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UPDATED: May 27, 2013 NO. 22 MAY 30, 2013
Should Calligraphy Be Compulsory?


China's Ministry of Education issued a notice early this year requiring Chinese calligraphy education to be made a required course at primary and middle schools. In big cities where there is a good cultural basis for such a move, calligraphy class is expected to start this autumn. The news has triggered heated debate across education circles.

Supporters say that, although we live in a computerized era, writing remains important in daily life. Chinese characters contain a cultural memory and a huge amount of historical wealth. Thus, the development of handwriting should retain its place in modern society.

However, opponents argue that because computers play such an important role in everyday life, time should not be further wasted in teaching already stressed out students to write. Regular calligraphy education in school is a good proposal, but should not be enforced. Instead, students should be given a choice to learn Chinese calligraphy or not.


Guo Zhiming (yw.zxxk.com): Calligraphy at school is very important. It will benefit students for the rest of their lives. Calligraphy is a cultural essence and must be handed down from generation to generation.

In recent years, computers have changed the way we communicate, with most neglecting their handwriting skills in favor of keyboard proficiency. As a result, fewer people are practicing calligraphy, revealing a "handwriting crisis" among today's adolescents.

More attention should be paid to handwriting by encouraging calligraphy education in primary and middle schools. This will not only improve writing skills, but also teach students about the history of Chinese characters, their unique structure and the beauty of the national language.

To grant calligraphy education legal status is a good way of reviving this useful art. How to sustain such an initiative remains open for question, however. It is essential that teachers receive calligraphy education at college themselves to ensure the proper schooling of primary and middle school scholars.

Jiang Jinshi (People's Daily): Calligraphy faces various challenges. The transition from a traditional to modern society has shaken up its ancient foundations. With China's education system fast being Westernized, calligraphy is taking a backseat.

Lacking a social driving force, the implementation of calligraphy education will encounter various difficulties.

For years, under the Chinese education system, test results have been used as the most important reference during university recruitment, with distinctions between major and minor subjects. As part of the latter, calligraphy is of little help during college entrance examinations and has been therefore marginalized since primary school. As a result, fewer people are learning to write properly. Although many parents allow their children to learn calligraphy, its widespread development lacks impetus.

Without a mass foundation for calligraphy, qualified teachers are in serious shortage. Despite plans by local authorities for teacher training, only a small fraction of universities offer professional calligraphy programs. Without sufficient cultural reserves and a well-developed training system, calligraphy teachers are not qualified to teach at school.

Calligraphy is a very practical form of art and has formed a significant part of ancient Chinese culture, necessitating its preservation.

Nowadays, if students show interest in calligraphy, most attend extracurricular classes. When schools do offer their own programs, teachers are often invited from training organizations to run "interest classes," where students are taught certain techniques within a very short period of time.

With support from education authorities, the time is ripe to revive and further develop Chinese calligraphy. Backed by supportive policies and a willing society, calligraphy education is expected to regain popularity among students.


Hu Weide (Guangming Daily): While the initiative has some positive aspects, concern remains regarding its practicality. In an era of digitalization, is it right to pay special attention to Chinese handwriting and, if so, how will schools attract qualified teachers and relevant funding? Furthermore, will calligraphy education be made compulsory at each and every middle and primary school in the country?

Today, most of us depend on computers to communicate, and forcing students to improve their writing skills is a waste of time. Educational content should become the focus, with kids being prepared for the computer era. During globalization, what matters is the keyboard, not calligraphy.

To impose calligraphy courses at school forms part of the controversial theory that education should cover as many fields as possible. However, time at school is very limited, and students expect to learn only what is essential. Calligraphy education, thus, might have to be relegated to an extracurricular activity.

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