chapter  2
10 Pages

Educational policy borrowing in China: historical perspectives

When discussing the topic of educational policy borrowing, a number of Chinese educators quoted a local proverb, ‘use the rock from another hill to polish the jade’ (tashan zhishi keyi gongyu). This expression alludes to the strategy of borrowing advanced educational ideas and methods from elsewhere to improve one’s educational system. This Chinese expression illustrates that educational transfer is not new or unacceptable in China. In understanding China’s education reform, it is important to situate it within the context of China’s modernisation efforts that began towards the second half of the nineteenth century. These efforts, as Yu (2008) points out, ‘always involved Chinese responses to the challenge of the modern West and attitudes towards their own cultural tradition’ (p. 116). Zhu (2010) describes China’s modernisation as a ‘latecom(ing), exogenous type’, where China must learn and borrow other countries’ experiences and ideologies for its social, economic and educational progress. This chapter provides a historical overview of cross-national attraction and

educational transfer in China.1 There is an impressive corpus of research and publication on educational reform and policy borrowing in China in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries so I shall not rehearse them in detail here.2 Instead, I shall only give a summary and highlight the issues relevant to the topic on educational borrowing in China.