Introducing English-Language Liberal Education in China



Liberal education, as described by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), is “a philosophy of education that empowers individuals with broad knowledge and transferable skills, and a stronger sense of values, ethics, and civic engagement.” Although Chinese universities began to implement liberal curricula between the 1920s and 1940s (e.g., Tsinghua University and Peking University), this was short-lived. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, universities in China shifted to Soviet-model specialized education, which placed exclusive emphasis on narrowly specialized fields. In the twenty-first century, there has been increasing interest in liberal education in China. Many universities have reviewed their curricula to include a liberal education or to promote broader undergraduate education infused with its spirit, and English-language liberal education has been an important part in this movement. This chapter will provide some background of higher education in China in general and that of English education in particular, and discuss how the revival of liberal education has affected English programs in China, focusing on attempts to introduce English-language liberal education in universities and some of problems and issues in this process.


Cultural Revolution Liberal Education English Education English Language Teaching English Department 
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© Gordon E. Slethaug and Jane Vinther 2015

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