Confucianism in Modern Day

Confucianism was extremely successful in influencing ancient Chinese society and shaping its values, as well as the school systems of Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. But I can’t help but think how dated the curriculum sounds in today’s context. Huanyin (1993) commented that Confucianism is considered one of the four major cultural systems of the planet, along with Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. The latter three religions have attempted to find relevance in the modern world.   For example, some contemporary churches will accommodate changes in society by appealing to youth groups with rock music, frank discussions about temptation and morality in the age of the internet, and of course food and social bonding. I wonder if Confucianism has experienced a similar process of modernization? I appreciate and understand the momentous impact of Confucianism, but what does Confucian education look like today?

Confucianism’s six teaching manuals centered on classics that would develop a common culture of that time, which included history, music, and the Spring and Autumn annals. Additionally, Confucian curriculum included the six arts already common to Chinese schooling (rites, musicianship, archery, chariot-driving, calligraphy and mathematics). Surely archery, chariot-driving, and calligraphy are not essential skills of this generation. Fundamental principles such as filial piety, altruism, benevolence certainly maintain importance today, but does the curriculum prescribed by Confucius still have a place?

We have studied five major educational philosophies that influence schools and curriculum across the world. Yet Idealism, Realism, Existentialism, Pragmatism, and Confucianism don’t seem to satisfy all the needs of today’s society. I imagine that common global themes are emerging as technology and trends transcend borders. We are more connected today than ever before. Students don’t live in isolation and ignorance of the larger world. Global history, computer proficiency, morality and ethics regarding complex issues are crucial knowledge points for modern society. For example, international travel is exceedingly common today and brings a plethora of complicated situations. Take this issue of animal tourism: ‘I love animals so I want to take a picture with an elephant in Thailand; but when I pay to have my photo taken, the profit funds and prolongs the captivity and exploitation of the very animals I claim to love.’ Morality and ethics gain importance not only at a community level, but also as a cultural and global level. Additionally, I believe mathematics, literature, science, and technological skills are essential knowledge bases for modern students.

I am looking forward to beginning module 4, which I think will more directly link the major educational philosophies with their influences in education systems.


‘Confucius’ Educational Thought.’ (n.d.)[PDF] retrieved from


Huanyin, Y. (1993). ‘Confucius (K’ung Tzu).’ In Prospects, 23(1-2), 211-219. [PDF] retrieved from http://www.ibe.unesco.org/fileadmin/user_upload/archive/publications/ThinkersPdf/confucie.PDF