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Western educational historiography and the institutionalization of normal schools in modern China (1901–1944)

Wang Chen (Faculty of Education, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China)
Luo Wei (Faculty of Education, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China)
Wu Yuefei (Faculty of Education, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China)

History of Education Review

ISSN: 0819-8691

Article publication date: 21 December 2020

Issue publication date: 13 May 2021

267

Abstract

Purpose

This paper traces the incorporation of western educational histories in the development of normal-school curricula during the late Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China (1901–1944). It uses publication networks to show how the study of comparative educational history facilitated the international circulation of knowledge in the teaching profession, and how the “uses” of educational history were shaped by larger geopolitical forces.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper analyzes the international exchange of texts between normal schools in China and Japan and, subsequently, between normal schools in China and the United States. A database of 107 publications in the field of western educational history that were adopted in China reveals specific patterns of textual citation, cross-reference, and canon-formation in the field of educational historiography.

Findings

With conclusions derived from a combination of social network analysis and clustering analysis, this paper identifies three broad stages in China's development of normal-school curricula in comparative educational history: “Japan as Teacher,” “transitional period” and “America as Teacher.”

Research limitations/implications

Statistical analysis can reveal citation and reference patterns but not readers' understanding of the deeper meaning of texts – in this case, textbooks on the subject of western educational history. In addition, the types of publications analyzed in this study are relatively limited, the articles on the history of education in journals have not become the main objects of this study.

Originality/value

This paper uses both quantitative and qualitative methods to uncover the transnational circulation of knowledge in the field of comparative educational history during its formative period in China.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This paper is part of the International Collaborative Research Project “Educational Development and Social Justice” funded by Beijing Normal University (ID: ICER201908). We presented the first version of this paper at the ZJU–UW History of Education Workshop on May 30, 2019 at Zhejiang University and appreciated fruitful feedbacks from the attendees. We also would like express our gratitude to Prof. Dr. Adam Nelson from UW–Madison who offered deep insight into this study, and two anonymous reviewers from the journal History of Education Review for their suggestions for modification.

Citation

Chen, W., Wei, L. and Yuefei, W. (2021), "Western educational historiography and the institutionalization of normal schools in modern China (1901–1944)", History of Education Review, Vol. 50 No. 1, pp. 5-23. https://doi.org/10.1108/HER-10-2019-0042

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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