The country’s recent reorganisation of the education system to cut study hours may have been pleasant news for China’s 300 million students. However, as the new school year begins on September 1, all elementary and secondary school students in China will have to take lessons in ‘Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era’, studying the Chinese President’s ideas.
According to Quartz, China’s education ministry has stated that the curriculum is a political theory outlining the president’s goal of strengthening the Communist Party’s rule. It shall be taught from elementary school through colleges.
The move, according to the Indian Express, demonstrates Xi Jinping’s desire to expand the Communist Party’s role in every aspect of life – from businesses to cultural institutions, schools and colleges. According to the ministry, it aims to cultivate successors of socialism with a holistic approach to morals, intellectuals, physical well-being, and aesthetics.
Furthermore, new demands for schools to teach Xi Jinping’s vision of Marxism have coincided with efforts to eliminate English from the school curricula. Chinese officials and renowned professors have publicly ridiculed the value of learning English, pushing for it to be eliminated from China’s college admission examinations. Earlier this week, the city stated that elementary schools will only conduct final examinations in arithmetic and Chinese for pupils in grades three to five, eliminating English from the list. City officials also prohibited midterm assessments for certain grades, and instead limited exams to be held at the end of the year.
This summer, the Central Propaganda Department rolled out 200 public WeChat accounts to promote the ‘Xi Jinping Thought’ among students and “strengthen and improve ideological and political work” in accordance with Xi’s wishes. The Ministry of Education published a Xi Jinping Thought Reader for schools in July. According to the Global Times, the study of Xi Jinping’s Thoughts will vary by age group.
China’s Communist Party and socialism will be emphasised in primary schools. A mix of perceptual experience and knowledge study will be used in middle schools to assist pupils to acquire fundamental political judgements and attitudes. In college, a greater focus will be placed on the development of theoretical thinking.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ideology is based on his conviction that China’s one-party rule is supreme, and that the country needs a strong leader (himself) to achieve the world recognition it deserves. It was enshrined in the party’s constitution in 2017, making Xi the first leader since Mao Zedong to elevate a theory to that level, and has since infiltrated every aspect of Chinese culture.
The Indian Express reported that ‘Xi’s Thought’ outlines eight “fundamental issues” at the theoretical level, and lays down 14 “fundamental principles” to guide the government’s efforts.
The thought outlines the fundamental issue of making China a “moderately prosperous” society through social integration, and thereby, transforming it into a “great modern socialist country that is prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious, and beautiful by the middle of this century.”
Moreover, the party aims to build “world-class” military forces “that obey Party orders, fight and succeed, and maintain excellent conduct”. It has also been declared to be the “highest force in the transformation of China’s politics”. One of the goals of advancing law-based governance is to establish a socialist system of rule of law with Chinese characteristics, and to build a socialist country.
However, this is not the first time that propaganda and politics have been intertwined with education in China. The Communist Party of China has incorporated propaganda and political instruction into education since 1949, understanding the power of influencing minds, especially young and malleable ones.
According to the China Digital Times, cutbacks and changes in the private tutoring industry have caused many teachers to lose their jobs. The online tutoring service VIPKid, which claimed to employ more than 100,000 American and Chinese tutors, shut down without notice to comply with new regulations.
The China Labour Bulletin has recorded eight protests of workers in the nation’s education sector so far this month, more than any other month since January 2019. After the overhaul announcement, there were two more incidents in late July.
The Shanghai-based company that prepares students to study abroad was one of the protesters, and its management fled without paying its workers. There have been similar episodes in Beijing, Changsha, and Nanjing as well. A researcher at the Hong Kong-based organisation says the crackdown aggravated the financial challenges schools were experiencing because of the pandemic.
Moreover, new restrictions have thrown families into worry, although weary parents welcome the change. Some parents have expressed concern that their children might fall behind. However, they are left with no choice but to adopt and welcome the ‘Xi Jinping Thought’.