TEACHING PSYCHOLOGY IN CHINESE CONTEXTS: SOME HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL CONSIDERATIONS
Psychology like much western learning came to China through Japan in the first decade of the twentieth century as the Qing rulers struggled against a series of defeats at the hands of international powers to reform their educational system. By enhancing the primary and secondary school structures, many teachers were needed to meet the expansion and Psychology was thought to be a useful adjunct to teacher education in whose teacher colleges it was first taught. Like other areas of western learning, there were concerns expressed about its impact upon the culture and for what purposes it should be used. This led to a number of obstacles for its subsequent development in the fledgling Republic. Its attempts to be socially relevant initially ostracized it from universities such as Peking which were oriented towards pure knowledge through lack of institutional support. Its use of scientific principles culled from experimental psychology to create social relevance had little connection to social contexts. Trying to be socially accountable through the widespread use of tests in the 1930s had a poor outcome, as beyond the academy few graduates armed with this new knowledge could get jobs because of a lack of development of social science professions. With a lack of funding and social support, many turned to shaping human thinking by moral guidance, now under an eclectic mix of neo Confucianism, western educational psychology and Nationalism. This paper teases out the threads in this labyrinth of 1930s China and examines the effects of its legacy on current ways of teaching psychology in China today.
© 2008 Victor Karandashev