Chinese Textbooks Get a Few Shades Redder
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2017-08-29 15:58:39

New liberal arts textbooks will appear on the desks of all first-year primary and middle school students across the country this September — with a fortified dose of patriotic flavor.

Written by the Ministry of Education, the new national editions will replace a number of different versions on the market for three subjects — Chinese language, history, law and ethics — with added focus on traditional culture, revolutionary history, and ideology.

In a press conference Monday, the assistant minister of education, Zheng Fuzhi, said that the new textbooks will help reinforce the will of the nation and the “Core Socialist Values” — a set of 12 ideological tenets promoted in the country since 2012. Zheng is also the director of the ministry’s textbook bureau.

“The core values will be embodied in the flesh and blood of the Chinese language [subject],” Wen Rumin, the editor-in-chief of the Chinese textbooks, said at the press conference according to a report by financial news outlet Caixin. It added that the new Chinese language textbooks include dozens of articles about revolutionary heroism, such as Mao Zedong’s well-known piece “Serve the People.” Students will also learn more classic Chinese literature compared with the widely used previous book from People’s Education Press.

Two of the new history textbooks chronicle the development of the Communist Party since its formation, naming more than 40 revolutionaries. Students will also be taught that Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan, the Diaoyu Islands, and the South China Sea islands are historical and inseparable parts of China, The Beijing News reported.

Compiling content for the new textbooks began in 2012. A team of more than 140 people edited the books, which have already been tested in 300 schools across 10 provinces. Earlier this year, the new editions were approved by the national commission of school textbooks. Led by Vice Premier Liu Yandong, the commission was established in July to manage textbook-related issues and censor national textbooks that touched on ideologically sensitive themes.

School textbooks, especially for Chinese language units, have changed dramatically along with the political climate over the last few decades. The 1980s saw a significant drop in propaganda content in Chinese language textbooks, after Deng Xiaoping’s reform and opening-up policies in 1978, along with the restoration of ancient classics that had been condemned as feudal garbage during the Cultural Revolution. Modern classics of Western literature, such as Franz Kafka’s novella “The Metamorphosis,” were also added to the curriculum.

In 1986, the government stopped authoring textbooks directly, allowing publishing houses to produce competing editions. After a large-scale education reform in 2001, textbook publishing proliferated to the extent that public schools in the same city could select different versions. By 2003, more than 30 publishing houses could legally publish textbooks.

Now, that period of competition is at an end. The new national textbooks will cover all grades of primary school by 2018, as well as the first and second year of middle school. By 2019, all primary and middle school students will use the new textbooks.

Editor: Qian Jinghua.

(Header image: Students complete an assignment in Chinese class at a private school for children of migrants in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, Sept. 1, 2004. Lang Congliu/VCG)