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Human Capital or Humane Talent? Rethinking the Nature of Education in China from a Comparative Historical Perspective

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In order to analyze the impact of human capital theory on contemporary Chinese education, this paper first draws a conceptual outline of how this theory was introduced and interpreted to suit the Chinese quest for modernization. The study then adopts a comparative historical approach to the points of similarity between Neo-Confucian educational ideas and those of British humanism in an earlier transitional period that has some parallels. The aim of this comparison is to connect the ideas of Neo-Confucians and humanist educators to Ronald Dore’s concept of the role of education and his insights on the diploma disease. Within this core framework, this paper exposes the problems that have come from a melding of the examination tradition and the notion of human capital. It suggests that a revival of another aspect of Chinese tradition—education for fostering one’s humanity—may help balance contemporary Chinese education and restore it to health.


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