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date: 21 October 2017

Confucianism and Education

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.

Questions related to the aim of education, curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment were a major concern for Confucius. His ideas were further developed and subsequently transmitted via the Confucian canon that includes an educational treatise Xueji (学记; Record of Learning). Probably written during the Warring States period (475–221 bce) or the Han dynasty (202 bce–220 ce) in China, the Xueji illuminates the nature of teaching and learning from a Confucian perspective. The desired outcome of Confucian education is to produce junzi (君子; noble or exemplary persons), who are capable of transforming the world by realizing the dao (道; Way). The dao embodies the normative tradition passed down from antiquity that contributed to the formation of Confucian ideals and symbolic resources such as texts, cultural artifacts, and ceremonies.

Confucian learning takes place through a broad-based and structured curriculum, active and collaborative learning, knowledge application, and moral self-cultivation. Educators are exhorted to facilitate and enhance students’ learning by utilizing the questioning technique, establishing good relationships with students, role-modeling, and becoming lifelong learners. Confucian education, as an evolving tradition, remains relevant in the 21st century, with its emphasis on learner-focused education, self-directed learning, and continual professional development for teachers. Going beyond a purely technocratic and utilitarian approach to teaching and learning, Confucianism advocates an educational paradigm that is holistic, ethical, universal, and ultimately, enduring.