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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/445

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UNIVERSITY EDUCATION IN CHINA

UNIVERSITY EDUCATION IN CHINA
By THOMAS T. READ

SAN FRANCISCO, CAL.; FORMERLY PROFESSOR OF METALLURGY, IMPERIAL PEI YANG UNIVERSITY, TIENTSIN, CHINA

ANY account of modern university education in China must necessarily be prefaced by a brief outline of that ancient system of education which has exerted perhaps the most powerful single influence of any that have made themselves felt in the development of a civilization more ancient than any other that now survives. For the forces which are shaping the new educational ideals have roots that strike down into the old, therefore, some consideration must be devoted to the past if we hope to regard the present with clear eyes.

The year 1902 makes an epoch in the educational history of China, for it was signalized by the promulgation of edicts by the Emperor Kuang Hsü which did away with the ancient educational system and created a modern one in its stead. It need scarcely be added that so radical a change was preceded by a period of preparation and followed by a period of adjustment; this latter indeed can scarcely be said to have yet been outgrown. For it is no light task to recast an educational system so vast that it applied to the students of a nation of 350 million people, and so ancient that the academy which stood at its head has an unbroken history of twelve hundred years.

The ancient educational system of China has been described at length by many well-known writers and it will not be profitable to do more here than-draw attention to some of its salient features and briefly allude to some popular misconceptions regarding it. Lucidity requires brevity of statement, and the latter precludes the conveying of an accurate idea of any phase of oriental life, which is infinitely varied and complex. I shall attempt to adhere to brevity, in the hope that thereby the reader may not be led too far astray. The old official system was not one of education, but of examination; a modern analogue is perhaps seen in the University of the State of New York. The representatives of the official system were not concerned with the means by which the student obtained his education, their duty being to keep the examination standards so high that the number of successful candidates should not be excessive. Successful candidates were eligible for appointment to official positions, which were limited in number. So, emphasis was laid upon the wrong phase, the making difficult of successful achievement, rather than the easy attainment of an adequate education.