Diverse Early Childhood Education: Policies and Practices --- Chapter 4

Teaching Character, Citizenship, and Cultural Values

Chapter 4 highlights the widespread emphasis observed in the teaching of character, citizenship and cultural values in schools across Asia. Descriptions of school environments and classrooms are accompanied with a discussion to highlight how many of the curriculum decisions made and values taught in the classrooms were reflective of larger national and cultural values in these societies.

Passages from Chapter 4:

"...A cultural value that is central to the Asian worldview and which appeared to be emphasized in schools, homes and in general society is the “importance given to guests and strangers – people who represent the “other”. The notion of hospitality is pervasive and made a strong appearance during my meetings with the participants” (Gupta, 2013, p. 73). Within the socio-cultural context of India, for instance, a deeper explanation for this phenomenon “may possibly be found in the ancient scriptures where it is clearly written “atitih devo bhavah” which implies that your guest is like your God. Thus across the various socio-economic classes and castes in Indian society, it is believed that a guest should be welcomed with the utmost respect and hospitality, and this belief is practiced actively and widely…extending hospitality toward a guest or a stranger is accorded high priority in the scheme of duty..." This value given to hospitality was found in schools and institutions across other Asian cultures as well..." (page 77).

"...At the Singapore Neon primary school I was met by the principal and two teachers who welcomed me into a large meeting room with a long conference table set up for a power point presentation. Along one wall of the room was a table with refreshments: coffee, tea, mini fruit tarts, and Chinese carrot cake which is not at all the carrot cake I was familiar with. This version is a rectangular piece made by steaming rice flour with shredded turnip in it, and then deep frying the steamed cake after coating with a light batter. I have to say the carrot cake and the fruit tarts were just delicious, and our hosts were extremely receptive and attentive to us – welcoming and hospitable..." (page 78).

"...When I visited Dogwood Kindergarten in China, I was greeted warmly and effusively by the school principal and assistant principal. They spent two hours taking me around the school and introducing me to the teachers in each classroom, and allowing me to carefully observe the classrooms, interact with the children and take pictures. In each classroom, the teachers encouraged one of the children to greet me and present me with a gift: a piece of art or craftwork that children had made during their classroom activities..." (page 78).

"...One of the most memorable moments was in Sri Lanka. I was scheduled to meet with a group of early childhood educators - five women who were mostly retired or close to retiring from active service, but all of whom had been pioneers in the field of early education in Sri Lanka having been deans, founding chairs and professors in universities. They could be credited to laying down the foundations for the field of pre-primary and primary education by initiating and leading national projects for the Sri Lankan government in the 1960’s and 70’s. After an enthusiastic and very informative conversation with the group, my host invited us all to her home for lunch in my honor. That she had organized a feast is a complete understatement as the lunch included at least 10 local Sri Lankan dishes..." (page 79).

Read more  in Chapter 4 about other character, citizenship, and cultural values emphasized in schools in Asia.