Professor, PhD, Beijing Academy of Educational Sciences, China
In China, throughout our history, educators have always intended to integrate human values in education. According to Confucius, one of our greatest teachers, the truth path to becoming a virtuous person is by revealing one’s inner light, and the part that a teacher plays is to help the child connect with their spirit. In the face of growing divisions and widening gaps between communities and societies in today’s world, peaceful relationships and global harmony can only be achieved through this kind of education, an education that kindles the human spirit.
It is this vision that inspired me to embark on a lifelong vocation in education. However, in the last 30 years, I have witnessed a catastrophic decline in public morality, paradoxically as the consequence of the rapid economic growth in China. This is reflected tragically in education by a shift from a focus on cultivating the virtuous person to an orientation towards high-stakes testing. Quality education is increasingly represented by test scores, ignoring the nurturing of human values and the ignition of the inner light that was once at the core of education. Spirit-enriching learning is further denied at the heart of the healthy growth of students’ personality and character, through a lack of aesthetic, emotional and ethical engagement.
In my own work, I am particularly passionate about teacher education, teacher training and related research. In traditional Chinese thinking, we regard teachers as the gardeners of the Garden of Eden and teaching as nurturing the soul. Therefore, transforming teachers and their work is the key to transforming the educational system in our country. I have begun to see the fruit of our endeavour over the last ten years whereby, through training, some teachers are able to reclaim the dignity of their profession, and take courage to embrace and embody core values in their day-to-day practice, including care, respect, love, compassion and integrity.
Indeed, hope for the growth of humanity and the enrichment of the human spirit lies in the transformation of education. Although China still has a long way to go, I am glad that I have the opportunity, at the Spirit of Humanity Forum, to be inspired by many other like-minded leaders in this journey. May we support each other in creating a better world together.