来自北京师范大学-香港浸会大学联合国际学院的陈致教授认为，在中国探寻博雅教育模式的进程中，国学教育始终是十分重要的环节。然而，当下国学教育中自矜的倾向，国学研究和国学传播混而不分的现象却不得不厘清，每个学生都应该具备国学修养，但博雅并非要把每个人都培养成为国学研究者。香港大学的Gray KOCHHAR – LINDGREN教授则认为，博雅教育的传统能够帮助人们解决“这个世界将会是什么？”以及“最终生活将变成什么样？”等重要问题，他介绍了香港大学所开设的核心课程，并表示未来的博雅教育要为学生各方面的能力发展做好准备，以使之适应时代的变化。来自北京大学的刘云杉教授则从讲好北大本科教育的“故事”出发，着重强调了在“个性”张扬的时代重寻“人格”的严肃意涵、在“兴趣”多变的时代重申“志趣”的虔诚追求之深远意义。
反观西方，威斯康辛大学麦迪逊分校的Adam R.NELSON教授在分析博雅教育在美国的起源时指出，美国现代的博雅教育理念形成（或者说重新形成）于19世纪末和20世纪上半叶，主要是为了弥补研究型大学因理性主义怀疑和迅速的世俗化而导致的道德感和文化感不足。美国大学的博雅教育强调道德行为、思维复杂性、审美感以及具有广泛理解能力的重要性，以培养具有突出公民身份意识和政治领导能力的杰出人才。而该校的博士生Edward FRAME则以斯科特·布坎南的博雅教育探索之路为具体案例，分析了布坎南所开设的四年制“经典阅读”课程对于20世纪中期美国“自由艺术运动”做出的重要贡献，此外他还指出，布坎南相信真正的“自由”课程必须包括数学、科学以及经典的诗歌和哲学作品。
翻译是中西博雅教育互动互鉴的桥梁，博雅教育的概念和理念在中西方教育的发展历史上，因不同的时代背景和文化土壤，形成了诸多各具特色的概念体系和教育实践。北京大学的沈文钦副教授指出，从晚清传教士丁韪良，到民国教育家郭秉文，再到美国当代社会学家、芝加哥大学本科生院前院长Donald N.Levine，都认为博雅教育是西方和中国共享的教育传统，但他也指出，中国学界在翻译liberal education这一英文概念时，不同时期有不同的理解，从早期的“普通教育”、“自由教育”，再到1941年官方确定“博雅教育”这一译法，其间反映了中国学界对这一概念的认识变化，也从不同侧面反映了不同时期的文化诉求和思想潮流。
在各国博雅教育的未来走向方面，乔治亚大学的Joseph C. HERMANOWICZ教授表示，高等教育大众化带来了大学性质的变化，而这个过程中所表现出来的市场化、消费主义和职业主义倾向与博雅教育背道而驰，主要的问题集中在规模、质量和成本这三个看似不可调和的元素上。他指出，应该以强调沟通为中心，为这一当代社会问题提供解决方案。加拿大约克大学的查强副教授认为，博雅教育可以在社会发生颠覆性变化中引导我们建设一个创新的、包容的和道德的社会，但当下的博雅教育在全球范围内正受到高等教育专业化及“职业主义”的挑战，为此他表示，加拿大高等教育正试图通过构建一个解决“为什么博雅教育对当今时代至关重要？”、“当代大学需要如何变革博雅教育？”等根本性问题的伙伴项目。中国方面，北京理工大学的庞海芍教授认为，中国目前正在大力推行素质教育和通识教育，中国的大学教育也因此发生了巨大的变革，她表示，素质教育和通识教育需要在理论和实践两方面与时俱进，在本科人才培养模式、管理体制机制等方面进行创新。
Liberal Education betweenChina and the West
Chen Yidan Foundation’s inaugural Yidan Education Forum, co-organized by the Graduate School of Education, Peking University, was held from January 3-4, 2020 at university’s Lee Shau Kee Grand Hall, Stanford Centre. The forum brought together scholars from all over mainland China, Hong Kong, United States, Canada, Japan, and several other regions to discuss and debate on themes such as progression, integration, challenges and trends, within the field of liberal education.
Ms. Chris RAO, Secretary-General, Chen Yidan Foundation, gave a warm welcome to all scholars and guests
The long standing tradition and lineage of liberal education is undisputed within both, the Eastern and the Western education sectors. Over the last decade, where we witnessed non-Asian higher education institutions gravitate more towards specialized learning, in China we witnessed an increasing affinity for liberal education. Much of this shift has stemmed from a need to support the whole-person development. The current Chinese understanding and practice of liberal education has been concocted via extensive dialogues and exchange of ideas, with the West. To reflect the current trajectory of liberal education in China, our inaugural forum was themed, Liberal Education: An Intercultural Dialogue between China and the West.
The Yidan Education Forum 2020 invited local and national Chinese and international scholars to better understand the evolution and future directions of the Chinese liberal education within the context of intercultural dialogue, current practice trends, and future global needs. The scholars conducted in-depth discussions on the origin, development, integration and collaboration of the Sino-Western liberal education dialogue.
Yidan Education Forum 2020
Understanding Liberal Educationas Whole-Person Development
While the tradition of liberal education as a crusader for creating well-rounded individuals is well-known within China and the West, recent years have witnessed an increasing debate of the precise role of liberal education in cultivating the modern-day citizen.
Professor Chen Zhi, from Beijing Normal University–Hong Kong Baptist University United International College, stated that classical Chinese education policies and trends have always been a crucial indicator of China’s exploration for a model of liberal education. He cautioned against the current restrained scope and promotion of classical Chinese learning. While he agreed that every student should undergo classical Chinese training and classical Chinese cultivation, he also urged that the ultimate goal of liberal education is to support whole-person development, not to create scientific researchers.
Supporting the idea of whole-person development as an important deliverable of liberal education, Professor Gray Kochhar-Lindgren of University of Hong Kong (HKU) believed that liberal education could help solve questions such as – “What will this world be in the future?” and “What will life be like in the end?” On cultivating students who ponder about these questions, Professor Lindgren introduced the core curriculum offered by HKU. He hopes that liberal education prepares students to be flexible, agile and critical thinkers to adapt to changing times. Emphasizing the far-reaching significance of returning to the pious pursuit of “aspiration,” in the era of “interest,” Professor Liu Yunshan of Peking University, spoke about re-seeking “character” in the age of “personality.”
Professor Adam Nelson of University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, reiterated the qualities of morality and cultural sensitivity as innate to the liberal education discourse, across geographical lines. In his analysis of the origins of liberal education in USA, Professor Nelson suggested that the formation (or re-formation) of the modern-day liberal education concept in the USA took place between the late 19th to first half of the 20th century. He suggested that this formation took place mainly as a response to the rational doubt and rapid secularization caused by lack of moral and cultural senses at the research universities. Liberal education at North American universities emphasizes the importance of moral behaviour, mental flexibility, aesthetics, and a broad understanding to cultivate students with a sense of global citizenship and leadership.
Edward Frame, Professor Nelson’s PhD student, spoke on Scott Buchanan’s ardent belief that the true “freedom” courses, that is, courses within a liberal education framework, must include mathematics, science, classical poetry and philosophy. Frame’s discussion of Buchanan’s exploration of the ‘Path to Education’ was a case study of one of the earliest frameworks of liberal education. Buchanan undertook a four-year “classic reading” course that ultimately led to important contributions to the liberal education movement in the USA in the mid 20th century.
Liberal Education in China: Local Traditions meet Western Philosophies
The tradition of liberal education is accounted for within the Chinese and the Western education development histories. However, local and national Chinese universities lagged behind their Western counterparts in developing and advocating for liberal education, or general education, as it has come to be known in China. Over time, many Chinese liberal education models have been influenced by the West. This session discussion revolved around the understanding of outcomes and outputs of the Chinese liberal education model which has been inspired by the Western liberal education.
Professor Li Manli, of Tsinghua University kicked off the session by exploring the histories of development of liberal education in the East and the West. She suggested that while the traditional core understanding of liberal education is similar between China and the West, the modern Chinese liberal education model and the Western liberal education model have their similarities and differences. As a result, the current general education model at Chinese universities reflects a combination of Western liberal education model with local Chinese characteristics to cultivate students with comprehensive capabilities.
Over decades, Christian missionaries have played a significant part in spreading the Western ideas, globally. Professor Zhang Yaqun, of Xiamen University, analysed the role of James Legge, a famous British sinologist, as an envoy of cultural exchange between the East and the West. By translating the Chinese classics of “Four Books” and “Five Classics,” James Legge attempted to change the arrogance and prejudice of the Western world towards China. At the same time, he also introduced models of Western education to Hong Kong and the concept of Western modernization to the East.
As Professor Zhang’s discussion suggested, language translation has been an important connector in the mutual understanding of Chinese and Western liberal education models. Over time, due to cross-pollination, liberal education models have transformed within the Chinese and Western traditions. Associate Professor Shen Wenqin of Peking University, pointed out the shared history of liberal education in China and the West. Donald N. Levine, a contemporary American sociologist and former dean of the University of Chicago’s Undergraduate School, stated very clear that “To talk about liberal training is to talk about a form of education that emerged historically only in two very special cultures, those of classical Greece and China”. When Chinese scholars translated the concept of liberal education from English to Chinese, they had different understanding of the concept, depending on the period they translated from. From the early “general education” (PuTong Jiaoyu) and “free education” (Ziyou Jiaoyu) to the later definition of “Boya Education” in 1941, the trajectory of understating liberal education reflects the cultural demands and intellectual movements of different periods and viewpoints.
Yidan Education Forum 2020
Global Perspectives in ChineseLiberal Education
Since the great reform, China’s higher education has achieved remarkable milestones, most notably the shift from elitism to popularization of access to higher education. In recent years, Chinese education has consciously attempted to become more “student-centred” and pay more attention to whole-person development. These trends have enabled liberal education and thus general education, to garner avid attention of China’s premier university reforms. What remains to be seen is, when compared with the USA and the UK higher education development, what role does China’ general education play in development of global higher education.
Professor Joshua Mok, of Lingnan University (Hong Kong, China) stated that liberal education should foremost contribute to the sustainable development of higher education globally. In view of current social and economic problems such as massification of higher education and employability of college graduates, he strongly advocated for the cause of liberal education, taking Lingnan University’s model as an example. He believes that liberal education can help train talents to take on leadership positions by equipping them with awareness of regional needs and a global outlook.
Possessing a global outlook not only helps in understanding diverse world views, it also helps to deepen one’s own views by way of comparison. In this regard, Professor Huang Futao of Hiroshima University explained that after the 1990s, Japanese universities have largely transitioned from general education to liberal arts education. In recent years, Japanese liberal arts education has shown trends of deepening its focus and transformation of basic skills training (such as communication skills), career education, vocational training, etc. He concluded that such changes in Japanese general education model arose due to evolving change in ideas, systems and content of the Japanese society. He also explored the current challenges faced by liberal arts education discourse at Japanese universities.
Further deepening the understanding of particular liberal education models, Professor Wang Chen and Ms. Liu Min of Beijing Normal University, introduced the concept of practical liberal education within the American higher education system. They suggested that this concept was an important result of repositioning the traditional liberal education model within the developing social and cultural environment, brimming with American characteristics. The concept of traditional liberal education provides creative solutions in the relationship between “professional” and “general knowledge”, “teaching” and “research” and “individual” and “community”.
Within the mainland Chinese society, college establishment is an important step in sustaining the practice of liberal education of Chinese universities. Professor Cao Li of Xinya College of Tsinghua University introduced the measures taken by the Xinya College in exploring and promoting general education for its students. The idea behind creating Xinya College, Professor Cao suggested, was the integration of general education with cross-disciplinary study coupled with educational development. This integration was aimed at encouraging students to “labour and travel” among civilizations and to dream and eventually create a society with higher morals and ideals.
Creating new models requires redesigning old ones. Professor Qin Chunhua, a researcher at Peking University pointed out that Chinese higher education sector was vigorously pushing to reform traditional college entrance examination (Gaokao) model, which is a score-only evaluation index. The redesign of the examination model is aimed at increasing student selectivity. He noted that however, there is conflict between the “Major preferred” self-application method of the new Gaokao and the general education implemented by top universities. He concluded that the future trend of undergraduate education in China was moving towards establishment of a flexible undergraduate education system to overcome current challenges.
Dr. Qin Yunyun, student of Professor Gerard Postiglione, from University of Hong Kong (HKU) represented Prof. Postiglione’s team to introduce the practice of liberal education in Hong Kong. Their findings suggested that while the interest in liberal education is growing and the practice is slowly becoming institutionalized at HKU, Hong Kong educational societies were concerned about the concept of general education rooted in the Western civilization. While Hong Kong shares some similar challenges in implementing liberal education within its higher education institutions, some challenges remain unique to the island.
Scholars and audience members exchanged their views during discussion sessions
Future Challenges and Trendsin Liberal Education
With history as a witness, whenever instrumentalism has prevailed freely and there has been a lack of humaneness within societies, education has carried forward the torch of human progress. In current times, when rapid advances in technology and sciences have rendered people more pragmatic and robotic, it seems natural that societies are gravitating towards liberal education to re-find morality and ethics.
Professor Bryan Penprase of Soka University of America reflected that, globally, universities were redefining and reshaping liberal education to integrate local perspectives with global competences. To respond effectively to the rapid globalization coupled with explosive growth of the technology sector, Professor Penprase believes that educational institutions, faculty, staff, students, and society will have to acquire the “21st century skills.” Responding further on the future direction of liberal education in various countries, Professor Joseph Hermanowicz of the University of Georgia, pointed that the massification of higher education has brought about a change in the structure of higher education institutions. Marketization, consumerism and business-like running of higher education has resulted in counter-intuitive and irreconcilable problems of scale, quality and cost. He called for better communication channels between various stakeholders to attempt to solve the current contemporary social issue within higher education. Associate Professor Zha Qiang of the University of York, believes that liberal education can guide us to become a more innovative, inclusive and ethical society. He acknowledged that liberal education is being challenged globally by specialization and “professionalism” of higher education. Canadian higher education sector is attempting to build a case to solve questions such as – “What is the importance of liberal education during current times?”, “How can universities reform liberal arts education?” through multi-national partnership projects.
Highlighting the current progress of Chinese higher education, Professor Pang Haishao of Beijing Institute of Technology informed that Chinese education systems were vigorously promoting Suzhi (quality) and general education. As a result of these promotions, China’s higher education sector has undergone tremendous changes, such as innovation in management of institutional mechanisms, etc.
Professor Yan Fengqiao, Dean of Graduate School of Education, Peking University; Associate Professor Ha Wei, Vice Dean of Graduate School of Education, Peking University; and Ms. Chris Rao, Secretary-General of the Chen Yidan Foundation, delivered the opening and closing remarks at the forum. Although this is the first official cooperation between Graduate School of Education, Peking University and the Chen Yidan Foundation, both organizations are grateful for the friendship and support that was garnered this forum and are hopeful of a cooperative future together. We are jointly working to promote education research and development.
Group photo of forum scholars and guests