Zhi (knowledge), Yi (honesty and uprightness), and Ren (the virtue of benevolence, charity, and humanity). Another term that represents a superior being, someone that is envied by others for he/she is a superhuman, in Confucianism, this person is called a junzi. Another term that represents the Confucian idea that in order to improve society, one must educate themselves solely is called self-cultivation. Lastly, the term The Dao Confucianism is the idea of his thinking, his mindset, his social awareness mindset, being passed down to his followers (Britannica, 1). Those four terms are four that I noticed have a common occurrence in my research of the Chinese Education System and the Civil Service Examination. There are many instances and tangible pieces of evidence in which show that The Chinese Educational System completely depicts Confucian beliefs.
“Someone who is a clever speaker and maintains a contrived smile is seldom considered to be a really good person.” -Confucius, The Analects

The Chinese Public Education System is comprised of nine years of varied education. Each has a different relationship to the different teachings of Confucius. The Primary Schooling is the first level of education starting at six years of age which includes six years of Chinese, Mathematics, Nature, P.E., Ideology, Music, Fine arts, Labor Studies, and lastly, a Morality class which helps one prepare for the different social instances one may encounter over the course of their life. A Primary Schooling level year is comprised of two semesters which run from September to July. In order for the students of this level to graduate the Primary School level, they must pass graduation exams in the subjects, Chinese and Mathematics (Foreign Credits, 1). The Primary Schooling shows direct connection to the views of Confucius. Confucius’s ideas are centered around socializing with your peers and following the appropriate protocol and etiquette. In order to succeed in a social environment, Confucius says one must self educate themselves in order to learn how to handle society and teach themselves if they’d like to get ahead. The Morality class that is mandatory in China represents how Chinese modern day educators want the Confucian beliefs to be carried on. The class would ensure the pupils are ready in a social situation with the proper etiquette and having the knowledge of how to not allow their peers to lose face. Also, the test that must be taken in order to advance to the next level of education, the graduation examination (a test on Mathematics and Chinese that a pupil must pass and succeed in in order to move on to lower secondary education) (Foreign Credits, 1) represents the idea of a meritocracy and also a junzi in Confucianism. One must achieve a certain level of education and merit in order to be respected like a junzi is. Confucius believes the rulers of society must be properly educated and have risen to the education. People that want to get ahead and become and develop junzi like qualities must pass the exams and make their way up on their own. This is an example of self cultivation for one must find it within themselves to pass an exam and move ahead in schooling.

The next level of education is split into two sections. The junior secondary educations lasts three years following the completion and the passing of primary school. Students are able to decide whether or not they would like to continue to go through schooling for following the Junior level of secondary education, schooling is compulsory. As the junior level of education lasts nine years, the upper secondary education which consists of vocational or postsecondary education. Vocational provides an education of a certain subject that one wants to focus on. People can move on to a higher level of education. People usually end up moving on to a technical based education. Since 2000, the MOE (ministry of education) has allowed graduates of the vocational schools to take the standardized test, the NCEE in order to move on to a higher education. Then, one would move into a higher education such as including general and technical universities, specialized institutions, professional universities, military institutions, medical colleges, independent colleges, and adult higher education institutions. This process, similar to the process of the enrollment in college, is titled Tertiary Education. One could eventually move onto to earning a master’s degree in which they would need two to three years in prior education depending on the subject they are intending to earn a master’s in. Upon getting a master’s degree, the person could go through a three to five year doctoral course in order to earn a doctoral degree. (Classbase, 1) As you can see, the process of college enrollment in China is based on earning and meeting certain expectations with testing and experience. This is similar to the Confucian belief of a meritocracy where people must earn what they are given and rulers must have a proper education. Confucius believes that in order to unite the people and create a successful society, people must educate themselves and cultivate themselves into creating a cohesive society. After the standard nine year education, the standard and mediocre people separate themselves from the hard working and as one moves from college, to a master’s degree, to a doctoral degree, the people separate and divide upon forming the leaders of society. to The Chinese schooling process shows students must bring themselves to study hard and strive to be their greatest self which would be a huge sign of self cultivation and learning to be on the right path. (Brittanica, 1)

The Civil Service Exam, originating in the Sui dynasty (581-618 CE) was further developed during the Qing dynasty. The Examination plays an influential role in society. The examination system of a person’s intellect was the support for the study of Confucian beliefs. It is said that Confucian beliefs have fueled the school curriculum all over China. The Civil Service Exam ensured social mobility and insurance that one has a permanent social standing. The Civil Service Exam allows anyone from the poorest family to join the elite which was one of the promises of following Confucian beliefs. One would work their way from the bottom and like the Chinese educational system, must take tests and score above a certain grade in order to move onto the next level. If one successes in scoring high on the test and ensures a permanent social position, this helps publicize the Confucian ideas, such as understanding the appropriate etiquette and protocol for potential situations they might face. The promise of social mobility was what propelled many to go through schooling and strive to score higher testing wise.

Confucian beliefs and the terms junzi, the five virtues, and self cultivation are key terms that are reflected through out Chinese society through the levels of learning and the method of proving a student's intelligence used in China. All in all, for a varied amount of reasons such as Confucian beliefs being the reason that convinced many pupils to stay through schooling and strive to be better, it is clear that Confucianism was one of the concepts that The Chinese Educational System revolves around.


**Picture sources are attached with photo**

China Education Center Ltd., "History of Education in China," China Education Center, accessed February 1, 2017,

"The Class Ceiling; Education," The Economist, June 4, 2016, [Page #],

Myron L. Cohen and Stephen F. Teiser, eds., "The Confucian Classics and the Civil Service Examinations," Living in the Chinese Cosmos, accessed February 6, 2017,

Foreign Credits, "Class Base," Foreign Credits, accessed February 3, 2017,

Matt Stefon, "Junzi," in Brittanica, [Page #], last modified February 15, 2016, accessed February 2, 2017,


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