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Living Cultural Environment and Values Education of Primary and Middle School Students

Living Cultural Environment and Values Education of Primary and Middle School Students

Prof. Pei Dina

Director of Educational Institute

Beijing Normal University


Chinese students in the period of great social change are confronted with complex cultural ecological environment and multicultural choices of values at the present age. Based on our investigation and analysis of present situation of Beijing city residents’ values, this article proposes train of thought and countermeasures to optimize living cultural environment for students to develop in and educate students in values.

Keywords: living environment of students; values education


Pei Dina, the director and professor of the Institute for Educational Research, Beijing Normal University (Beijing 100875)




Values is people’s understanding and pursuing of value or relations of value. It is not only important measure and standard to judge value but also the consistent motive source of value choice and value action, that is , values is the key factor for people to decide goal of acts, choose patter of act and interpret outcome of acts. It presents plural value approaches on the condition of social information, economic globalization, network’s socialization and cultural pluralism at the present age. Particularly, Chinese youngsters face complex cultural ecological environment and complex choices of values when Chinese society is at the abrupt turning point in her history.

The most important problem of youngsters’ development is values. What we must adopt a serious attitude towards and consider rationally is how to grasp the cultural environment for students to live in , improve their living quality and realize their true development instead of false development. For this reason we have been investigating values of city residents and students in Beijing, Shenzhen, Chongqing and Jilin since 2002. Based on investigating present situation of Beijing city residents’ values and analysing of cultural environment for Chinese students to live in, the article only gives preliminary considerations to values education on students from angle of integrated education.

Typical investigation of Beijing city residents’ values

Beijing, an international metropolis and political, economic and cultural center of China, is speeding up the pace of modernization construction because China has joined WTO and Olympic Meeting 2008 will be held here. Social structure of Beijing city has been changing profoundly as market-oriented economy develops. Enterprises become entity of manufacture, management and administration whose most social functions transfer to community. Such things as frequent flow of population, post shift, the aged residents and shock of family structure result in radical change of people’s cultural mood including outlook of life, world outlook, concept of happiness , marriage,  employment and interpersonal contact. All this forms a particular cultural environment for students to develop in.

Problems to study:

1. Present city residents’ abandon and identification of traditional values;

2. Influence of western values on Chinese city residents in the late 20 years;

3. Status of the leading values in the whole values system and the degree of being accepted by the common people

4.Which new values have been forming during development of market-oriented economy?

Scope of investigation: choosing Xicheng District(economic development zone), Haidian District(It has a population of 2.4 million and the three kinds of zone coexist),Mentougou District(mountain area) and Changping District( urban development zone) of Beijing as samples of investigation.

Objects of investigation:

1. Government circles of both national and local authorities;

2. Enterprises: foreign enterprise, state enterprise and private enterprise;

3. Educational workers: teachers of high school, middle school and elementary school;

4. Weak groups: workers coming off sentry duty and the unemployed.


Contents of investigation: concept of value; standard of value; choice of value

1.Economic values: concept of money, distribution and time ;

2.Political values: belief, system, democracy, equality, freedom, right and duty;

3.Cultural values: traditional culture and modern culture, foreign culture and native culture, official-oriented and capability-oriented, the individual and the collective, competition and cooperation, unity and personality, closed and open, conservative and creative, family and marriage, etc.

Methods of investigation: random sampling and individual interview of 181 city residents in Beijing; choosing 4 districts from Beijing and choosing 2 ~ 4 streets and their schools ,city residents and students’ parents from each district; distributing 6718 questionnaires and taking back 5407(80%); adding some brief things about sex, age, academic credentials and economic income of groups with different occupations.

Outcome of investigation and preliminary analysis of it

1.About pursuing of meaning of life


Sta. Results: 67 % of all these interviewees think meaning of life lies in a harmonious family and healthy body; 18.3 % of them think meaning of life lies in sacrifice; 9.5%of them hope to lead a comfortable and safe life; only 5.6 % of them think the most meaning is in pursuit of money and power. Those people older than 60 more emphasizes sacrifice to society and young people give more considerations to self-development, family and health.

2.About filial duty in concept of family


Traditional filial duty of China is still dominant. However, young people are more indifferent to the binding force of filial duty and more emphasize emotion’s support to filial duty.

3.About concept of employment


Development of market-oriented economy results in change from society-oriented and contributive concept of occupation to personal ability-oriented one. value approaches of occupation present a tendency of pluralism.

4 .About collective concept

Question: Someone’s house will be dismantled by the government to expand the street, how do you comment on his behavior if he asks for high allowance from the government? (143 interview were carried out)

Sta. Results: 25.3% consider that “He should not ask for high allowance”. 41.9% think that ”Comments should not be given easily without considering if the allowance is in reason or not”. 16.8% don’t give exactly feedback. While others hold the opinion that “He should ask for high allowance”, 7.6% insist that ” private profit should be protected” and 8.4% think that ”Anybody who don’t ask for the allowance will suffer losses since the government’s policy is instable.”

According to the sta. Results, (1) attention should be given to both personal profit and collective profit. And if there are conflicts between the two, the personal profit should obey the later is accepted by the citizens of Beijing. (2) it presents a tendency of pluralism. (3) mainly the weak group of the society consider that high allowance should be asked for .

5. About concept of public morality

Question: Someone considers that, the consciousness to social morality of Chinese people was very strong among the acquaintances, but weak in public. For example, people who are familiar with each other will let others to have the seat, but they will scrabble for the seats from the strange passengers in the bus. How do you comment on such phenomenon?

Sta. Results:  55.3% consider that such behavior is not accord to the public morality. 10.8% think that it is normal human feeling and can be understood. 33.9% don’t give exactly feedback.

Most people think the main reason for the low social morality in this case is relating to the citizen’s quality, a few people consider that “The traffic condition is too bad” and “People are too tired after a whole day work” should also be the reason.

6. About sense of social safety (Sincere degree among the public )

Question: When you are waiting on the platform with lots of luggage, some stranger want to help you to lift the luggage, will you give your luggage to him/her, why?

Sta. Results: 66.2% choose “Won’t consent absolutely”. 12.4% choose “Maybe consent”, 21.4% choose “Depend on situation”.

Most of them consider that “The stranger can’t be believed since the social security is messy.” But they also consider that the trend of social ethos is straightening up gradually.

7. About the relationship between competition and equality

It can be seen from the graph that under the market economy condition, the consciousness of competition and concept of ability standard have been established widely. A quarter of citizens worries about the gap between the rich and the poor which becomes wider and wider.


8 .About concept of interpersonal relationships

Question: Someone considers that, nowadays the relationship between humans is just the relationship between money and profit which is lack of sincerity and friendship. How do you comment on it?


Considering that someone pursuing money and material benefits by any kind of means which weakens the pure-hearted relationship and friendship between humans to a certain extent, 44.1%, especially those under the age of 35 and well educated consider that the relationship between humans today is mostly the relationship between money and profit.


II Cultural environment of students in elementary and middle schools in China


According to the investigation, the basic tendency of Chinese citizens’ values is as follows:

1.Different social values coexist

Now China is in the opening world environment. As a result, Chinese people’s field of vision and activities has been opened up, and they seek the standard of China’s development in the circumstance that different cultures coexist. And this can offer new vision and a favorable turn to the update of different country’s social culture and values. In particular, the development of modern information skill and the formation of network culture will result in the transformation of learning contents and learning styles. However, as the pace of modernization in China is speed up, the conflicts between the traditional culture and the modern culture, between eastern culture and western culture, between mainstream culture and the inverse, between public culture and elites’ culture also prick up.

As far as multiply and transition of values in China is concerned ,some researchers points out that there are three different forms of value coexist, one of them is the value with the standard of collectivity which is on speaking terms with the planned economy, the other is the one with the standard of ability which is forming as the establishment of market economy, the third one is the value of ultra individualism and absolute utilitarianism (Values and culture, Beijing Normal University Press, June, 2002, p34)

In fact, perfect value and value in daily life coexist, morality value and utility value coexist, value of collectivism and value of ultra individualism coexist, value of serving for people and value of money worship coexist, values in traditional eastern culture and values of emphasizing self-awareness, free competition , democracy, duty and right in western culture coexist. Conflicts between freedom and norm, between justice and benefit, between economic development and environmental protection also coexist. All this results in plentiful ideological concepts and messy values in China.

2. During the recent decade, the reform of economic system in China results in such new values as respecting reality, emphasizing actual effect, paying attention to individual values and self- values (The people used to believe that it’s very important no matter what how the collective work is unimportant, it’s unimportant no matter what how the individual work is important before, and individual’s consciousness was weakened), emphasizing independence, equality, democracy, right and obligation, and thinking highly of knowledge, efficiency and impartiality, etc. The most profound change is reflected in these three aspects as follows:

First, it’s about attitudes and understanding of main values such as collectivism, patriotism, serving the people. Values of collectivism based on socialism public ownership is still dominant values to be advocated and persisted in while China is developing market economy. However, the traditional values of collectivism should be reinterpreted and expounded; The traditional absolute values emphasizes collectivity excessively but neglects individual’s right and every subject’s self-values that constitutes the collectivity, neglects and disavows individual reasonable benefits. As a result, the collectivity becomes “false collectivity” and has no centripetal forces and agglomerate forces. Therefore, all this should be abandoned. How to deal with the relationship among the collective, individual and society, the relationship between individual and others, the relationship between individual and collectivity remains to be studied under the circumstances of market economy.

Second, it is about the cultural mood of respecting reality, pursuing efficiency, impartiality and democracy.

Third, it is about non- standardization, non- uniqueness and non-integrity of Chinese society.

The old norm is losing its authority gradually, the new norm hasn’t been set up, the randomness of society is strengthening, social ethos can’t be satisfactory to people. For example, some officials use their privileges to defalcate, and bureaucracy is serious; there are too much bad phenomena of counterfeiting, making and selling obscene products, taking addiction or vending narcotics; the gap between poverty and richness is lengthening, and unfairness exist in society; many rules and norms have been misconstrued; many people feel that they are losing their beliefs and idealities generally, some people behave execrably. In spite of all this, extreme individualism, egoism and privilege can not still be accepted by people widely.

3. City residents’ identification of traditional values.

In recent years, scholars have been advocating that the splendid traditional culture of Chinese Nation should be developed and remade according to the new situations and spirit of new era in order to form new values that contain strong attraction, cohesions force and Zeitgeist, and then to realize important transition of historic values in academia,

In reality, it has formed a strong appetency with socialism, Chinese culture and people’s psychology since the People’s Republic of China was founded, the country has always propagandized its own ideal and values and has made a broad foundation among the mass for the past fifty years. Whether it is obvious or obscure, the concentrated manifestation of it lies in city residents’ values as follows: collectivism values (don’t harm others and self, or harm others for self), enterprising spirit of emphasizing self-support, self-develop, being virtuous, respecting nature and emphasizing harmoniousness between man and universe, behavioral rules that claims honesty and faith, fair competition, paying attention to both obligations and rights, life credendum of hardworking and thrifty and so on.

4. City residents’ values display difference between belief and behavior.

The difference results from historic heritage or realistic necessity. Subordinate standpoint and values always appears obscurely under the lip-born expressions, therefore, variances between language and behavior, ideal values and daily life values has been formed under the circumstances of planned economy system. But the most essential reason is China’s current lopsided development of economy.

It is under the condition of lower economic development, reforming and opening up, “encouraging some people to become rich before others” ,“distributing according to work and getting more if one works more” that China has implemented social equitableness. However, government needs to be on guard against serious polarization of wealth and restrict the differences necessarily while pursuing individual equitableness. This is a culture phenomenon of differences between poverty and richness in China which people pay more and more attentions to recently. Ideally, government advocates to distribute social resources equitably and effectively, and new inequitableness is still being constantly made practically.

The train of thought and countermeasures to optimise students’ cultural environment and educate students’ values

Basic train of thought

Primary and middle school students are confronted with multicultural and multilevel environment in China. Family, community and school have combined and formed an ordered structure system:









main culture and values

traditional culture

western culture

values under the market economy






















Chart 1: Structure system of cultural ecological environment for primary and middle school students in China


Based on analysing structure system of cultural ecological environment which the primary and middle school students in China are confronted with, we consider that it is a systems engineering that how to construct and optimize students’ social circumstances then to improve students’ survival quality in which school, community and family should integrate educational resources, form a three-dimensional educational force. First of all, modern school cultural construction of primary and middle schools should be paid great attentions. Modern school cultural construction contains 5 aspects mainly as follows:

1. Students’ culture. It represents in student’s values basically, that is an aggregation of values, symbol of knowledge, language custom, behavioural manner created by students. Furthermore, students’ subculture should be paid more attentions.

2. Teachers’ culture. It represents in teachers’ educational concept basically.

Teachers should abandon unreasonable educational concept of oppressing students’ development and establish consciousness of serving students’ development and social development, information consciousness, independence consciousness, cooperation consciousness, innovation consciousness, correct educational concept, the talent concept and quality concept

3. Curriculum culture.

As the most important contents of modern culture, and the survival ways of schooling activities, curriculum culture refers to a kind of curriculum concept and curriculum activity that formed by selecting, coordinating, abstracting human culture according to certain social development’s demands on next generation to obtain their social survival ability. School curriculum cultural mainly represents in curriculum objective culture that emphasizes multiply values, curriculum content culture whose heart is “kind-heartedness and sensibility”,“harmonious”,“value and faith”, and its curriculum implementation culture symbolized by participation, cooperation, understanding and experiencing.

4. Internet culture.

Internet culture is the sum of physical fortunes and mental fortunes created by development of information technology, internet technology and resources.

5. Systematic culture. It contains school management system and school cultural construction. Systematic construction should embody the basic concept of “human centred” and accelerate students’ development basically.

Countermeasures for values education of students


China is constructing a learning society nowadays in which community, family, school should have own responsibility, exert their own predominance and then form unitary educational benefits.

Firstly, we should find the policy and countermeasure to integrate three kinds of education including school, community and family, integrate school internal elements including schooling, moral education, and management based on investigation and analysis of the main variables of environment and their influence on adolescents. Especially, we should pay much attention to the serious problems existing in reality. Take the internet cultural as an example, some scholars investigated 3058 middle school students in Beijing, the investigation shows that 80.4% of middle school students in Beijing have surfed internet, 1.2% of the students have surfed internet over 28 hours per week; 59.7% of them have been to internet bar when they are visiting internet. About half of them have visited internet for chatting and make internet friends; 33% of them think they can use impolite languages on internet; 22% of them have visited obscene web sites; 14.3% of them have played violent internet games or computer games. In contrast to this phenomenon, 12.7% of the parents visit internet always. Parents have no enough internet skills and abilities to instruct their children. The moral education contents and modality can not contain internet culture. Nowadays, some scholars are discussing the negative influences of internet culture and give some effective countermeasures to the problems based on territorial investigations.

Secondly, we should carry on discussion of special topics through experimental researches. Educational experiment can transcend the limitation of narrow educational experiences, and integrate educational theories and practices commendably. It can reappear non-objective theories to perceptual materiality to validate theories, transform reality and instruct educational activities effectively. Relying on two experimental researches(one is integration of schooling and community education, the other is adolescents’ subjective development), which are leaded by Beijing Normal University ,we have been carrying on two experimental researches during the past 4 years: one is integration of schooling and community education in Xicheng District and Haidian District, Beijing; and the other is modern school cultural construction in over 20 primary and middle schools .

We think that modernization of Beijing should keep the human centred concept and pay attention to every group; the future national education system will be a integrative, harmonious and opening system that connects school, community and family; resources in community should be collocated and integrated reasonably; the modern development of schooling and community education is the result of amalgamation of certain social cultural traditions and times; schools’ advantages in managing, human resources, culture and pervasion of civilization should be brought into play and schools should be the centre of community culture.

As the survival ways of schooling and community education, modern culture will show abundant contents and features. We should begin with analysis of Chinese people’s living conditions and qualities, and investigate the common people’s education, culture, human relations, participation, sense of belonging, self-restraint abilities, social fashion, living conditions and so on, and then carry on comparative analysis with foreign conditions. Based on these, we should try our best to develop and improve values, aesthetic sentiment, thinking mode, behaviour criterion contained in school and community life according to the key concepts of “kind-heartedness and sensibility”, “harmonious”, “value and faith”, and form basic idea of modern school and community cultural construction. In the meanwhile, we will inquiry into cultural character of subject teaching in order to construct curriculum culture and improve students’ cultural quality.


As a developing country, China is in a social revolution times, her students are confronted with complex cultural ecological environment. Only by thinking of China’s conditions, using foreign countries’ advanced experience for reference and depending on investigating researches, can we find the policy and countermeasure to effectively integrate three kinds of education including community, family and school, integrate schools’ internal educational factors, thus accelerating modern school cultural construction, perfecting cultural circumstances where students exist in, improving students’ survival quality and realizing lively and active development of students thoroughly.




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